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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
tions, methods, and practices. Standards should reflect best practices and serve as accreditation tools for laboratories and as guidesfor the education, training, and certification of professionals. Uponcompletion of its work, NIST and its partners should report findings and recommendations to NIFS for further dissemination andimplementation.
Quality Control, Assurance, and Improvement
In a field such as medical diagnostics, a health care provider typically can track a patient’s progress to see whether the original diagnosis was accurate and helpful. For example, widely accepted programs of quality control ensure timely feedback involving the diagnoses that result from mammography. Other examples of quality assurance and improvement—including the development of standardized vocabularies, ontologies, and scales for interpreting diagnostic tests and developing standards for accreditation of services—pervade diagnostic medicine. This type of systematic and routine feedback is an essential element of any field striving for continuous improvement. The forensic science disciplines likewise must become a self-correcting enterprise, developing and implementing feedback loops that allow the profession to discover past mistakes. A particular need exists for routine, mandatory proficiency testing that emulates a realistic, representative cross-section of casework, for example, DNA proficiency testing.
Laboratory accreditation and individual certification of forensicscience professionals should be mandatory, and all forensic scienceprofessionals should have access to a certification process. In determining appropriate standards for accreditation and certification,the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS) should take intoaccount established and recognized international standards, suchas those published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). No person (public or private) should be allowed topractice in a forensic science discipline or testify as a forensic science professional without certification. Certification requirementsshould include, at a minimum, written examinations, supervisedpractice, proficiency testing, continuing education, recertificationprocedures, adherence to a code of ethics, and effective disciplinaryprocedures. All laboratories and facilities (public or private) shouldbe accredited, and all forensic science professionals should be certified, when eligible, within a time period established by NIFS.