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Assessment: NRC Report Calls For Changes To Forensic Science

by Andrea Widener
June 25, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 26

The National Research Council’s 2009 report “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward” made several recommendations, including the following:

1) Congress should create and fund an independent federal National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS).

2) NIFS should set standards for reporting on and testifying about forensic investigations.

3) NIFS should fund peer-reviewed research to build a scientific basis for forensic methods, including the reliability, accuracy, and uncertainty inherent in various techniques.

4) Public forensic laboratories should be removed from the control of law enforcement agencies or prosecutor’s offices and made independent, with congressional support.

5) NIFS should study sources of human error and bias in forensic investigations.

6) NIFS should work with the National Institute of Standards & Technology to establish standard tools and methods for forensic investigations then use those tools to help accredit laboratories and certify professionals.

7) Laboratory accreditation and professional certification should be mandatory.

8) Laboratories should implement quality-control procedures to identify mistakes or fraud and confirm the reliability of existing protocols.

9) NIFS should establish a national code of ethics and encourage forensic and related societies to incorporate it into their certification procedures.

10) NIFS should fund graduate education programs in fields that support forensic science.

11) States should create a system of trained and accredited medical examiners and eliminate the existing system of elected coroners, with congressional support.

12) NIFS should launch an effort to achieve nationwide compatibility among fingerprint data systems.


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