GAITHERSBURG, Md.—The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking public input on a potential new organizational structure for the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science. NIST and the Department of Justice (DOJ) formed OSAC in 2014 to strengthen the nation’s use of forensic science by facilitating the development of technically sound forensic science standards and by promoting the adoption of those standards by the forensic science community.
OSAC’s roughly 560 members have expertise in 25 specific forensic disciplines, as well as general expertise in scientific research, measurement science, statistics, law and policy. These experts work together to develop and evaluate forensic science standards, which are written documents that define minimum requirements, best practices, standard protocols and other guidance to help ensure that the results of forensic analysis are reliable and reproducible. To date, eight standards have been posted to the OSAC Registry of Approved Standards, and more than 200 are in the pipeline.
When OSAC was established, NIST and DOJ publicly stated that they expected the organization’s structure would evolve over time and that OSAC would transition out of NIST to a different host organization within five to 10 years.
“Now that OSAC has been operating for three-plus years, it’s time to assess the performance of the organization and look for opportunities for improvement,” said Richard Cavanagh, director of the NIST Special Programs Office, which oversees OSAC operations. “Although the structure of OSAC may change, the goals remain the same, and NIST remains committed to OSAC’s stability and scientific integrity.”
The Request for Information (RFI) published today in the Federal Register includes four concepts for OSAC 2.0 that were developed by NIST in order to delineate a range of possible changes to the organization. The four concepts envision different management structures, funding models and work products. These concepts, which are offered to generate ideas and input, are not meant to be exhaustive. Respondents may also submit ideas that fall outside the four concepts or that more closely resemble the current organizational structure.
The RFI notes that NIST is open to maintaining elements of the current OSAC structure, modifying the structure, and considering substantially different structures, including the four examples offered.
OSAC’s original structure and operations were designed with input from a wide variety of stakeholders in the forensic science, criminal justice and research communities, including through a RFI. Cavanagh hopes that this second RFI similarly prompts valuable and innovative ideas from the broadest possible array of supporters, critics and observers of OSAC.
To submit responses, follow the link in the RFI, then search for “OSAC” to reach the appropriate comment page.
The RFI will be open until 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2017.