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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
scientists are students and before they are full-time employees), and some laboratories have tried collaborating to train employees.
Continuing education is critical for all personnel working in crime laboratories as well as for those in other forensic science disciplines, such as forensic pathologists or anthropologists. Some commonly used approaches to continuing education are instructor led, professional conferences/seminars, distributed learning, apprenticeship, residency, internship, teaching and presentations by trainee/employee, and independent learning.47
The greatest issue for continuing education is quality. TWGED has provided guidelines for training courses. First, there should be specific eligibility requirements. Specified minimum and experiential requirements should be consistent with recognized, peer-defined standards (e.g., SWGs, ASCLD/Laboratory Accreditation Board). Factors such as drug use, credit and criminal history, and personal references may affect career opportunities. Second, the structure of the training programs should include: learning objectives; instructor qualifications; student requirements; a detailed syllabus; performance goals; periodic assessments; and competency testing. Third, program content can include a mix of discipline-specific and core elements. Core elements are essential topics that lay the foundation for entry into professional practice, regardless of the specialty area. They include the following:
Standards of conduct—includes professional ethics training.
Safety—includes biological, chemical, and physical hazards.
Policy—includes such administrative and laboratory policies as standard operating procedures, quality assurance, accreditation, and security.
Legal—includes expert testimony, depositions, rules of evidence, criminal and civil law and procedures, and evidence authentication.
Evidence handling—includes interdisciplinary issues; recognition, collection, and preservation of evidence; and chain of custody.
Communication—includes written, verbal, and nonverbal communication skills; report writing; exhibit and pretrial preparation; and trial presentation.
Discipline-specific elements include such topics as the history of the discipline, relevant literature, methodologies and validation studies, instru-