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Tracking Implementation of Standards on the OSAC Registry - Open Enrollment Initiative

By John Paul Jones II, OSAC Program Manager, NIST

OSAC Registry Ribbon

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) administers the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science which facilitates the development of forensic science standards and supports the adoption of these standards by forensics science service providers (FSSPs). NIST tracks the progress and success of these two important metrics to determine the impact OSAC is making on the forensic science and criminal justice communities.  

The primary OSAC metric (facilitating the development of standards) is obtained via monthly updates to the OSAC Registry. OSAC maintains a count and list of forensic science standards that it supports and encourages FSSPs to implement. Tracking the implementation of standards on the OSAC Registry by FSSPs is a challenge since the data are not readily accessible through public sources.  

To help overcome this challenge, NIST created and began accepting voluntarily submitted OSAC Registry – Standards Implementation Declaration Forms from FSSPs in October 2019 to track the implementation metric. Since then, over 120 FSSPs have submitted this declaration to the OSAC Team at NIST. The declaration form is updated each month to include any new standards that are added to the OSAC Registry. This allows FSSPs to submit a current declaration form at any time and signal their implementation status against the latest standards on the OSAC Registry.  

During the summer of 2021, OSAC launched a Registry Implementation Survey to check the pulse of the forensic science community regarding the challenges they have experienced with standards implementation, as well as to assess the status of implementation of the 46 standards that were on the OSAC Registry at that time. The survey generated 155 responses and noted that 138 FSSPs reported that their organization had fully or partially implemented at least one standard on the OSAC Registry. OSAC repeated this survey effort during the summer of 2022, this time assessing the status of implementation of 95 standards that were on the OSAC Registry. The 2022 survey generated 177 responses and noted that 128 FSSPs reported that their organization had fully or partially implemented at least one standard on the OSAC Registry. The feedback from these surveys has demonstrated that some FSSPs are upgrading from partial to full implementation on some standards and implementing more standards over time as they are added to the OSAC Registry.  

Going forward, we plan to standardize the data collection method used to assess the implementation of standards on the OSAC Registry by encouraging FSSPs to provide annual updates on their progress. This will enable OSAC to serve as a data integrator for the forensic science community and demonstrate FSSPs’ embrace of continuous improvement by independently adding standards from the OSAC Registry into their quality management systems. This voluntary adoption process signals a healthy and forward-leaning forensic science enterprise at a national level to both the stakeholders that use the results from FSSPs and to the legislative bodies that strive to ensure the U.S. has a fair and equitable criminal justice system. 

To collect this valuable implementation information in a more standardized way, this summer, OSAC transitioned to an “open enrollment” approach. This is similar to what many employers use when allowing staff members to update their health insurance or benefits information during the same time each year. OSAC’s focused “open enrollment” period will occur during the summer season (June – August 31) and is the time when FSSPs can download an OSAC Registry – Standards Implementation Declaration Form from the OSAC Registry Implementation webpage and submit it to the OSAC Team. OSAC will capture this data, compare it against previously submitted anonymous data from the same FSSPs, and articulate national trends seen in implementation. This information will be used to prepare reports covering the number of new implementers, general implementation trends, and which standards are being implemented. OSAC Registry – Standards Implementation Declaration Forms will still be accepted throughout the year, especially from new implementers, but the focused open enrollment period encourages existing implementers to set aside time each summer to update their status. These updates enable the OSAC Team to consolidate the data from the fiscal year and report out the forensic science community’s status during our annual report which reflects progress through September 30th of each year. 

The OSAC Team appreciates the tremendous support for standards implementation the forensic science community has shown and hopes that this annual update will allow FSSPs to provide useful information that can be shared through reports and national presentations. Please help us show the entire criminal justice community and external stakeholders how supportive the forensic science community is of continuous quality improvement and the voluntary adoption of forensic science standards.

We welcome feedback on this focused open enrollment activity to documenting the implementation of forensic science standards on the OSAC Registry. Please let us know if you have any suggestions by emailing our team at forensics [at] (forensics[at]nist[dot]gov).

Visit the OSAC Registry Implementation Open Enrollment webpage for more information and learn how your organization can participate.

Created June 27, 2023, Updated July 18, 2023