Upcoming AAAS Conference will Explore Issues Related to Scientific Evidence in the Courts

Scientific Evidence and the Courts Conference

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in collaboration with the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), will host a conference to examine the critical issues regarding the admission and use of scientific and technical findings in the U.S. justice system.

Scientific Evidence and the Courts will be held September 21-22 at the AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a livestream option available for virtual attendees. The event will mark the 100th anniversary of Frye v. United States and the 30th anniversary of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Both cases paved the way for establishing rules governing the admissibility of scientific evidence in the courts.

According to the conference website, “Presenters and attendees will examine the history of scientific evidence in the courts, assess current practices, and identify ways to improve the use of credible, trustworthy scientific evidence, and of expert witness testimony, by federal and state courts going forward.”

The conference will include sessions on evolving fields of science beginning to impact the courts, such as artificial intelligence, climate science and statistical modeling.

The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) is a conference sponsor, and several CSAFE faculty, advisory board members and research collaborators will be participating in panel sessions.

To view the conference program and to register, visit https://www.aaas.org/events/SciEvCon/2023.

DAY 1

Judges as Gatekeepers: Courts and Scientific Evidence

September 21 at 10:15-11:05 a.m. EDT
Panelist:
Tess Neal, associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University and CSAFE research collaborator

DAY 2

Forensic Science: A Texas Case Study in Accountability

September 22 at 9:15-10:15 a.m. EDT
Panelists:
Judge Barbara Hervey, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and member of the CSAFE Strategic Advisory Board
Peter Stout, president and CEO of the Houston Forensic Science Center and member of the CSAFE Strategic Advisory Board

Panel: Statistical Modeling and Causation Science

September 22 at 1-1:45 p.m. EDT
Panelists:
Maria Cuellar, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and CSAFE researcher
Steven Lund, mathematical statistician in the Statistical Engineering Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and member of the CSAFE NIST Advisory Board

Wrongful Convictions and “Changed Science” Statutes

September 22 at 2:45-3:45 p.m. EDT
Moderator:
Sarah Chu, director of Policy and Reform at the Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice at Cardozo Law and member of the CSAFE Research and Technology Transfer Advisory Board

NIST will Host a Workshop on the Scientific Foundation Review of Footwear Impression Examination

The entrance sign at NIST's Gaithersburg campus. Credit: J. Stoughton/NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has begun work on a new Scientific Foundation Review for footwear impression examination and will hold a workshop on this review at the 2023 International Association for Identification (IAI) Annual International Forensic Educational Conference.

The IAI Conference will be held Aug. 20-26 in National Harbor, Maryland, and the NIST-hosted workshop, “Footwear Impression Examination: A NIST Scientific Foundation Review,”  will take place Aug. 25 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. EDT.

NIST Scientific Foundation Reviews document and evaluate the scientific basis for forensic science methods and practices. These reviews focus on the published scientific literature and other relevant sources of data that can provide information on questions of reliability. To date, NIST has begun or completed reviews on DNA mixture interpretation, digital evidence, bitemark analysis and firearms examination.

The workshop at the IAI Conference will explore key questions, premises and knowledge gaps in forensic footwear examination to inform a Scientific Foundation Review of the practice. Participants will hear about progress and plans for this review and can provide feedback on the literature gathered and identified claims for the field. This workshop is part of a study that will culminate with a public report from NIST regarding scientific foundations for performing forensic footwear examinations.

The workshop will be led by Kelly Sauerwein, a physical scientist with the Forensic Science Research Program in the NIST Special Programs Office, and John Butler, a NIST Fellow and Special Assistant to the Director for Forensic Science in the NIST Special Programs Office.

For questions about the workshop or information on potential travel support, contact Sauerwein at kelly.sauerwein@nist.gov.

For more information about NIST Scientific Foundation Reviews, go to https://www.nist.gov/forensic-science/interdisciplinary-topics/scientific-foundation-reviews.

For more information about the 2023 IAI Conference, visit https://na.eventscloud.com/ehome/107thiaiconf/1202792/.

NIST Finalizes Report of Forensic Bitemark Analysis

Illustration of a typical human dentition viewed in standard anatomical position. Credit: K. Sauerwein/NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has finalized the report Bitemark Analysis: A NIST Scientific Review.

The report details the findings from a NIST review of the scientific foundations of bitemark analysis, a forensic technique used to compare the marks on the skin of a biting victim with the teeth of a potential biter.

Following a short introduction on how the review was conducted, the report includes chapters on:

  • Background information on bitemark analysis, including the principles and practices involved in bitemark analysis and comparison.
  • Data and information sources used in the review and how they were located.
  • Important factors that influence the reliability of bitemark analysis.
  • Thoughts on future directions of bitemark analysis.

A draft report was first published in October 2022 and was open for public comments through Dec. 12, 2022. The finalized report includes minor updates based on public comments received.

Supplemental information is available, including the October 2019 CSAFE Bitemark Thinkshop Report. The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) hosted a NIST-funded meeting in 2019 where forensic dentists, researchers, statisticians, lawyers and other experts addressed scientific questions about bitemark analysis. The meeting summary was written by Alicia Carriquiry, CSAFE director, and Hal Stern, CSAFE co-director, and helped to inform the NIST scientific review.

NIST hosted a three-hour webinar to discuss the draft report and its finding on Oct. 27, 2022. A recording of the webinar is available at https://www.nist.gov/news-events/events/2022/10/webinar-bitemark-analysis-nist-scientific-foundation-review.

More details about the report can be found at https://www.nist.gov/spo/forensic-science-program/bitemark-analysis-nist-scientific-foundation-review.

OSAC Releases Report on the 2022 Registry Implementation Survey

OSAC Registry Implementation Survey: 2022 Report

The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) released its 2022 Registry Implementation Survey results. The report provides a detailed look at the implementation status of the 95 standards posted on the OSAC Registry through June 2022.

The survey is designed to help OSAC better understand how the standards on the OSAC Registry are being used, the challenges around standards implementation and what support is needed to improve it.

The report includes several key takeaways from the survey, including that 128 out of 177 survey respondents reported that their organization had fully or partially implemented one standard on the OSAC registry. Also, of the 95 standards included in the survey, 94 are being implemented.

The OSAC Registry Implementation Survey: 2022 Report is available at https://www.nist.gov/osac/osac-registry-implementation-survey.

The OSAC Registry is a repository of published and proposed standards for forensic science that define best define best practices, standard protocols and other guidance to ensure the results of forensic analysis are valid, reliable and reproducible. For more information about the OSAC Registry, visit https://www.nist.gov/osac/osac-registry.

From page 11 of the OSAC Registry Implementation Survey: 2022 Report:

Priority for Implementing Standards: 2021 & 2022 Comparison
According to the 177 respondents to the 2022 survey, implementation was seen as a higher priority compared to the 155 respondents in the 2021 survey.

Click on image to enlarge. Figure 6. Priority for standards implementation: Comparison between the 2021 and 2022 OSAC Registry Implementation Surveys.
Click on image to enlarge. Figure 6. Priority for standards implementation: Comparison between the 2021 and 2022 OSAC Registry Implementation Surveys.

NIST Finalizes Report of Digital Forensic Methods

The entrance sign at NIST's Gaithersburg campus. Credit: J. Stoughton/NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has finalized the report Digital Investigation Techniques: A NIST Scientific Foundation Review.

The report reviews the scientific foundations of forensic methods for analyzing computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices.

A draft report was first published in May and was open for public comments through July. The report was updated based on the comments received and to improve clarity, flow and accessibility.

In the report, the authors point out some limitations of digital investigations that practitioners should be aware of:

  • As with any crime scene, not all evidence may be discovered.
  • When recovering deleted files, the results may include extraneous material.
  • Examiners need to understand the meaning and significance of digital artifacts retrieved as they can change over different versions of operating systems or applications.

The report discusses many areas that need further research and improved processes, including better methods for sharing forensic knowledge among experts, more efficient and consistent approaches to testing forensic tools, and better sharing of forensic reference data.

More details about the report, including a link to download the final version, can be found at https://www.nist.gov/spo/forensic-science-program/digital-investigation-techniques-nist-scientific-foundation-review.

The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE), a NIST Center of Excellence, conducts research addressing the need for forensic tools and methods for digital evidence. Learn more about this research at forensicstats.org/digital-evidence.

NIST Seeks Public Comments on Draft Report of Forensic Bitemark Analysis

Illustration of a typical human dentition viewed in standard anatomical position. Credit: K. Sauerwein/NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published Bitemark Analysis: A NIST Scientific Review. The draft report will be open for public comments through Dec. 12, 2022.

The report details the findings from a NIST review of the scientific foundations of bitemark analysis, a forensic technique used to compare the marks on the skin of a biting victim with the teeth of a potential biter.

There were several key takeaways identified as part of the scientific review, including one that states that bitemark analysis is not supported by sufficient data:

Forensic bitemark analysis lacks a sufficient scientific foundation because the three key premises of the field are not supported by the data. First, human anterior dental patterns have not been shown to be unique at the individual level. Second, those patterns are not accurately transferred to human skin consistently. Third, it has not been shown that defining characteristics of those patterns can be accurately analyzed to exclude or not exclude individuals as the source of a bitemark.

The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) hosted a NIST-funded meeting in 2019 where forensic dentists, researchers, statisticians, lawyers and other experts addressed scientific questions around bitemark analysis. A meeting summary was written by Alicia Carriquiry, CSAFE director, and Hal Stern, CSAFE co-director. The CSAFE Bitemark Thinkshop Report provided information for the NIST review and has been published as a supplement.

NIST hosted a three-hour webinar on Oct. 27 to discuss the draft report and its findings. A recording of the webinar will be posted soon on the NIST website. For more information, visit https://www.nist.gov/news-events/events/2022/10/webinar-bitemark-analysis-nist-scientific-foundation-review.

Read the NIST news release on the report at https://www.nist.gov/spo/forensic-science-program/bitemark-analysis-nist-scientific-foundation-review.

Insights: Surveying Practicing Firearms Examiners

INSIGHTS

Surveying Practicing Firearms Examiners

OVERVIEW

In recent years, there has been much discussion and debate regarding firearm examiner testimony, but little is known empirically about the actual practices of firearm examiners in conducting casework. Researchers funded by CSAFE conducted a survey of practicing firearms examiners to better understand the conditions of their casework, as well as their views of the field and its relations with other parts of the justice system.

Lead Researchers

Nicholas Scurich
Brandon L. Garrett
Robert M. Thompson

Journal

Forensic Science International: Synergy

Publication Date

2022

Publication Number

IN 127 IMPL

Goals

1

Gain insights into the day-to-day casework and lab procedures of firearms examiners

2

Find what examiners believe impacts the quality of their work

3

Learn the examiners’ opinions of statistical models, new technology, and misunderstandings from judges and jurors in regard to their profession

The Study

Scurich et al. posted a survey on the Association of Firearms and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE) member forum from July to November of 2020. Participation was voluntary, anonymous, and uncompensated. A total of 79 AFTE members provided usable responses.

The survey asked about several topics, including:

Results

Frequency

What percentage of your cases result in an identification conlusion?

Frequency

What percentage of your cases result in an exclusion/elimination conlusion?

The percentage of identification results vs. elimination results

From the 79 responses, Scurich et al. learned the following:

Focus on the future

 

Further work should explore the impacts of lab policies and evidence submission practices on examiners.

New training and educational opportunities—for both firearm examiners and the consumers of firearm examiner testimony—could provide benefits and promote clearer understanding of the strengths and limitations of firearm examination.

NIST Webinar will Discuss the Scientific Foundation Review on Bitemark Analysis

The entrance sign at NIST's Gaithersburg campus. Credit: J. Stoughton/NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will host a webinar to discuss its latest Scientific Foundation Review on bitemark analysis. The webinar will be held Oct. 27 from 1–3 p.m. EDT.

NIST Scientific Foundation Reviews document and evaluate the scientific basis for forensic science methods and practices. These reviews focus on the published scientific literature and other relevant sources of data that can provide information on questions of reliability. To date, NIST has begun foundation reviews on DNA mixture interpretation, digital evidence, bitemark analysis, and firearms examination.

The upcoming webinar will review the contents and findings in a draft report, Bitemark Analysis: A NIST Scientific Foundation Review,  and provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions. The draft report will be open for public comment through Dec. 12, 2022. The authors will consider all comments submitted before publishing a final version of the report. For more information

The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) hosted a workshop in 2019 where forensic dentists, researchers, statisticians, lawyers and other experts addressed scientific questions around bitemark analysis. A summary of the workshop was written by Alicia Carriquiry, CSAFE director, and Hal Stern, CSAFE co-director. It provided information for the NIST review and has been published as a supplement to it.

To register for the webinar, visit https://www.nist.gov/news-events/events/2022/10/webinar-bitemark-analysis-nist-scientific-foundation-review.

For more information about NIST scientific foundation reviews, go to https://www.nist.gov/forensic-science/interdisciplinary-topics/scientific-foundation-reviews.

Registration is Open for Forensics@NIST 2022

The entrance sign at NIST's Gaithersburg campus. Credit: J. Stoughton/NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced the dates for its annual Forensics@NIST. The virtual event will be held Nov. 8–10, 2022.

Forensics@NIST will feature presentations from NIST scientists on how they are using advanced methods in metrology, computer science and statistics to strengthen forensic science. The topics to be covered are:

  • drugs/toxins
  • statistical methods in forensic science
  • firearms and toolmarks
  • forensic genetics
  • trace
  • digital and multimedia
  • biometrics

As a NIST Center of Excellence, the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) will present on Nov. 10 from 3–4:30 p.m. EST. CSAFE researchers will provide an overview of the CSAFE resources available to the forensic science community and give updates on firearms and toolmarks, bloodstain pattern and handwriting analysis projects.

  • CSAFE Overview

    Presenter: Alicia Carriquiry, CSAFE director and Distinguished Professor and President’s Chair in Statistics at Iowa State University
  • CSAFE Firearms and Toolmarks Analysis

    Presenter: Maria Cuellar, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania
  • CSAFE Bloodstain Pattern Analysis

    Presenter: Tong Zou, graduate student in statistics at the University of California, Irvine
  • CSAFE Handwriting Analysis

    Presenter: Danica Ommen, assistant professor of statistics at Iowa State University
  • CSAFE Q&A

    Presenters: Carriquiry, Cuellar, Zou and Ommen

NIST will also hold optional workshops on Nov. 14–15, 2022. Each workshop is limited to 175 attendees, and registrations will be approved on a first-come, first-serve basis. Attendees must attend the main sessions on Nov. 9–10 to register for a workshop. The list of workshops is below:

  • How It’s Made: NIST Forensic DNA Reference Materials
  • NIST 2022 Forensic Cannabis Workshop
  • Mass Spectral Interpretation – Tips and Tools for GC-EI-MS and High-Resolution MS Data
  • Process Mapping
  • Application & Implementation of 3D Technology, Algorithms, and Statistics for Forensic Firearm and Toolmark Analysis

For more information or to register, visit https://www.nist.gov/news-events/events/2022/11/forensicsnist-2022.

OSAC Public Update Meeting Set for Sept. 13

Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science

The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science will host its annual Public Update Meeting on Sept. 13, 2022, from 1–4:30 p.m. EDT. Attendees will learn how OSAC is making an impact on the forensic science community through standards.

The virtual meeting will feature presentations from the seven chairs of OSAC’s Scientific Area Committees and the chair of the Forensic Science Standards Board. Each presenter will describe their committee’s activities, including the latest standards actions, research gaps, challenges being addressed and priorities for the coming year.

There is no fee to attend, but registration is required. The meeting agenda and registration information are available at https://www.nist.gov/news-events/events/2022/09/organization-scientific-area-committees-forensic-science-osac-public.

The OSAC works to strengthen the nation’s use of forensic science by facilitating the development of scientifically sound forensic science standards and by promoting the use of those standards by the forensic science community. OSAC has over 500 members and 275 affiliates that work together to draft and evaluate forensic science standards through a transparent, consensus-based process that allows for participation and comment by all stakeholders. For more information about OSAC and its programs, visit https://www.nist.gov/osac.