This report summarizes the presentations and discussions at the Workshop on Personnel Selection in Forensic Science: Using Measurement to Hire Pattern Evidence Examiners held in Washington, D.C., July 2016.1 The workshop was organized at the request of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with the goal of bringing together industrial and organizational (I-O) psychologists, experts on personnel selection and testing, forensic scientists, and other researchers whose work has a nexus with workforce needs in the forensic science field with a focus on pattern evidence.
For the purposes of this workshop, participants focused on the selection and training of forensic scientists who analyze pattern and impression evidence. Such evidence includes patterns produced when an entity comes into contact with a surface or other objects (e.g., fingerprints, shoe-prints, toolmarks, and tire treads), as well as patterns and habits considered in handwriting and writing instruments. The ability to detect, interpret, and compare shapes and patterns requires specific visual and cognitive skills.
Workshop participants were asked to review the current status of selection and training of forensic scientists who specialize in pattern evidence and to consider and discuss how tools used in I-O psychology to understand elements of a task and measure aptitude and performance
1 The archived Webcast of this workshop can be found at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/BOHSI/index.htm [October 2016].
could address challenges in the pattern evidence domain of the forensic sciences.
The statement of task for the workshop (see Box 1-1) guided the appointment of an eight-person steering committee to plan and execute the workshop (see Appendix for list of committee members). At the committee’s planning meeting, the focus of the workshop was narrowed to the pattern-evidence domain in forensic science and to the current challenges that exist in selecting forensic examiners from a growing number of individuals interested in the field.
The 1.5-day workshop was held July 14-15, 2016, with the objective to better understand how the development of selection tools might address the challenges facing the hiring and training of pattern evidence examiners in forensic laboratories. Participants included researchers, industrial and organizational psychologists, forensic scientists and laboratory directors, and others from the criminal justice community. The workshop included 25 presenters and discussants across different disciplines whose remarks helped develop a shared understanding of the task of pattern recognition and the state of the art in personnel selection in the field of industrial and organizational psychology (see Appendix for workshop agenda). An additional 30 people attended, and the workshop was Webcast live to reach an audience that spanned the entire country. This proceedings summarizes the presentations and discussion during the workshop.
Remarks made by several participants during the workshop were particularly relevant to the objectives of the workshop and are presented here. The rest of the workshop discussion and presentations is summarized in the following chapters. According to Maria Weir Ruggiero and Wesley Grose (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department), a relatively
small number of people practice forensic science. As such, the challenges faced by forensic laboratories or crime labs2 are often unnoticed by wider communities. They suggested the workshop and the resulting written proceedings are a chance to make the issues more prominent. Grose recognized that the workshop can help crime labs by providing the opportunity to talk and interact with experts in different disciplines who have different perspectives, skillsets, and knowledge and to find out what other information and resources are available.
Ruggiero noted that in labs and agencies, the personnel and recruitment division is often isolated and separate from the practicing forensic scientists. She said the workshop would be a start toward bridging the gap, providing information that would allow lab personnel to talk about what was needed in terms of examiners’ abilities and what could be appropriately measured.
In opening remarks from the workshop sponsor, Melissa Taylor (NIST) outlined NIST’s role and vision for the workshop. She noted that NIST has a long history in forensic science, dating back to 1913 with work by Wilmer Souder, and has the necessary research expertise and resources to develop scientific solutions to measurement issues. She hoped the workshop would launch a continuing conversation to answer questions facing the selection of personnel in forensic science, particularly in the pattern evidence domain, where the human is the instrument. Taylor posed a number of questions at the outset of the workshop: How well is the pattern recognition task understood? Are the right people with the right skills in the right roles, and do they have the right information? Do they have the right tools, and the right role models, with the right motivation to do the job? What is needed to be known to fit the best people to the job and the job to the people?
This report has been prepared by the workshop rapporteur as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The planning committee’s role was limited to planning and convening the workshop. The views contained in the report are those of individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all workshop participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
All presenters spoke on their own behalf, often with the disclaimer
2 This proceedings uses the terms “forensic laboratories” and “crime labs” interchangeably to recognize the facilities where pattern evidence examiners are employed.
that their remarks were their own opinions and not those of their affiliated institutions.
This proceedings of the workshop has four chapters with content that generally follows the order of the workshop agenda (see Appendix). However, a decision was made to pull together presentations on the practice and research of pattern recognition in Chapter 2, in order to keep similar topics together and develop a flow for the reader, from a summary of the major issues and insights in this area to discussions on existing tools and potential collaborations. In addition, relevant remarks providing background on I-O psychology and strategies for developing selection tests were integrated as appropriate to keep similar topics and ideas together.
Thus, Chapter 2 focuses on understanding the task of pattern recognition. It opens with a description of pattern recognition within forensic science and the current state of education and training for pattern evidence examiners. The second part of the chapter is devoted to different types of research in cognitive psychology that examine the nature of expertise, particularly in regard to visual attention. Research in this area considers individual differences, as well as what attributes may be trainable. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the field of industrial and organizational psychology. It presents some theories and terminology used in the field and lays out the steps in the process of analyzing a job in order to develop and validate tests to be used for the selection of personnel. In Chapter 4, job challenges for forensic examiners beyond the task of pattern recognition are considered (i.e., reporting analyses in the courtroom). The chapter ends with highlights from the workshop discussions and reviews next steps suggested by several presenters that will be useful to continue the conversation between the forensic community and I-O psychologists.