and the FBI Laboratory—have provided modest leadership, for which they should be commended. NIJ has contributed a helpful research program and the FBI Laboratory has spearheaded the SWGs. But again, neither entity has recognized, let alone articulated, a need for change or a vision for affecting it. Neither has the full confidence of the larger forensic science community. And because both are part of a prosecutorial department of the government, they could be subject to subtle contextual biases that should not be allowed to undercut the power of forensic science.
The forensic science community needs strong governance to adopt and promote an aggressive, long-term agenda to help strengthen forensic science. Governance must be strong enough—and independent enough—to identify the limitations of forensic science methodologies and must be well connected with the Nation’s scientific research base in order to affect meaningful advances in forensic science practices. The governance structure must be able to create appropriate incentives for jurisdictions to adopt and adhere to best practices and promulgate the necessary sanctions to discourage bad practices. It must have influence with educators in order to effect improvements to forensic science education. It must be able to identify standards and enforce them. The governance entity must be geared toward (and be credible within) the law enforcement community, but it must have strengths that extend beyond that area. Oversight of the forensic science community and medical examiner system will sweep broadly into areas of criminal investigation and prosecution, civil litigation, legal reform, investigation of insurance claims, national disaster planning and preparedness, homeland security, certification of federal, state, and local forensic practitioners, public health, accreditation of public and private laboratories, research to improve forensic methodologies, education programs in colleges and universities, and advancing technology.
The committee considered whether such a governing entity could be established within an existing federal agency. The National Science Foundation (NSF) was considered because of its strengths in leading research and its connections to the research and education communities. NSF is surely capable of building and sustaining a research base, but it has very thin ties to the forensic science community. It would be necessary for NSF to take many untested steps if it were to assume responsibility for the governance of applied fields of science. The committee also considered NIST. In the end analysis, however, NIST did not appear to be a viable option. It has a good program of research targeted at forensic science and law enforcement, but the program is modest. NIST also has strong ties to industry and academia, and it has an eminent history in standard setting and method development. But its ties to the forensic science community are still limited, and it would not be seen as a natural leader by the scholars, scientists, and practitioners in the field. In sum, the committee concluded that neither NSF nor NIST has