Because the application of DNA typing in forensic science is to be used in the service of justice, it is especially important for society to establish mechanisms for accountability and to ensure appropriate public scrutiny.
Accountability must be an issue in proficiency testing and accreditation. There is reason to be skeptical of entrusting any important regulatory matters to a self-regulating organization. Accordingly, any organization conducting accreditation or regulation of DNA technology for forensic purposes should be free of influence of private companies, public laboratories, or other organizations actually engaged in laboratory work.
Private laboratories used for testing should not be permitted to withhold information from defendants on the grounds that "trade secrets" are involved. Alternatively, law-enforcement agencies could use only public laboratories for testing, so that the issue of "trade secrets" would not arise.10 Critics of DNA testing have suggested that the profit motive of private testing companies undermines their reliability. Although that criticism might be justified when companies are eager to market a product before it is ready, no general indictment of private companies on this basis is justified.
Testing methods and data need to be made available for public scrutiny. There has been a notable dearth of published research in forensic DNA testing by scientists unconnected to the companies that market the tests. In contrast with the research approach whereby new drugs and biomedical devices undergo controlled trials of safety and efficacy, forensic science has used more informal modes of evaluating new techniques. The process of peer review used to assess advances in biomedical science and technology should be used for forensic DNA technology.
Whether in publications or in court, companies might be reluctant to reveal their specific testing methods or the population data used to determine the probability of a match, because they consider this information to constitute a trade secret that could be exploited by competitors. However, the integrity of the scientific method and judicial due process demand that such information be revealed, particularly in criminal cases. The scientific community should require that the same standards used to assess new findings in other sectors of science be applied to DNA typing in the forensic setting.
The need for international cooperation in law enforcement calls for appropriate scientific and technical exchange among nations. As in other areas of science and technology, dissemination of information about DNA