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DNA Error Rates



John Butler


The 1993 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Daubert vs. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceuticals insists on knowledge regarding error rates and their application when evidence is introduced into court [1]. The 1996 National Research Council (NRC II) report The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence discusses the topic of whether or not an error rate should be included in statistical calculations that accompany a DNA match [2]. This presentation will explore the meaning and potential calculations of error rates for DNA testing and will review the literature on this topic. Reported errors made during DNA analysis interlaboratory studies and proficiency tests will be considered and how useful this information may or may not be. A distinction will be made between error in a method and uncertainty in a measurement versus error in interpretation. Implications of open and subjective interpretation protocols compared to rigid method protocols and procedures will be discussed. Finally, the challenge of obtaining accurate and complete information to inform error rates while working in an adversarial environment will be considered. [1] Butler, J.M. (2012). Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Methodology. San Diego: Elsevier Academic Press, pp. 534-535. [2] National Research Council (NRCII) Committee on DNA Forensic Science. (1996). The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, pp. 85-87.


DNA, error


Butler, J. (2016), DNA Error Rates (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created December 7, 2016, Updated March 26, 2024