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All Hands Meeting Provides Roadmap for Transforming CSAFE Research Advancements into Forensic Science Solutions

Translating research into practice was a central focus of the CSAFE annual All Hands Meeting held June 11 to 13, 2018 at Iowa State University. Researchers, NIST team members, collaborators, advisory board members and students from across the world joined together to develop a strategic plan for utilizing CSAFE research advancements to impact how forensic science is practiced in the United States. Over 90 community members participated in the event, an increase from 70 of last year.

CSAFE director Alicia Carriquiry highlighted the significant research progress the team has made, and stressed that it is now time to focus on forensic applications and implementation strategies.

“We are doing significant work in research of pattern, digital and human factors areas,” Carriquiry said. “We are having a lot of impact and making inroads into engaging the forensic community. It is now high time for us to jump into implementation of some of these research achievements.”

Discovering Research Achievements and Building New Partnerships

Research updates from each project lead enabled attendees to identify new developments and examples of critical partnerships in each research area.

“It was great to hear about the progress being made across all the projects, it was very motivating and inspiring,” said Padhraic Smyth, CSAFE researcher from University of California, Irvine. “Seeing the big picture reminded me of how important this project is on a national scale.”

Breakout sessions allowed conference participants to explore additional aspects of CSAFE research through in-depth analysis and candid roundtable discussion on the current state of practice. In-put sessions gave participants an opportunity to provide valuable feedback on CSAFE outreach and research initiatives. Together, All Hands attendees brainstormed new strategies to meet needs for improvement.

Participants discussed the importance of continuing to generate quality data. “One of our implicit missions is to contribute to data for research,” Carriquiry said. “We are trying to bridge the gap by creating databases that will be put in the public domain.”

Additionally, a focus of discussion was continuing to build a strong foundation of collaboration between researchers and the greater forensic community, as well as provide quality education and training to demonstrate the impact of CSAFE achievements.

“Our partnership with NIST is very important,” said Carriquiry. “We want to continue working closely with our collaborators and we hope those will continue and deepen.”

New at the All Hands Meeting for Year 3 was a poster competition judged by CSAFE Advisory Board Members. The winners were Brett Gardner, Dr. Daniel Murrie, Kellyn Baisdell and Dr. Sharon Kelley from University of Virginia for their poster “Perceptions of Task-Relevance in Forensic Science: A Survey of Forensic Examiners.” Runners-up were Kiegan Rice, Dr. Ulrike Genschel and Dr. Heike Hofmann for their poster “Methods for Automatic Groove Identification in 3D Bullet Land Scans.”

Valuing the Student Perspective

Another additional aspect implemented for the 2018 All Hands Meeting was a conference workshop designed specifically for CSAFE students provided an opportunity to network with peers, and offer open and honest suggestions to CSAFE leaders.

“The student session was a great opportunity to provide feedback from a student perspective. Everyone had the chance to voice an opinion on ways to further strengthen CSAFE. Lots of great ideas were offered up,” said CSAFE graduate student James Kruse.

30 undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral scholars participated in this session. CSAFE leadership greatly values the insights of students, and will use the suggestions gathered to develop new educational methods and professional development opportunities to better equip students to succeed in their chosen field.

Learning the Bigger Picture of Forensics in Society

To facilitate increased understanding of forensic science in practice, All Hands Meeting keynote speaker, Dr. Peter Stout, CEO of Houston Forensic Science Center educated conference attendees on current crime laboratory culture and how that impacts successful implementation of forensic procedures. He also explained how forensics is viewed by society, giving participants a window into barriers that must be addressed.

Creating a Lasting Impact

The conference closed with reminders from CSAFE leaders that our team is meeting a critical need in the forensics community and that our work makes a global impact.

All Hands Meeting attendees left the conference prepared to begin CSAFE’s Year 4 united around a central mission to apply evidence analysis results to real-world forensic issues, improving the everyday work of practitioner and judicial communities.