Our Research

Building Statistical Foundations for Forensic Science

The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) aligns an interdisciplinary team of exceptional researchers and experienced practitioners. Together they build strong scientific foundations in probabilistic, statistical and computational methods to apply to forensic science.

Forensic science has the potential to greatly influence justice and public safety. Yet, many factors themselves influence forensic science, forensic evidence and conclusions, and the way forensic scientists and others communicate their findings and implications — sometimes with negative outcomes.

Coordinated by Iowa State University and funded by NIST, the CSAFE team of statisticians and scientists create solutions that quantify the uncertainty, limitations and errors associated with human factors; pattern evidence, such as fingerprints and bullet marks; and digital evidence, such as data from cellphones and computers. In order for forensic scientists, forensic practitioners, law enforcement officers, lawyers, judges and more to apply these methods, CSAFE also provides training and education modules.

Human Factors

With scientific approaches and applications, CSAFE researchers are seeking objective, repeatable ways to reduce human error and risk, minimize the effects of cognitive bias, and evaluate the human factors involved in casework.

Statistical Foundations

CSAFE researchers are developing statistical techniques that forensic scientists can use to determine evidence’s validity. This equips the forensic community with a percentage of probability to inform conclusions and give insights to others as findings are communicated.

Training and Education

CSAFE researchers are developing educational modules for judges, lawyers and forensic science investigators on how to decipher and communicate forensic science results in honest, clear ways.


Under an initial five-year agreement, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provided the funds to establish a nationally recognized Center of Excellence in Forensic Sciences based at Iowa State University.

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