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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
they sometimes face pressure to sacrifice appropriate methodology for the sake of expediency.
To improve the scientific bases of forensic science examinationsand to maximize independence from or autonomy within the lawenforcement community, Congress should authorize and appropriate incentive funds to the National Institute of Forensic Science(NIFS) for allocation to state and local jurisdictions for the purposeof removing all public forensic laboratories and facilities from theadministrative control of law enforcement agencies or prosecutors’offices.
The National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) should encourageresearch programs on human observer bias and sources of humanerror in forensic examinations. Such programs might include studies to determine the effects of contextual bias in forensic practice(e.g., studies to determine whether and to what extent the resultsof forensic analyses are influenced by knowledge regarding thebackground of the suspect and the investigator’s theory of thecase). In addition, research on sources of human error should beclosely linked with research conducted to quantify and characterizethe amount of error. Based on the results of these studies, and inconsultation with its advisory board, NIFS should develop standard operating procedures (that will lay the foundation for modelprotocols) to minimize, to the greatest extent reasonably possible,potential bias and sources of human error in forensic practice.These standard operating procedures should apply to all forensicanalyses that may be used in litigation.
To facilitate the work of the National Institute of Forensic Science(NIFS), Congress should authorize and appropriate funds to NIFSto work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology(NIST), in conjunction with government laboratories, universities, and private laboratories, and in consultation with ScientificWorking Groups, to develop tools for advancing measurement,validation, reliability, information sharing, and proficiency testingin forensic science and to establish protocols for forensic examina-