The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Board of Directors has unanimously voted to honor the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) - Special Programs Office (SPO) with the AAFS Ambassador of Forensic Science Award for advancing the recognition of forensic science in the pursuit of justice through public service. The Special Programs Office plans and manages high-profile programs that span the mission and expertise of multiple NIST laboratories addressing critical national needs. The Forensic Science Program within SPO works to promote equity in the criminal justice system by strengthening the scientific basis of forensic methods and practices so that evidence is appropriately collected, accurately analyzed, and effectively communicated.
The NIST "program for forensic science research and scientific standards are the role model for what this award was established to recognize," says Jeri Ropero-Miller AAFS awards committee chair and AAFS immediate past president. "I have observed firsthand all the hard work and dedication of the SPO Team. We and the communities of practice are so thankful for all you do."
The forensic science research program develops state-of-the-art measurement methods, tools, and data to advance the science and practice of forensic science with a focus on biometrics, digital evidence, drugs and toxins, firearms and toolmarks, forensic genetics, statistics, and trace evidence. NIST also funds a multi-university Center of Excellence, i.e. the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (or CSAFE), which concentrates on the application of statistics to pattern evidence.
Critical to SPO's work is facilitating the development of technically sound standards and promoting their use through the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science. The program leverages the voluntary consensus process within OSAC and through active engagement with standards development organizations (SDOs) to accelerate the widespread adoption of advances in standards.
"This is indeed a great honor for NIST and SPO," says Dr. S. Shyam Sunder, director of the Special Programs Office and NIST’s chief data officer. "The award is a recognition of the excellent efforts in advancing forensic science research and practice of not only SPO, but all of the participating NIST laboratories, including the Material Measurement Laboratory (MML), Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML), Information Technology Laboratory (ITL), and Standards Coordination Office (SCO)."
"This is excellent and well-deserved recognition," added James Olthoff, who is performing the nonexclusive duties of the under secretary of commerce for standards and technology and NIST director. "Congratulations to everyone."
The program's work to strengthen the scientific foundations of forensic methods and practices, and identify knowledge gaps and areas for future research, has helped generate a valuable dialog within the community on the use of DNA Mixture Interpretations. Ongoing work is focused on assessing the scientific foundations of forensic methods and practices for examining bitemarks, digital evidence, and firearms.
"Congratulations to you and your team on receipt of the Ambassador of Forensic Science Award," says Carl R. McClary, president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. "I commend you all for your numerous contributions to the advancement of forensic science and our common pursuit of justice."
This recognition provides great encouragement to the NIST forensic science team as they continue the long and rich history at NIST of working to advance forensic science research and practice over almost 100 years.
The NIST Special Programs Office will receive a commemorative plaque for the award on February 23, 2022, during the 74th AAFS Annual Meeting in Seattle.