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NIST Details Plans for Reviewing Scientific Foundations of Forensic Methods

NIST has published Draft NISTIR 8225, Scientific Foundation Reviews. This publication describes NIST’s approach to conducting scientific foundation reviews, which seek to document and evaluate the body of scientific data underpinning forensic science methods. NIST requests that readers submit comment’s which will be considered when producing a final version of the document.

In recent years, critics have questioned the reliability of many commonly used forensic techniques. A 2009 study by the National Academy of Sciences, for instance, found, “a notable dearth of peer-reviewed, published studies establishing the scientific bases and validity of many forensic methods.”

Some methods are more strongly grounded in scientific research than others, however, and many have been strengthened in recent years with new imaging technologies, advanced statistical techniques, and automated, computer-based methods for analyzing evidence.

NIST foundation reviews will evaluate the current state of a discipline’s scientific foundations, which the report defines as, “the trusted and established knowledge that supports and underpins,” its methods. These reviews will increase trust in forensic methods that have a strong scientific foundation. In cases where the foundation would benefit from further strengthening, the reviews might provide strategic direction for future research.

Read more on NIST’s website.