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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
×

SUPPORT FOR FORENSIC
SCIENCE RESEARCH

Improving the Scientific Role of the
National Institute of Justice

Committee on Strengthening Forensic Science at the
National Institute of Justice

Committee on Law and Justice

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

images

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, DC

www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS   500 Fifth Street, N.W.   Washington, DC 20001

This study was supported by Contract No. 2014-IJ-CX-0113 from the U.S. Department of Justice/National Institute of Justice. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-37645-7
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-37645-9
DOI: 10.17226/21772

Additional copies of this report are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.

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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2015). Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Committee on Strengthening Forensic Science at the National Institute of Justice. Committee on Law and Justice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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images

The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.

The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.

Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.national-academies.org.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
×

COMMITTEE ON STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE
AT THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

ALAN I. LESHNER (National Academy of Medicine) (Chair), American Association for the Advancement of Science (ret.)

JANE E. BUIKSTRA (National Academy of Sciences), Center for Bioarchaeological Research, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

TODD R. CLEAR, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University

J. JEROME HOLTON, Tauri Group, Alexandria, VA

DANIEL S. ISENSCHMID, National Medical Services Labs, Willow Grove, PA

JOSEPH F. PETROSINO, Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

ALEX R. PIQUERO, Program in Criminology, School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas

CASSIA SPOHN, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University

DAWNIE WOLFE STEADMAN, Forensic Anthropology Center and Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

HAL STERN, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine

JARRAD WAGNER, School of Forensic Sciences, Oklahoma State University

KELLY A. WALSH, Justice Policy Center, Urban Institute, Washington, DC

DANIEL E.J. TALMAGE, JR., Study Director

JULIE ANNE SCHUCK, Associate Program Officer

EMILY BACKES, Research Associate

LETICIA GARCILAZO GREEN, Program Assistant

KATHI GRASSO, Director, Committee on Law and Justice (from July 2015)

MALAY MAJMUNDAR, Associate Director, Committee on Law and Justice

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
×

COMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE

JEREMY TRAVIS (Chair) John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York

RUTH D. PETERSON (Vice Chair), Department of Sociology, Ohio State University

CARL C. BELL, Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, St. Bernard’s Hospital’s Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, Chicago, Jackson Park Hospital’s Family Practice Clinic, Chicago

JOHN J. DONOHUE, III, Stanford Law School, Stanford University

MINDY FULLILOVE, New York State Psychiatric Institute and Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

MARK A.R. KLEIMAN, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University

GARY LAFREE, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, College Park

JANET L. LAURITSEN, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri, St. Louis

GLENN LOURY, Department of Economics, Brown University

JAMES P. LYNCH, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, College Park

CHARLES F. MANSKI, Department of Economics, Northwestern University

DANIEL S. NAGIN, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University

ANNE MORRISON PIEHL, Department of Economics and Program in Criminal Justice, Rutgers University

DANIEL B. PRIETO, Cybersecurity and Technology, U.S. Department of Defense

SUSAN B. SORENSON, School of Social Policy & Practice, University of Pennsylvania

DAVID WEISBURD, Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, George Mason University

CATHY SPATZ WIDOM, Psychology Department, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

PAUL K. WORMELI, Integrated Justice Information Systems, Ashburn, VA

Staff

KATHI GRASSO, Director (from July 2015)

MALAY MAJMUNDAR, Associate Director

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
×

Preface

The ability to analyze and interpret criminal justice evidence accurately is central to the effective functioning and credibility of every democratic country’s justice system, and there is a constant need to keep improving both the accuracy and reliability of forensic analytic techniques, known as forensic science. The best way to meet that need is through bringing the full power of scientific research to bear on forensic science questions and methods. Within the federal government, a variety of agencies both conduct and support research on or related to forensic science, but there is little strategic coordination or leadership among them. The consequences include unmet needs, even in the face of at times unnecessary redundancies, and missed opportunities. This is a persistent problem, mentioned by two earlier National Research Council reports and by virtually every official who interacted with this committee. Although this issue is outside the purview of this committee’s work, we believe it urgently needs to be addressed.

This report is the third time in the past 6 years that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have been asked to examine, directly or indirectly, the quality of and ways to strengthen federal leadership of forensic science research. The first two reports that discussed forensic science research were Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward and Strengthening the National Institute of Justice. Because the three reports have different foci, their sets of recommendations differ in their details, but all three share some conclusions and recommendations. Importantly, they all agree that the National Institute of Justice should be providing greater leadership for this scientific domain but that it

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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cannot do so unless (1) it also has full freedom to set its research agenda and (2) its agenda accurately reflects the gaps in scientific knowledge as perceived by the researchers themselves, as well as the major problems encountered by the forensic science practice community. This report recommends specific steps that should be taken to achieve these goals. Moreover, the National Institute of Justice must have both financial and human resources that are adequate to implement the tasks with which it has been charged. Unfortunately, the recommendations of the previous reports have been only partially implemented. We hope that the recommendations in this report will be followed more closely.

I wish to express my deep appreciation to the members of the committee for their diligent and dedicated contributions to this study and to the preparation of this report within an expedited time frame. The diverse expertise and experience offered by the members of the committee were indispensable to the formulation of the conclusions and recommendations. I also wish to thank, on behalf of the entire committee, the Academies staff whose expertise and skill were absolutely essential to our meeting the charge.

Alan Leshner, Chair             
Committee on Strengthening
Forensic Science at the         
National Institute of Justice  

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Acknowledgments

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Ann W. Burgess (National Academy of Medicine), School of Nursing, Boston College; Alicia L. Carriquiry, Department of Statistics, Iowa State University; Delores M. Etter (National Academy of Engineering), Engineering Education and Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security, Southern Methodist University; Stephen Fienberg (National Academy of Sciences), Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University; Janet L. Lauritsen, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Charles F. Manski (National Academy of Sciences), Department of Economics, Northwestern University; Peter J. Neufeld, Innocence Project, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, New York, NY; Eric C. Person, College of Science and Mathematics, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Fresno; Tal Simmons, Department of Forensic Science, Virginia Commonwealth University; and George Tita, Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
×

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by the monitor, Ron Brookmeyer (National Academy of Medicine), Department of Biostatistics, University of California, Los Angeles, and coordinator, John Rolph, Department of Statistics (emeritus), University of Southern California. Appointed by the Academies, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

The committee is grateful to the staff of the National Institute of Justice for their active participation throughout the study. The committee also applauds the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s staff members—Emily Backes, Leticia Garcilazo Green, Malay Majmundar, Julie Schuck, and Daniel Talmage—for their dedication to the study and for their great contributions to the preparation of this report. And finally, we thank the executive office reports staff of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, especially Robert Katt (consultant editor), who provided valuable help with editing the report, and Kirsten Sampson Snyder, who managed the report review process. Without the Academies’ guidance and wise counsel, the committee’s job would have been even more difficult, if not impossible.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
×
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
×

Acronyms

OIFS Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences
OJP Office of Justice Programs
ORE Office of Research and Evaluation
OSAC Organization of Scientific Area Committees
OST Office of Science and Technology

R&D

research and development

RDT&E research, development, testing, and evaluation

SRP

Scientific Review Panel

TWG

Technology Working Group

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Support for Forensic Science Research: Improving the Scientific Role of the National Institute of Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21772.
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Reliable and valid forensic science analytic techniques are critical to a credible, fair, and evidence-based criminal justice system. There is widespread agreement that the scientific foundation of some currently available forensic science methods needs strengthening and that additional, more efficient techniques are urgently needed. These needs can only be met through sustained research programs explicitly designed to ensure and improve the reliability and validity of current methods and to foster the development and use of new and better techniques. This task is challenging due to the broad nature of the field.

Concerns have been raised repeatedly about the ability of the criminal justice system to collect and analyze evidence efficiently and to be fair in its verdicts. Although significant progress has been made in some forensic science disciplines, the forensic science community still faces many challenges. Federal leadership, particularly in regard to research and the scientific validation of forensic science methods, is needed to help meet the pressing issues facing state and local jurisdictions.

This report reviews the progress made by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to advance forensic science research since the 2009 report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward and the 2010 report, Strengthening the National Institute of Justice. Support for Forensic Science Research examines the ways in which NIJ develops its forensic science research priorities and communicates those priorities as well as its findings to the scientific and forensic practitioner communities in order to determine the impact of NIJ forensic science research programs and how that impact can be enhanced.

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