OSAC Public Update Meeting Set for Wednesday, Sept. 29


Plan to attend the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science Public Update Meeting on Sept. 29, 2021, from 1–4:30 p.m. EDT.

This virtual event will feature presentations from the chairs of OSAC’s Forensic Science Standards Board and seven Scientific Area Committees. Each presenter will describe the standards their unit is working on and discuss research gaps, challenges, and priorities for the coming year. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. There is no fee to attend, but registration is required.

OSAC works to strengthen forensic science by facilitating the development of technically sound standards and promoting the use of those standards by the forensic science community. OSAC’s 800-plus members and affiliates 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.

The meeting agenda and registration information is available on the OSAC website.

OSAC Registry Implementation Survey


The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) is asking forensic science service providers to complete an online survey to understand how organizations are using standards on the OSAC Registry and what support they may need to improve standards implementation.

According to the OSAC Registry Implementation Survey webpage, “OSAC wants to better understand how the standards on the Registry are currently being used, the challenges around standards implementation, and what support is needed to improve it. The OSAC Registry Implementation Survey will be a tool we use to collect this information on an annual basis.”

OSAC says that after the survey closes on Aug. 31, they will analyze the responses, and the results will be published in OSAC’s fall newsletter at the end of October.

Forensic science service providers across the country are encouraged to complete this survey (one response per location). It will take approximately 15-45 minutes to complete and must be done in one sitting.

More information and a link to the survey are available at https://www.nist.gov/osac/osac-registry-implementation-survey.

GAO Releases a Second Report on Forensic Science Algorithms

From GAO Report 21-435
GAO-21-435 — Forensic Technology: Algorithms Strengthen Forensic Analysis, but Several Factors Can Affect Outcomes
GAO-21-435 — Forensic Technology: Algorithms Strengthen Forensic Analysis, but Several Factors Can Affect Outcomes

In July, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the report, Forensic Technology: Algorithms Strengthen Forensic Analysis, but Several Factors Can Affect Outcomes.

This is the second report in a two-part series of technology assessments responding to a request to examine the use of forensic algorithms in law enforcement. The first report, Forensic Technology: Algorithms Used in Federal Law Enforcement (GAO-20-479SP), described forensic algorithms used by federal law enforcement agencies and how they work.

In this report, GAO conducted an in-depth analysis of three types of algorithms used by federal law enforcement agencies and selected state and local law enforcement agencies: latent print, facial recognition and probabilistic genotyping. The report discusses

  1. the key performance metrics for assessing latent print, facial recognition and probabilistic genotyping algorithms;
  2. the strengths of these algorithms compared to related forensic methods;
  3. the key challenges affecting the use of these algorithms and the associated social and ethical implications; and
  4. options policymakers could consider to address these challenges.

GAO developed three policy options that could help address challenges related to law enforcement use of forensic algorithms. The policy options identify possible actions by policymakers, which may include Congress, other elected officials, federal agencies, state and local governments and industry.

In conducting this assessment, GAO interviewed federal officials, select non-federal law enforcement agencies and crime laboratories, algorithm vendors, academic researchers and nonprofit groups. It also convened an interdisciplinary meeting of 16 experts with assistance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; and reviewed relevant literature. CSAFE co-director Karen Kafadar, professor and chair of statistics at the University of Virginia, participated in the meeting, as well as Will Guthrie, a CSAFE Research and Technology Transfer Advisory Board member. Guthrie is chief of the Statistical Engineering Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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CSAFE researchers are developing open-source software tools, allowing for peer-reviewed, transparent software for forensic scientists and researchers to apply to forensic evidence analysis. These automatic matching algorithms provide objective and reproducible scores as a foundation for a fair judicial process. Learn more about CSAFE’s open-source software tools.

NIST Extends Deadline for Comment on Draft Report on DNA Mixture Interpretation Methods

Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has extended the deadline for public comments on NIST Internal Report 8351-DRAFT (DNA Mixture Interpretation: A Scientific Foundation Review). The new deadline is Aug. 23, 2021.

This report, currently published in draft form, reviews the methods that forensic laboratories use to interpret evidence containing a mixture of DNA from two or more people. To read more about the report or to submit comments, visit https://www.nist.gov/dna-mixture-interpretation-nist-scientific-foundation-review.

In case you missed it, NIST hosted the webinar, DNA Mixtures: A NIST Scientific Foundation Review. The webinar reviewed the contents of and findings in the NISTIR 8351-draft report, discussed feedback received up to that point in the public comment period, and provided an opportunity for interested parties and stakeholders to ask additional questions or seek clarification on the draft report. The recording of the webinar can be viewed at https://www.nist.gov/news-events/events/2021/07/webinar-dna-mixtures-nist-scientific-foundation-review.

DNA Mixtures: A Forensic Science Explainer
NIST has also published a webpage explaining DNA mixtures and why are they are sometimes difficult to interpret. https://www.nist.gov/feature-stories/dna-mixtures-forensic-science-explainer