Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

Https

The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

OSAC Newsletter, March 2016

newsletter header

March 2016

NIST Statement on ASTM: E2329-14 | 30,000 Public Criminal Justice Agencies Receive Free Access to ASTM Committee E30 on Forensic Science's Standards | OSAC Vacancies | Upcoming Public Comment Periods for Standards/Guidelines Under Consideration for the OSAC Registry | Research & Development Needs | Message from the OSAC Affairs Director: Report on 2016 Public Status Reports & Open Discussions | Recent OSAC Accomplishments | On the Horizon | Resource Committee Corner | Standards Development News | Standards Development News - Recent Activities | Standards Development News - ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1/SC37 Biometrics | OSAC Unit Spotlight: Focus on Four Subcommittees within the Chemistry/Instrumental SAC

NIST Statement on ASTM: E2329-14

Since 2013, NIST has partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice to establish improved, more scientifically rigorous methods for collecting, analyzing, and reporting on forensic evidence. As part of this process, NIST Director Willie May co-chairs the National Commission on Forensic Science, and the NIST Special Programs Office serves as the administrator for the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC). Established in the last two years by NIST, these committees include more than 600 volunteer members from theforensic science community.

On Jan. 11, 2016, the OSAC Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB) voted to elevate ASTM Standard E2329-14 "Standard Practice for Identification of Seized Drugs" to the OSAC Registry of Approved Standards. The standard is used by law enforcement agencies as a protocol for testing seized evidence to determine if drugs of abuse such as cocaine or heroin are present. The standard describes a qualitative, pass/fail process whereby evidence either does or does not contain specific substances. This is the first standard posted to the registry.

At the same time, concerns have been raised that some of the language in the standard is not scientifically rigorous. Both NIST and the FSSB have independently asked that ASTM review the language. For example, the standard currently states that "an appropriate analytical scheme effectively results in no uncertainty in reported identifications." NIST recognizes that the scientific community is still working to develop language that completely captures the confidence that should be associated with a qualitative measurement. Nevertheless, based on accepted scientific protocols, no measurement, qualitative or quantitative, should be characterized as without the risk of error or uncertainty. It is important to note that NIST is not contesting results obtained from seized evidence using the standard.

To respond to NIST's concerns, ASTM has listed the standard as "Under Revision," a process likely to take several months. To date, the OSAC has continued to include the standard on its registry. NIST hopes to assist ASTM in strengthening the technical merit of the standard over the coming months. In the meantime, NIST will work with the FSSB and all OSAC groups on process improvements to help ensure consistently high quality scientific reviews of documentary standards that the forensic science community can endorse as trusted, valuable resources. 

NIST has posted an announcement regarding this position.


30,000 Public Criminal Justice Agencies Receive Free Access to ASTM Committee E30 on Forensic Science's Standards

OSAC logo
The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has entered into a contract with ASTM International to enable 30,000 public criminal justice agencies to receive free access to ASTM's Committee E30 on Forensic Science's Standards. This agreement provides access to the approximately 48 existing standards under the jurisdiction of E30 and future standards developed during the period of performance. The NIST agreement consists of a base year that began on March 15, 2016, and an option to extend the agreement for an additional year. The specific stakeholders who will receive free unlimited web-based access are as follows:
  • OSAC Members & Affiliates – approximately 750 individuals
  • NIST and Federal/State/Local Crime Laboratories – approximately 412 laboratories
  • Public Defenders Offices – approximately 6,000 offices
  • Law Enforcement Agencies – approximately 18,000 offices
  • Prosecutor Offices – approximately 3,000 offices
  • Medical Examiner/Coroners Offices – approximately 3,000 offices

The purpose of this contract is to provide stakeholders access to existing forensic science standards in order to encourage broader review and adoption of those standards. Please note that ASTM International still holds the copyright for these standards and users of these standards must comply with ASTM's user agreement.

For those public sector criminal justice agency employees in the stakeholder groups listed above who are interested in signing up for free access to all ASTM Committee E30 on Forensic Sciences Standards, please follow the instructions provided by ASTM. Users will need to register with ASTM using their business email address.


OSAC Vacancies

There is a vacancy on the Quality Infrastructure Committee (QIC). To apply, complete the OSAC Application Form.

red circle with header Forensic Science Standards Board. Inside, three smaller red circles labeled Legal Resource Committee, Human Factors Committee and Quality Infrastructure Committee

 


 

Upcoming Public Comment Periods for Standards/Guidelines under Consideration for the OSAC Registry

Status of Other Standards and Guidelines Recommended for Inclusion on the OSAC Registries

The aim of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) is to identify and promote technically sound, consensus-based, fit-for-purpose documentary standards that are based on sound scientific principles. This will be achieved through the OSAC Registry of Approved Standards and the OSAC Registry of Approved Guidelines. A standard or guideline that is posted on either Registry demonstrates that the methods it contains have been assessed to be valid by forensic practitioners, academic researchers, measurement scientists, and statisticians through a consensus development process that allows participation and comment from all relevant stakeholders.

Below is a listing of standards or guidelines that are under consideration for the OSAC Registries, along with their status in the approval process.

Standards and Guidelines Open for Public Comment

The Forensic Document Examination Subcommittee has submitted the following standards for consideration to the OSAC Registry of Approved Standards. The public comment period is open on the Kavi Public Workspace under "documents".

The intent of the public comment period is to collect public opinion on inclusion of the standard to the OSAC Registry (OSAC is not soliciting potential revisions to the documents themselves.)  The following standards are open for public comment:

ASTM: E2388-11 Standard Guide for Minimum Training Requirements for Forensic Document Examiners (for consideration as an OSAC standard)

This guide provides minimum requirements and procedures that should be used for the fundamental training of forensic document examiners. This guide may not cover all aspects of training for the topics addressed or for unusual or uncommon examinations.

Standards and Guidelines in Public Comment Adjudication Phase

Public comment period is closed for the following standards/guidelines as OSAC units review and adjudicate comments received.

ASTM: E2881-13e1 Standard Test Method for Extraction and Derivatization of Vegetable Oils and Fats from Fire Debris and Liquid Samples with Analysis by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (for consideration as an OSAC Standard)

This test method covers the extraction, derivatization, and identification of fatty acids indicative of vegetable oils and fats in fire debris and liquid samples. This procedure will also extract animal oils and fats, as these are similar in chemical composition to vegetable oils and fats. Herein, the phrase "oils and fats" will be used to refer to both animal and vegetable derived oils and fats. This test method is suitable for successfully extracting oil and fat residues having 8 to 24 carbon atoms. 

ASTM: E2916-13 Standard Terminology for Digital and Multimedia Evidence Examination (for consideration as an OSAC Guideline)

This document provides standard terminology for the subcommittees of Digital Evidence, Facial Identification, and Video Imaging Technology and Analysis.

ASTM: E2825-12 Standard Guide for Forensic Digital Image Processing (for consideration as an OSAC Standard)

This document provides digital image processing guidelines to ensure the production of quality forensic imagery for use as evidence in a court of law. It briefly describes advantages, disadvantages, and potential limitations of each major digital imaging process.

ASTM: E1610-14 Standard Guide for Forensic Paint Analysis and Comparison (for consideration as an OSAC Guideline)

This guide is designed to assist the forensic paint examiner in selecting and organizing an analytical scheme for identifying and comparing paints and coatings. The size and condition of the sample(s) will influence the selected analytical scheme.

ASTM: E2937-13 Standard Guide for Using Infrared Spectroscopy in Forensic Paint Examinations (for consideration as an OSAC Guideline)

This guide applies to the forensic IR analysis of paints and coatings and is intended to supplement information presented in the Forensic Paint Analysis and Comparison Guidelines (1)2 written by Scientific Working Group on Materials Analysis (SWGMAT). This guideline is limited to the discussion of Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) instruments and provides information on FTIR instrument setup, performance assessment, sample preparation, analysis and data interpretation.

Standards and Guidelines at FSSB for Vote

ASTM: E2330-12 Standard Test Method for Determination of Concentrations of Elements in Glass Samples Using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) for Forensic Comparisons (for consideration as an OSAC Standard)

One objective of a forensic glass examination is to compare glass samples to determine if they can be discriminated using their physical, optical or chemical properties (for example, color, refractive index (RI), density, elemental composition). If the samples are distinguishable in any of these observed and measured properties, it may be concluded that they did not originate from the same source of broken glass. If the samples are indistinguishable in all of these observed and measured properties, the possibility that they originated from the same source of glass cannot be eliminated. The use of an elemental analysis method such as inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry yields high discrimination among sources of glass. This test method covers a procedure for quantitative determination of the concentrations of magnesium (Mg), aluminum (Al), iron (Fe), titanium (Ti), manganese (Mn), rubidium (Rb), strontium (Sr), zirconium (Zr), barium (Ba), lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), neodymium (Nd), samarium (Sm), and lead (Pb) in glass samples.

ASTM: E2548-11e1 Standard Guide for Sampling Seized Drugs for Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis (for consideration as an OSAC Standard)

This guide covers minimum considerations for sampling of seized drugs for qualitative and quantitative analysis.

ASTM: E2926-13 Standard Test Method for Forensic Comparison of Glass Using Micro X-ray Fluorescence (μ-XRF) Spectrometry (for consideration as an OSAC Standard)

This test method is for the determination of major, minor, and trace elements present in glass fragments. The elemental composition of a glass fragment can be measured through the use of μ-XRF analysis for comparisons of glass. This test method covers the application of μ-XRF using mono- and poly- capillary optics, and an energy dispersive X-ray detector (EDS).

Standards and Guidelines in the Appeals Phase

The public appeals phase is open for the following standard. Appeals may only be submitted by individuals or groups that submitted a comment during the open public comment phase that believe their comment was not properly adjudicated. Submitted appeals must relate to the comment adjudication process, not technical issues.

No items are currently in the public appeals phase.


Research & Development Needs

A research need was identified by the Biological Methods Subcommittee in the Biology/DNA SAC. This research need is "To Improve the Analysis of Serological Evidence: ID of Body Fluid." Considerable research has been conducted to improve DNA analysis techniques but little has changed for the front end, the classical serological analysis of evidence. Research is underway to make improvements but the emphasis of the NIJ research portfolio should address the need to make real transformational change to how evidence is examined.It would be beneficial to add methods which would decrease the serological analysis time on items like sheets, clothing, etc.

Research needs can be found on the NIST OSAC Research Needs Assessments page.


Message from the OSAC Affairs Director: Report on 2016 Public Status Reports & Open Discussions

OSAC Scientific Area Committees held Public Status Reports & Open Discussions sessions at the the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) in Las Vegas, NV on February 22-23, 2016. At the public meeting, OSAC units (5 Scientific Area Committee chairs and 25 Subcommittee Chairs) presented their unit's progress to the public, and solicited open discussion on topics presented.

Presentations opened with the Digital/Multimedia Scientific Area Committee (SAC). Dr. Richard Vorder Bruegge, SAC chair, emphasized that the reason the OSAC is in existence is "to strengthen forensic science by developing consensus-based standards and guidelines that are based on validated science and best practice." The OSAC has the support of more than 500 members with expertise as practitioners, quality assurance professionals, legal professionals, statisticians, and academics who are on board to achieve this goal.

"As science advances, our standards will change." – Richard Vorder Bruegge, Ph.D.

Speakers presented on their unit's progress on specific standards and guidelines, the identification of research & development needs, and also offered insight to their OSAC unit's experiences and discussions. Common themes, goals, and insights that were reported include the initial frustration that many subcommittees experienced when the majority of the documents that they submitted for consideration to the OSAC registry were rejected by a higher OSAC unit (the SAC). Rejection reasons were due to insufficient technical merit, lack of balance in the development process, or other issues. But these units can now acknowledge that at times this "rejection" is in fact a critical part of the OSAC process, and they are now recalibrating to focus on adding the validated science that some of these documents need. Other common themes expressed by speakers include the need to consider the influence of bias on stated opinions and conclusions, the consideration of the emotional toll that examiners face across disciplines, as well as the importance of standardized reporting processes. 

Digital/Multimedia Scientific Area Committee presenters
Digital/Multimedia Scientific Area Committee presenters at OSAC Public Meeting, February 2016 in Las Vegas, NV.

Within the Digital/Multimedia SAC, four subcommittee chairs or their designees presented to include Digital Evidence led by James Darnell, Facial Identification led by Lora Sims, Speaker Recognition led by Hirotaka Nakasone (but briefed by Joseph Campbell), and Video/Imaging Technology & Analysis led by Carl Kriigel.

Next Dr. George Herrin, chair of the Biology/DNA Scientific Area Committee, introduced the Biology/DNA Scientific Area Committee and three subcommittees that fall under this umbrella. He discussed membership turnover that has recently occurred, as well as research needs and gaps. Within the Biology/DNA Scientific Area Committee are three subcommittees: Biological Data Interpretation led by Robyn Ragsdale, Biological Methods led by Kimberly Murga, and Wildlife Forensics led by Kathy Moore (but briefed by Mary Burnham Curtis).

Biology/DNA presenters

Biology/DNA SAC and Subcommittee Presenters

Dr. Greg Davis heads the Crime Scene/Death Investigation Scientific Area Committee. He discussed the various subcommittees and the standards each wants to promote, practice within its discipline, and a discussion on research practices in related areas. Within the Crime Scene/Death Investigation Scientific Area Committee are seven subcommittees: Anthropology led by Thomas Holland (but briefed by Diane France), Disaster Victim Identification led by Jason Wiersema, Dogs and Sensors led by Kenneth Furton, Fire and Explosion led by Craig Beyler (but briefed by John Lentini), Medicolegal Death Investigation led by John Fudenberg, Odontology led by Robert Barsley (but briefed by David Senn), and Crime Scene Investigation led by Marilyn Miller.

Crime Scene/Death Investigation presenters

Crime Scene SAC and Subcommittee Presenters

Austin Hicklin is the chair of the Physics/Pattern Interpretation Scientific Area Committee. He described some of the purposes of this particular Scientific Area Committee—to foster development of rigorous standards and guidelines across the pattern disciplines, assist in the adoption of these standards and guidelines, encourage enforcement of these standard and guidelines through accreditation, certification, and training, and to encourage research to improve these disciplines. Within the Physics/Pattern Interpretation Scientific Area Committee are five subcommittees: Bloodstain Pattern Analysis led by Toby Wolson, Firearms and Toolmarks led by Andy Smith (but briefed by Todd Weller), Footwear and Tire led by Matt Johnson, Forensic Document Examination led by Rigo Vargas, and Friction Ridge led by Melissa Gische.

Physics/Pattern Interpretation Scientific Area Committee presenters
Physics/Pattern Interpretation Scientific Area Committee presenters at OSAC Public Meeting, February 2016 in Las Vegas, NV.

Physics/Pattern SAC and Subcommittee Presenters

Scott Oulton introduced the Chemistry/Instrumental Analysis Scientific Area Committee, and provided an update on vacancies. He also announced that one of the Chemistry/ Instrumental Analysis subcommittees is responsible for the first standard that has been included on the OSAC Registry of Standards. Within the Chemistry/Instrumental Analysis Scientific Area Committee are six subcommittees: Fire Debris and Explosives led by Vincent Desiderio, Geological Materials led by William Schneck (but briefed by Brad Lee), Gunshot Residue led by Michael Martinez, Materials (Trace) led by Susan Gross, Seized Drugs led by Sandra Rodriguez-Cruz, and Toxicology led by Marc LeBeau.

Chemistry presenters

Chemistry/Instrumental Analysis SAC and Subcommittee Presenters

NIST partnered with the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ) Forensic Technology Center of Excellence operated by RTI International to broadcast this event to all interested stakeholders. The Webcasts and PowerPoint presentations are available for public viewing on the NIST OSAC website. Throughout the course of the conference, over 50 questions were posed to the chairs by the audience. In addition to the Webcast and PowerPoints, the meeting minutes (which will detail the specific questions and answers) will shortly be made available via the NIST website.


Recent OSAC Accomplishments

OSAC Lollipop
The 543 OSAC members and 243 OSAC Affiliates operating in 33 units identified in the organization chart and 210 task groups have been extremely busy over the past year. In addition to the standards that are progressing through OSAC's approval processes, OSAC has recently accomplished the following:
  • The Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB) added a Crime Scene Subcommittee under the Crime Scene/Death Investigation SAC to focus specifically on standards and guidelines related to the investigation of crime scenes including the search for, documentation of, collection of, and preservation of evidence associated with a crime scene. 
  • ASTM: E2329-14 Standard Practice for Identification of Seized Drugs was recently voted onto to the OSAC Registry of Approved Standards. Recently, ASTM announced that this standard is currently under revision in ASTM International to in order to address critical feedback related to the standards that arose through the OSAC process.
  • OSAC units recently refined their focus to concentrate on 144 specific projects (standards/guidelines) moving within the OSAC processes. (Standards/guidelines projects were narrowed down from the original 360+ projects originally identified by the OSAC in February 2015, in order to strategically focus on each unit's priorities.)
  • OSAC began to more widely use the following evaluation templates:

o Technical Merit Worksheet – a tool to evaluate the technical/scientific merit of a standard/guideline

o Harmonization Worksheet – a tool to evaluate how the standard/guideline interacts with other documents on the OSAC Registries

o Impact Worksheet – a tool to evaluate the impact the standard/guideline would have on laboratory operations if the document is implemented

o Standards Development Process Worksheet – a tool to evaluate the process used to generate a document if not developed through a recognized standards developing organization (SDO).

  • OSAC launched a Research and Development Priorities webpage where research and development needs identified by subcommittees can be shared with the public, including funding agencies that support forensic science research.
  • Distribution of NIST Forensic Science communications to include the OSAC newsletter recently increased to over 9,500 subscribers. The OSAC newsletter announces public comment periods, vacancies, future meetings and relevant standards news.
  • OSAC launched two virtual interdisciplinary subcommittees that are considering specific cross-domain standards/issues which includes:

o Subcommittee #1: ISO/IEC 17025:2005 General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories & ISO/IEC 17020:2012 Requirements for the Operation of Various Types of Bodies Performing Inspection

o Subcommittee #2: ANSI/NIST/ITL Data format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial & Other Biometric Information

  • OSAC launched two new critical task groups:

o Statisticians Task Group: statisticians from across OSAC are collaborating and can bring items from their OSAC unit to the task group for consideration and additional "feedback" or "weight".

o OSAC-wide Conclusions Task Group: members from relevant OSAC units discussing consistency of common terms related to conclusion statements in reports and testimony.

  • OSAC executed several recent important events:

o January 25-29, 2016, Full OSAC Meeting with 600+ participants where OSAC units developed their priorities for the coming year.

o OSAC Public Status Meeting during AAFS on February 22-23, 2016, featuring 30 OSAC Unit presentations, over 392 online attendees and 100 on-site attendees participated. Archived webcasts & PDFs are available for public viewing.

o Implementation of standards included on the OSAC Registries is voluntary. One state laboratory system's drug chemistry section has started the implementation process by writing OSAC into their protocols:5.4.2 Selection of Methods: NOTE – The XX State Police Drug Chemistry section adheres to standards and guidelines from the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) and recommendations by the Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) in formulating its testing methods and policies.

o NIST OSAC has entered into a contract with ASTM International to allow approximately 30,000 public criminal justice agencies free access to the ASTM Committee E30 on Forensic Science's standards.


On the Horizon
  • (OSAC Meetings for OSAC Members and Invited Guests) The next full OSAC meetings are scheduled for summer 2016 in Phoenix, AZ. Instead of meeting as one large group, the OSAC will separate into a series of smaller meetings.

o (OSAC Meeting Breakout #1) Legal Resource Committee, Quality Infrastructure Committee, and Human Factors Committee, Jul 12-13, 2016

o (OSAC Meeting Breakout #2) Digital/Multimedia SAC + 4 Subcommittees, Physics/Pattern SAC + 5 Subcommittees, Jul 26-29, 2016

o (OSAC Meeting Breakout #3) Chemistry SAC + 6 Subcommittees, Aug 2-5, 2016

o (OSAC Meeting Breakout #4) Biology/DNA SAC + 3 Subcommittees, and Crime Scene SAC + 7 Subcommittees, Aug 23-26, 2016

o (OSAC Meeting for OSAC Members and Invited Guests)) The following full OSAC meeting is scheduled for April 3-7, 2017, tentatively in Leesburg, VA.

o OSAC public meeting date and times will be announced shortly.


Resource Committee Corner

The Role of the Organization of Scientific Area Committee (OSAC): Legal Resource Committee

By: Hon. Christopher J. Plourd, Chair

red circle with header Forensic Science Standards Board. Inside, three smaller red circles labeled Legal Resource Committee, Human Factors Committee and Quality Infrastructure Committee
The Legal Resource Committee (LRC) is made up of eleven attorneys who have specialized expertise in forensic science and in particular how the forensic science disciplines are used in the courts. Members of the Legal Resource Committee are leaders in their respective fields representing different segments of the American criminal justice system including federal and state prosecutorial agencies, the criminal defense bar, legal academia, the national innocence network and the judiciary. Each LRC member has considerable legal experience and expertise in issues that arise in litigating scientific issues in the courts.

The members of the Legal Resource Committee are:

Christopher J. Plourd, Superior Court Judge, State of California, Committee Chair;

Jennifer Friedman, Deputy Public Defender, Los Angeles County;

Christine Funk, Attorney

Lynn Garcia, General Counsel, Texas Forensic Science Commission;

Ted R. Hunt, Chief Trial Attorney and DNA Cold Case Project Director, Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, Kansas City, MO;

David H. Kaye, Professor, Graduate Faculty, Forensic Science Program, Pennsylvania State University'

David A. Moran, Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School;

Henry R. Reeve, Denver District Attorney's Office;

Ronald S. Reinstein, Ret. Judge, Judicial Consultant, Arizona Supreme Court vice Chair)

Barry Scheck, Professor, Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University; Co-Director, Innocence Project; Commissioner, NY Commission on Forensic Science; Neufeld, Scheck, & Brustin, LLC;

Raymond F. Miller, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, New Haven, Connecticut

The Legal Resource Committee provides legal advice and commentary to the OSAC 25 subcommittees including over 525 forensic scientific experts regarding the usability and legal ramifications of forensic standards and guidelines under development including issues surrounding admissibility and the impact of the standard on the presentation of the evidence in court. The Legal Resource Committee consults with Scientific Area Committees (SACs) and reviews standards and guidelines submitted for consideration to the OSAC Registry. The Legal Resource Committee may also provide input to the Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB) when the board is considering whether a standard should be approved for the Registry.

THE PROSECUTOR'S DISCLOSURE OBLIGATIONS: OSAC-Legal Resource Committee (LRC)

This document provides a brief summary of the disclosure obligations of prosecutors in criminal cases, commonly referred to as the Brady obligation. For prosecutors to comply with the constitutional obligation recognized in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), their agents (including forensic service providers) must inform them about any and all information that might be subject to disclosure, as described below. Accordingly, forensic service providers should be familiar with the disclosure obligations Brady imposes on prosecutors, as well as additional discovery requirements imposed by state law.

ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct, 3.8(d), adopted in whole or in part by the vast majority of jurisdictions, states the prosecutor shall "make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense, and, in connection with sentencing, disclose to the defense and to the tribunal all unprivileged mitigating information known to the prosecutor, except when the prosecutor is relieved of this responsibility by a protective order of the tribunal."

The prosecutor also has a constitutional obligation under Brady and later cases to disclose all information or evidence that is both "favorable" to the defense and "material" to the case, including but not limited to information in the possession of forensic science service providers."Favorable" information or evidence is that which would (1) tend to impeach a government witness or its theory of the case; or (2) is exculpatory regarding either the defendant's guilt, the degree of that guilt, or the potential sentence to be imposed."Material" evidence is that which, had it been disclosed to the defense, would have had sufficient impact on the case to undermine confidence in the outcome.

The fact that a prosecutor does not know about the existence of information that is "favorable" and "material" to the defense, including but not limited to information in the possession of forensic science service providers, does not impact his or her constitutional duty to disclose it.

Some jurisdictions have determined their version of Model Rule 3.8(d) imposes a duty on the prosecutor beyond that required under the Brady line of decisions. These jurisdictions hold Rule 3.8(d) requires a prosecutor to disclose any information or evidence known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense—this would include information held by forensic science service providers—even if that information is not necessarily "material" under Brady. Other jurisdictions have held their version of Model Rule 3.8(d) is co-extensive with the Brady line of cases in that it only requires the information or evidence be both "favorable" and "material" to the defense for a violation to have occurred.

In addition to providing information to prosecutors so they may comply with their disclosure obligations under Brady and related state law, forensic science service providers may have additional obligations to disclose information to oversight bodies and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system as well as to conduct retroactive case reviews after discovering a significant non-conformance. These obligations may be informed by a variety of sources including but not limited to: (1) the laboratory's accreditation standards and internal standard operating procedures; (2) applicable state law; (3) guidance provided by the National Commission on Forensic Science; (4) guidance provided by state oversight bodies or forensic science commissions; and (5) guidance provided by the Forensic Science Standards Board of the Organization for Scientific Area Committees.


Standards Development News

The Academy Standards Board (ASB) of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) is an ANSI-accredited Standards Development Organization. It is announcing the formation of Consensus Bodies. Each will have 7 to 25 members based on applications received. Members will be selected by the Board of Directors of the ASB. The ASB has eight interest categories, applicants are encouraged to apply in their self-selected interest category. A person may apply to one or more Consensus Bodies, and need not indicate the same interest category for each Consensus Body application. The Documents & Forms tab of the ASB website also contains links to several relevant documents describing the ASB. Applicants are requested to submit forms to be considered for serving on any of the Consensus Bodies. Contact asb [at] aafs.org with any questions.

When filling out the Application for a Consensus Body, there is a section concerning Interest Groups. The form also requires choosing a Consensus Body. (LINK EXPIRED)

The Consensus Bodies currently accepting applications are as follows (please note the application closing date):

  • Anthropology – April 26, 2016
  • Bloodstain Pattern Analysis – April 12, 2016
  • Disaster Victim Identification –March 29, 2016
  • DNA – March 15, 2016
  • Firearms and Toolmarks – April 12, 2016
  • Friction Ridge – March 29, 2016
  • Footwear and Tire – April 12, 2016
  • Forensic Document Examination – April 12, 2016
  • Medicolegal Death Investigation – April 12, 2016
  • Odontology – April 12, 2016
  • Patterned Injury – April 12, 2016
  • Wildlife Forensics – March 15, 2016
  • Toxicology – April 26, 2016

Interested parties should fill out an online application to become a member of an ASB Consensus Body.


Standards Development News - Recent Activities

This section lists recent activities by standards developing organizations (SDOs) related to the development of voluntary consensus standards. OSAC encourages staying abreast of new developments in standards, and engaging directly with the SDO by participating in a task group or subcommittee. Published standards that have meet the OSAC requirements for process and technical merit can be recommended for inclusion on the OSAC Registries.

ASTM Committee E30 on Forensic Sciences 2016 Activity

ASTM Subcommittee E30.01 on Criminalistics new work items underway:

Proposed Revision: WK49057 E1412-16 Standard Practice for Separation of Ignitable Liquid Residues from Fire Debris Samples by Passive Headspace Concentration With Activated Charcoal (LINK EXPIRED)

Proposed Revision: WK45260 E1588-10e1 Standard Guide for Gunshot Residue Analysis by Scanning Electron Microscopy/ Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectrometry  (LINK EXPIRED)

Proposed Revision: WK45266 E1843-96(2010) Standard Guide for Sexual Assault Investigation, Examination, and Evidence Collection (LINK EXPIRED)

Proposed Revision: WK49041 E1967-11a Standard Test Method for the Automated Determination of Refractive Index of Glass Samples Using the Oil Immersion Method and a Phase Contrast Microscope

Proposed Revision: WK49043 E1969-11 Standard Guide for Microcrystal Testing in the Forensic Analysis of Methamphetamine and Amphetamine  (LINK EXPIRED)

Proposed Revision: WK49677 E2154-15a Standard Practice for Separation and Concentration of Ignitable Liquid Residues from Fire Debris Samples by Passive Headspace Concentration with Solid Phase Microextraction (SPME)  (LINK EXPIRED)

Proposed Revision: WK53625 E2329-14 Standard Practice for Identification of Seized Drugs

Proposed Revision: WK49045 E2548-11e1 Standard Guide for Sampling Seized Drugs for Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis (LINK EXPIRED)

Proposed Revision: WK49046 E2764-11 Standard Practice for Uncertainty Assessment in the Context of Seized-Drug Analysis

Proposed Revision: WK53153 E2881-13e1 Standard Test Method for Extraction and Derivatization of Vegetable Oils and Fats from Fire Debris and Liquid Samples with Analysis by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry

Proposed Revision: WK53453 E2927-13 Standard Test Method for Determination of Trace Elements in Soda-Lime Glass Samples Using Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry for Forensic Comparisons

New Work item: WK23817 New Practice for Characterization of Smokeless Powder  (LINK EXPIRED)

New Work item: WK46117 New Test Method for the Analysis of Biodiesel Products by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LINK EXPIRED)

ASTM Subcommittee E30.11 on Interdisciplinary Forensic Science Standards new work items underway: 

Proposed Revision: WK34243 E620-11 Standard Practice for Reporting Opinions of Scientific or Technical Experts (LINK EXPIRED)

ASTM Subcommittee E30.92 on Terminology new work items underway:

Proposed Revision: WK32589 E1732-12 Standard Terminology Relating to Forensic Science

Proposed Revision: WK53471 E1732-12 Standard Terminology Relating to Forensic Science


Standards Development News—ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1/SC37 Biometrics

ISO/IEC 29794-1 Information Technology - Biometric Sample Quality - Part 1: Framework, 2nd edition was published 1/15/2016

Provides for any or all biometric sample types as necessary, the following: - terms and definitions that are useful in the specification and use of quality metrics; - purpose and interpretation of biometric quality scores; - encoding of quality data fields in biometric data interchange formats; - methods for developing biometric sample datasets for the purpose of quality score normalization; - format for exchange of quality algorithm results; and - methods for aggregation of quality scores.

ISO/IEC 30107-1 Information Technology - Biometric Presentation Attack Detection - Part 1: Framework, 1st edition was published 1/15/2016

Defines terms and definitions that are useful in the specification, characterization and evaluation of presentation attack detection methods.


OSAC Unit Spotlight: Focus on Four Subcommittees within the Chemistry/Instrumental SAC

By Robyn Weimer

As reported in last month's newsletter, over 500 OSAC members braved the snow and gathered in Virginia for the recent January 2016 meeting. Notable unit activities from that meeting and other recent efforts include:

Materials (Trace)
At the January 2015 meeting, seven Materials (Trace) subcommittee task groups were formed, to include one group per subdiscipline within Materials (fibers, hair, paint, tape, and glass) plus an interpretation group and an outreach group. Since then, each subdiscipline group has been working on revising documents which are in various stages ranging from writing new training documents or updating/revising SWGMAT documents to resubmitting ASTM documents for votes. The subcommittee is excited that two documents (one on µXRF usage and the other on ICP-MS usage), have passed most steps in the OSAC process, and they hope they will be added to the OSAC Registry very soon! Two paint documents (ASTM E1610 & ASTM E2937 - IR of paint) were recently posted for public comment. The Materials (Trace) subcommittee is also in the process of expanding.

The interpretation task group has made significant progress in drafting a document addressing how to interpret and describe the significance of the overall results of a comparative examination. The outreach task group is intended to identify the needs and perception of the TE community and determine opportunities to promote TE. This task group was responsible for the recent surveys distributed to lab managers and to trace evidence examiners (that was also included in a recent OSAC newsletter). Much appreciation and thanks go out to the over 300 examiners who responded! Survey results will help this task group strategize how to best target education initiatives, promotion of trace evidence, research needs, and areas for improvement. They plan to compile the survey results into a JASTEE article later this year. Another survey is currently in revision for distribution to lawyers. The Outreach task group has concurrently been working on a field guide for Trace Evidence targeting crime scene personnel. As part of their initiatives, they also ask examiners to start gathering any adjudicated cases where trace evidence was critical to the case. They intend to compile these cases to help show the value of trace evidence and provide as a reference. If you have such a case, please forward the case information to Sandy Parent, sandy.parent [at] dps.texas.gov.

An eighth task group was created over the summer to determine research gaps within the Trace Evidence field. The group developed a list of research needs and will continue to do so. Of those ideas, two were put forth to the subcommittee at the latest meeting and approved for posting to the OSAC website. In time, more are expected to be added.

Fire Debris & Explosives lollipop
The Fire Debris and Explosives subcommittee aims to build on the strong foundation previously established through the efforts of SWG/TWGFEX. In January 2015, five major task groups were formed by this subcommittee: (1) to review/revise current fire debris documents; (2) to develop general guides for fire debris and explosives analysis; (3) to develop terminology documents for fire debris and explosives disciplines; (4) to develop a QA/QC guide for fire debris analysis; and (5) to evaluate needs and areas for development of research projects to further the fire debris and explosives disciplines. International participation has occurred through the inclusion of affiliates from Canada, the Netherlands, and England. Excitingly, having passed most steps in the process, one document on the extraction, derivatization, and GC-MS analysis of vegetable oils and fats may to be added to the OSAC Registry. Currently, there are 18 documents in progress, including gathering resources for Daubert hearing preparations.

One of the main topics discussed by the subcommittee in the recent OSAC meeting was the, soon to be released, revised ASTM E1588 GSR by SEM/EDS standard which has been changed from an ASTM "Standard Guide" to a "Standard Practice". Once this document has been through the ASTM vetting process, it will then be sent through the OSAC approval process.

Gunshot Residue Subcommittee
The 2016 meeting was the first time international affiliates attended as guests. They provided valuable insight, as anticipated, and extended an invitation of joint collaboration with the ENFSI Firearms /GSR Committee. International participation is expected to grow with time but to-date the GSR Subcommittee has welcomed affiliates from law enforcement agencies in Australia, Israel, Canada, Finland, and Germany. Progress has been made on the proposed large scale GSR (organic and inorganic) population study headed by Dr. Suzanne Bell with West Virginia University. Work is still ongoing on documents which cover topics such as training, methodology, testimony, proficiency/competency, reporting and validation. Some of these documents are near completion and should be ready within the year for the next phase towards standard development. Two new task groups were created, one to deal with contamination concerns and the second to address the relevance/importance/obligations to our customers. The Report writing task group sent their first survey to the Forensic SEM yahoo group, with plans for many more to be sent this year. All laboratories performing GSR analysis are strongly encouraged to participate in these surveys as the best standards arise from the input of all stakeholders in the field.

Geological Materials lollipop
This subcommittee is the smallest of the Trace-related groups with a whopping 11 members. With spaces available, the Geological Materials subcommittee is interested in adding members in the coming year. If you currently perform forensic soil analysis or conduct research in this area, please consider applying to join and encouraging others to do the same.

Many of last year's initiatives (such as Terminology and Resources/References task group efforts) are large undertakings that will continue into 2016, some in coordination with other Subcommittees. As with other subcommittees, a research initiatives task group has been formed since the 2015 meeting. A number of research and development needs have since been identified with hopes that they will soon be posted on the OSAC website. In 2016, this subcommittee will focus on two significant areas. The first is conducting one or more workshops to test the currently drafted guide on the field collection of soil samples. ASTEE members will be notified once such a workshop has been scheduled. The second area of focus is the drafting of a new guide for the forensic examination of soil evidence. This will hopefully be the backbone upon which several soil analysis-related standards and guides are built.


The OSAC newsletter is produced monthly by OSAC Affairs at NIST with input from the FSSB and other OSAC members. Any mention of commercial products is for information only; it does not imply recommendation or endorsement by NIST. Contact forensics [at] nist.gov with comments or general inquiries.

Created March 15, 2016, Updated February 26, 2019