The NIST Forensic Science Program launched a new training initiative for judges and attorneys, referred to as “Officers of the Court,” to strengthen their understanding of foundational scientific and forensic science principles. This project focuses on the development of short Primers designed to provide basic foundational knowledge that is critical for any forensic science discipline. These Primers serve as an entry point for Officers of the Court to start their education on scientific topics and enable them to become more informed consumers of forensic science information.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS)/National Research Council published a report in 2009, entitled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States - A Path Forward, which provided many forensic science challenges in the United States from the actual practice of forensic science in laboratories to the understanding and use of forensic science information by judges and attorneys in court.
- National Academy of Sciences
Forensic Science is an applied science that is built upon the application of chemistry, biology, physics, measurement science, and statistics to address questions of identification of unknown substances (i.e. drugs, explosives, hair, fibers, blood) and attributing the source of an evidence item to a known individual (i.e. DNA, fingerprints, etc.). NIST’s Forensic Science Program plays multiple roles in forensic science and this new training initiative will help increase the knowledge of officers of the court on the scientific basis of techniques used by crime laboratories across the country and what results of those analyses mean.
Specifically, this project involves the development of “primers” which are short documents (typically 2-3 pages) that are high-level and provided at a reading level of the intended audience. In this context, foundational knowledge consists of understanding issues such as standards, measurement uncertainty, error rates, data interpretation, limitations of methods, weight of evidence, human factors, and communication of scientific results. Primers will include definitions and brief explanations of topic areas written for non-scientists and serve as the basis for future in-depth educational content development and delivery.