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Forensic Science Standards Board: The Forensic Science
Standards Board establishes governance rules to ensure that quality standards
and guidelines are developed and to encourage their use in the provision of
forensic science services. It administers overall operation of the organization,
approves standards for inclusion in the OSAC Registry of Approved Standards,
and updates and disseminates the list of approved standards and guidelines. The board
resolves disputes and appeals on developed standards and guidelines, and engages
in international developments relevant to forensic science quality standards.
Background: On February 4, 2014, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced the formation of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC). The OSAC will be a collaborative body of more than 600 forensic science practitioners and other experts who represent local, state, and federal agencies; academia; and industry. NIST is establishing OSAC to strengthen the nation's use of forensic science by supporting the development and promulgation of forensic science consensus documentary standards and guidelines, determining each forensic discipline's research and measurement standards needs, and ensuring that a sufficient scientific basis exists for each discipline.
View the OSAC organizational chart here.
Objective: to create a sustainable organizational infrastructure that produces consensus documentary standards and guidelines to improve quality and consistency of work in the forensic science community.
Overview of Structure
Summary: The OSAC will consist of five Scientific Area Committees (SACs) which report to a Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB). Each of the five SACs oversee discipline-specific subcommittees. The five SACs cover broadly defined forensic science topic areas: biology/DNA; chemistry/instrumental analysis; crime scene/death investigation; information technology/multimedia; and physics/pattern. A Human Factors Committee, Legal Resource Committee, and Quality Infrastructure Committee will provide input to the FSSB, SACs, and SAC Subcommittees on standards and guidelines being developed within the OSAC infrastructure and be responsible for specific duties in their resource committee content area.
The SACs and subcommittees will identify standards, test methods, and requirements for lab accreditation appropriate to the scientific area and discipline. The SACs and subcommittees may identify standards and guidelines developed by other organizations, may catalyze the development of needed standards and guidelines, or may create new standards and guidelines themselves. The SAC grants final approval of a guideline. Final approval of a standard is granted by the FSSB after approval by the SAC.OSAC-approved standards will make up the OASC Registry of Approved Standards. OSAC-approved guidelines will make up the OSAC Registry of Approved Guidelines. The registries will be freely available online through the NIST and/or OSAC websites.
The material below provides additional details describing the anticipated authority and duties of each board, committee, and subcommittee listed on the OSAC organizational chart. The authority and duties of each component will be reviewed and approved or amended by the FSSB to produce the final responsibilities of each board, committee, and subcommittee. Please note that for brevity, the term "standard" is used to describe both "standards and guidelines" in the text below, except where specifically noted.
Forensic Science Standards Board
Membership and Leadership:
The FSSB membership shall represent a balance of interests where no single interest dominates. The FSSB includes 17 voting members:
Human Factors Committee
Provides input throughout the OSAC on issues related to human factors
The Human Factors Committee will consist of up to ten members possessing expertise in psychology, quality systems management, and usability.
The Human Factors Committee Chair shall perform the following duties:
A NIST-DOJ membership committee will select the initial Human Factors Committee members and chair.Back to Top
Legal Resource Committee
Provide input throughout the OSAC on legal issues related to standards
Membership and Leadership:
The Legal Resource Committee
will consist of up to ten members representing the legal community, i.e.
judges, lawyers (prosecution and defense), and other experts.
The Legal Resource Committee Chair shall perform the following duties:
A NIST-DOJ membership committee will select the initial Legal Resource Committee members and chair.Back to Top
Membership and Leadership:
The Quality Infrastructure Committee will consist of up to fifteen members including accreditation and certification specialists, quality system managers, forensic science practitioners, forensic science laboratory directors, and NIST standards experts.
The Quality Infrastructure Committee Chair shall perform the following duties:
A NIST-DOJ membership committee will select the initial Quality Infrastructure Committee members and chair.Back to Top
Membership and Leadership:
The membership for each SAC shall represent a balance of interests where no single interest dominates. Each SAC will have a maximum of fifteen members:
SAC Chairs shall perform the following duties:
A NIST-DOJ membership committee will select the initial SAC members and chairs.
Note: Due to anticipated workload requirements, a SAC chair cannot also be a subcommittee chair.
Meetings will be open to the public.Back to Top
A critical factor in
identifying or developing quality standards is to have members with technical
expertise and a balance of interests. Each subcommittee shall represent a
balance of interests where no single interest dominates. Each subcommittee
shall consist of a maximum of 20 members. The target distribution of
membership is as follows:
may also invite up to five guests as needed upon approval by
the SAC Chair. During the initial formation of each subcommittee, the SAC will
provide input to determine the proper balance of types of members to address
the unique nature of each forensic science discipline represented by a
In the OSAC, a forensic practitioner is defined as an individual actively doing or managing casework.
Subcommittee Chairs shall perform the following duties:
Note: Due to anticipated workload requirements, a subcommittee chair cannot also be a SAC chair.Subcommittee selection process:
Meetings will not be open to the public.Back to Top
OSAC Task Groups will be appointed to perform specific tasks. Task Groups may be formed under the Forensic Science Standards Board, the Resource Committees, the Scientific Area Committees, and the Subcommittees. Task Group members must be OSAC members or affiliates.
SAC Chemistry/Instrumental Analysis
Biological Data Interpretation and Reporting: forensic DNA laboratory interpretation.
Biological Methods: forensic DNA laboratory methodology.
Wildlife Forensics: application of a range of scientific disciplines to legal cases involving non-human biological evidence. These disciplines include genetics, morphology, chemistry, pathology, anthropology, and veterinary sciences.
Fire Debris and Explosives: examination and testing of items and debris collected from a fire or bombing scene. Testing of materials to determine if an accelerant or explosive substance is or was present, which can help investigators determine whether a fire was deliberately set or the type of explosives used.
Geological Materials: examination of trace evidence found in soil or with botanical origins.
Gun Shot Residue: analyses of evidence that results from the deposition of or physical transfer of small or minute quantities of gunshot residue.
Materials (Trace): examination of physical evidence that results from the physical transfer of small or minute quantities of materials (e.g., hair, textile fibers, paint chips, tape, glass fragments). This category of evidence encompasses many diverse types of microscopic materials as well as some examples that are easily visible to the naked eye.
Seized Drugs: examination of evidence to identify drugs, either prescription drugs such as Valium or illegal drugs such as cocaine. Evidence examples include those substances prior to ingestion and might include plant material, powder, drug paraphernalia, tablets and pills, or evidence items suspected of bearing traces of drugs.
Toxicology: examination of body fluids or tissues for the presence and quantity of substances such as drugs or poisons in ante- or postmortem casework. Evidence examples include those substances and metabolites following ingestion and might include physiological specimens such as blood, urine, hair, teeth, bone, spinal fluid, and organ and muscle tissue.
SAC Crime Scene/Death Investigation
Anthropology: application of anthropological methods and theory – particularly those relating to the recovery and analysis of human remains – to resolve legal matters.
Crime Scene Investigation: investigation of crime scenes including the search for, documentation of, collection of, and preservation of evidence associated with a crime scene.
Disaster Victim Identification: fatality management of a mass fatality incident that involves the scientific identification of human remains.
Dogs and Sensors: improvement of the consistency and performance of deployed dog/handler teams and optimization of their combination with electronic detection devices designed to improve interdiction efforts as well as courtroom acceptance.
Fire and Explosion Investigation: investigation, analyses, and interpretation of crime scenes where arson or use of explosives is suspected.
Medicolegal Death Investigation: investigation of sudden, unnatural, unexplained, or suspicious deaths, including homicides, suicides, unintentional fatal injuries, drug-related deaths, and other deaths that are sudden or unexpected; determination of the cause and manner of death. In many jurisdictions, responsibility for conducting death investigations may rest with pathologists, medical examiners, or coroners.
Odontology: application of dental science to the identification of unknown human remains and bite marks, using both physical and biological dental evidence.
Digital Evidence: information of probative value that is stored or transmitted in binary form.
Facial Identification: image-based comparisons of human facial features.
Speaker Recognition: application of methods and technologies to determine whether a vocal recording discovered as evidence matches the voice of a suspect. Encompasses voice data collection, measurement, transmission, and retrieval.
Video/Imaging Technology and Analysis: application of technologies and systems to capture, store, process, analyze, transmit, produce, and archive images.
SAC Physics/Pattern Interpretation
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Bloodstain Pattern Analysis: The Bloodstain Pattern Subcommittee will focus on standards and guidelines related to the scientific detection and analysis of bloodstain patterns present at crime scenes and on associated evidence.
Friction Ridge: forensic examination of fingerprints, palm prints, and footprints made through impressions.
Firearms and Tool Marks: determination of whether an evidence bullet was fired from a suspect weapon. It may also include comparison of fired cartridge cases, firearm function tests, serial number restorations, and distance determinations. Tool marks left at a crime scene or on a victim by various types of implements (e.g., knives, screwdrivers, pliers) can be microscopically compared to test marks made in the laboratory by suspect tools.
Footwear and Tire Tread: forensic examination of footwear and tire impression evidence.
Forensic Document Examination: examination, comparison, and analyses of documents to establish genuineness, expose forgery, or reveal alterations. A questioned document contains a signature, handwriting, typewriting, mechanical printing, or other mark whose source or authenticity is in dispute or doubtful. Letters, checks, driver licenses, contracts, wills, voter registrations, passports, petitions, threatening letters, suicide notes, historical documents, and lottery tickets are common types of questioned documents.
Applicants must complete and submit an online application form on the NIST forensic science website. The form allows applicants to select a first- and second-choice committee or subcommittee of interest. Go to the application form.
Membership Commitment Requirements
All positions on the OSAC will be staggered 3-year terms with the initial members serving 2-, 3- and 4-year terms. It is anticipated that the FSSB, resource committees, SACs, and subcommittees will conduct business using both in-person and virtual meetings. The FSSB, SACs, and subcommittees will conduct at least one in-person meeting per year. NIST will pay travel, lodging, and per diem expenses for members.
Virtual meetings will occur periodically to accomplish the objectives of all committees and subcommittees and are expected to require a total of 5 days or less throughout the year. Other time commitments include reviewing and editing documents on a periodic basis.Virtual meetings and virtual training will be held prior to in-person meetings to ensure members are knowledgeable of their duties and OSAC processes. Please visit the OSAC website for the latest updates.
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