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CSAFE Book Highlights How Statistics Benefits Criminal Justice Outcomes

A new book written by the CSAFE team demonstrates the power of transparent, open-source software for forensic evidence analysis.

Open Forensic Science in R is a free, publicly available resource for both data and forensic scientists. This book teaches readers how the statistical language R can benefit criminal justice outcomes. CSAFE post-doctoral researcher Dr. Sam Tyner led this project through a rOpenSci fellowship.

“We want forensic scientists to know that there is an extremely powerful, free software available to them that has great potential for application in their field,” Tyner said. “We’d also like them to know that writing code is a precise and reproducible way to run analyses that will make them better scientists (and is not as scary as it may seem!).”

The book explains that most databases used in forensic science today are proprietary, meaning that only the owners know how these systems work, how they were made and what the source code looks like. This closed approach has led to miscarriages of justice.

Open Forensic Science in R relies solely on open-source software for analysis, demonstrating the impact transparent methods can have on forensic science, both in research and in practice.

“Open source software is critical to forensic science because it opens up the field to more researchers. Currently, the barrier to entry in forensic science is extremely high,” Tyner said. “Open Forensic Science in R is a step toward eliminating the software barriers so that researchers in many fields can apply their skills to forensic sciences and help the field grow.”

Apply CSAFE Open Source Software Tools to Your Forensic Analysis

Many chapters in Open Forensic Science in R walks readers through a forensic analysis step-by-step, using an R package uniquely designed for that forensic discipline.

CSAFE is expanding on other organization’s forensic science R packages in DNA comparison and new feature comparison methods. This work spans multiple forensic science disciplines such as bullet and cartridge case identification, shoe sole impressions, glass element analysis and handwriting source analysis. Readers can find CSAFE open-source software tools in the resources section of the Center’s website.

Free, Publically Available R Online Learning Tools:

For individuals interested in learning more about R and Open Source Technology, Tyner recommends the resources below:

Interested in Learning More? Schedule a CSAFE Training for Your Team

CSAFE researchers are available to travel to labs, meetings and special events to impart our research, statistical concepts and more to your audience. Please fill out the “Host a Training Form” to tell us more about your education needs.

Additionally, stop by the CSAFE booth or attend a research presentation at one of the many forensic science conferences such as AAFS, IAI and AFTE. The CSAFE team looks forward to sharing their expertise in statistical analysis and working with your group.

More information regarding CSAFE contributions to rOpenSci can be found on their website.