Skip to content

What do forensic analysts consider relevant to their decision making?

Journal: Science & Justice
Published: 2019
Primary Author: Brett O. Gardner
Secondary Authors: Sharon Kelley, Daniel C. Murrie, Itiel E. Dror

In response to research demonstrating that irrelevant contextual information can bias forensic science analyses, authorities have increasingly urged laboratories to limit analysts’ access to irrelevant and potentially biasing information (Dror and Cole (2010) [3]; National Academy of Sciences (2009) [18]; President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (2016) [22]; UK Forensic Science Regulator (2015) [26]). However, a great challenge in implementing this reform is determining which information is task-relevant and which is task-irrelevant. In the current study, we surveyed 183 forensic analysts to examine what they consider relevant versus irrelevant in their forensic analyses. Results revealed that analysts generally do not regard information regarding the suspect or victim as essential to their analytic tasks. However, there was significant variability among analysts within and between disciplines. Findings suggest that forensic science disciplines need to agree on what they regard as task-relevant before context management procedures can be properly implemented. The lack of consensus about what is relevant information not only leaves room for biasing information, but also reveals foundational gaps in what analysts consider crucial in forensic decision making.

Related Resources

Using mixture models to examine group difference among jurors: an illustration involving the perceived strength of forensic science evidence

Using mixture models to examine group difference among jurors: an illustration involving the perceived strength of forensic science evidence

The way in which jurors perceive reports of forensic evidence is of critical importance, especially in cases of forensic identification evidence that require examiners to compare items and assess whether…
Battling to a draw: Defense expert rebuttal can neutralize prosecution fingerprint evidence

Battling to a draw: Defense expert rebuttal can neutralize prosecution fingerprint evidence

The present study examined whether a defense rebuttal expert can effectively educate jurors on the risk that the prosecution’s fingerprint expert made an error. Using a sample of 1716 jury-eligible…
CSAFE 2021 Field Update

CSAFE 2021 Field Update

The 2021 Field Update was held June 14, 2021, and served as the closing to the first year of CSAFE 2.0. CSAFE brought together researchers, forensic science partners and interested…
Algorithms in Forensic Science: Challenges, Considerations, and a Path Forward

Algorithms in Forensic Science: Challenges, Considerations, and a Path Forward

This CSAFE webinar was held on May 25, 2021. Presenter: Henry Swofford Ph.D. Candidate – University of Lausanne Presentation Description: Over the years, scientific and legal scholars have called for…