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Inconclusive Decisions and Error Rates in Forensic Science



Henry Swofford, Steven Lund, Hariharan K. Iyer, John Butler, Johannes A. Soons, Robert M. Thompson, Vincent Desiderio, JP Jones, Robert Ramotowski


In recent years, there has been discussion and controversy relating to the treatment of inconclusive decisions in forensic feature comparison disciplines when considering the reliability of examination methods and results. In this article, we offer a brief review of the various viewpoints and suggestions that have been recently put forth, followed by a solution that we believe addresses the treatment of inconclusive decisions. We consider the issues in the context of method conformance and method performance as two distinct concepts, both of which are necessary for the determination of reliability. Method conformance relates to an assessment of whether the outcome of a method is the result of the analyst's adherence to the procedures that define the method. Method performance reflects the capacity of a method to discriminate between different propositions of interest (e.g., mated and non-mated comparisons). We then discuss implications of these issues for the forensic science community.
Forensic Science International: Synergy


Forensic science, Error rates, Inconclusives, Likelihood ratio, Validation data, Bayesian reasoning, Black-box study


Swofford, H. , Lund, S. , Iyer, H. , Butler, J. , Soons, J. , Thompson, R. , Desiderio, V. , Jones, J. and Ramotowski, R. (2024), Inconclusive Decisions and Error Rates in Forensic Science, Forensic Science International: Synergy, [online],, (Accessed May 26, 2024)


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Created May 4, 2024, Updated May 11, 2024