efficacy and reliability for examining evidence material before being implemented in casework.

  • Clearly written and well-understood procedures exist for handling and preserving the integrity of evidence, for laboratory safety, and for laboratory security.

  • Each laboratory participates in a program of external proficiency testing that periodically measures the capability of its analysts and the reliability of its analytic results.

  • Case records—such as notes, worksheets, autoradiographs, and population databanks—and other data or records that support examiners' conclusions are prepared, retained by the laboratory, and made available for inspection on court order after review of the reasonableness of a request.

  • Redundancy of programs is avoided, so that unnecessary duplication of effort and costs can be eliminated.

  • The program is widely accepted by the forensic-science community.

  • The program is applicable to federal, state, local, and private laboratories.

  • The program is enforceable—i.e., that failure to meet its requirements will prevent a laboratory from continuing to perform DNA typing tests until compliance is demonstrated.

  • The program can be implemented within a relatively short time.

  • The program involves appropriate experts in forensic science, molecular biology, and population genetics.

The Role of Professional Organizations

One guarantee of high quality is the presence of an active professional organization that is committed and able to enforce standards. Historically, the professional societies in forensic science have not played a very active role—certainly much less than medical societies. That has been due to a variety of circumstances, including the fact that accreditation and proficiency testing can be expensive and can lead to serious repercussions for laboratories with poor performance. Voluntary programs have few incentives and offer relatively little credibility for participating laboratories. Moreover, courts have not required certification, accreditation, or proficiency testing for admissibility of evidence. Together, those factors have worked against the development of rigorous accreditation programs.

Recently, however, ASCLD-LAB has shown a substantial interest in assuming an active role. At the annual meeting of ASCLD and ASCLD-LAB in September 1990, the boards of both organizations passed—with near unanimity—a resolution to expand requirements for accreditation of forensic-science laboratories engaged in DNA typing, including mandatory proficiency testing at regular intervals.6,7

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