The OSAC Registries are a trusted repository of high-quality, science-based standards and guidelines for forensic science. Since the program inception, the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science has operated with two registries, the OSAC Registry of Approved Standards as well as the OSAC Registry of Approved Guidelines.
However, since OSAC members and stakeholders reported confusion over the true difference between a “standard” versus “guideline,” the Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB) has decided to consolidate the two lists into one, simply titled “OSAC Registry.” All approved documents, whether they are a standard, guideline, test method, or other product, will soon be contained on one registry.
The anticipated timeframe to fully transition to one registry is by January 2017, in order to allow OSAC time to first adjust program materials and processes.
Once consolidated, the three OSAC-approved documents: NFPA 921: National Fire Protection Association Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, ISO/IEC 17025 2005: General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories, and ASTM E2329-14 Standard Practice for Identification of Seized Drugs, as well as any new documents that are approved, will be located in one place.
ToxTalk® is a trademark of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists and is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Reprinted with permission from the author
Why Do We Need an SDO If We Have OSAC?
SDO is a term meaning Standards Developing Organization. OSAC stands for the Organization of Scientific Area Committees. The AAFS has established an SDO (called the AAFS Standards Board, abbreviated ASB) that works closely with OSAC to develop voluntary consensus standards, technical reports and best practice recommendations.
OSAC is administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). OSAC publishes the Registry of Approved Standards and the Registry of Approved Guidelines for the forensics community. Each document listed in the registries is required to be based upon sound scientific principles and to have been developed in a consensus-based process. OSAC has 25 subcommittees, each focused upon a specific area of forensics. These subcommittees are responsible for determining which documents to submit to the Registries, but also to identify gaps and needs in standards and related documents. Another function of the subcommittees is to identify research needs and publicize these needs to Federal agencies.
The term voluntary consensus standards is the key as to why the ASB was created, and why OSAC needs the cooperation and participation of the ASB and other SDOs. In 1995, Congress passed a law called the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA). This law states “All federal agencies must use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards in their procurement and regulatory activities, except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical.” This also has a trickledown effect, since Federal grants involving standards are also subject to NTTAA. The important point for this discussion is that OSAC was not created to generate voluntary consensus standards. The NTTAA and the policy document explaining it define the processes required to develop a voluntary consensus standard:
ii. Balance of interest
iii. Due process
iv. An appeals process
v. Consensus, which is defined as general agreement, but not necessarily unanimity and includes a process for attempting to resolve objections by interested parties…”
The AAFS Academy Standards Board (ASB) meets these criteria. In fact, it has been accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which requires adherence to the principles defined above. OSAC is not an SDO and will not become an SDO. While an OSAC subcommittee may identify a gap in existing standards for a field, and even develop a draft document for submittal to an SDO, it is the role of the SDO to ensure that the procedures are properly followed so that the requirements of the NTTAA for voluntary consensus standards are met.
The ASB accomplishes this by forming consensus bodies (CBs). Currently there are 13 such CBs (Anthropology, Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, Disaster Victim Identification, DNA, Dogs and Sensors, Firearms and Toolmarks, Footwear and Tiretracks, Forensic Document Examination, Friction Ridge, Medicolegal Death Investigation, Patterned Injury, Toxicology, and Wildlife Forensics). With the exception of Patterned Injury, these exactly correspond to OSAC subcommittees. The CBs are made up of individuals from different backgrounds, which are characterized by ‘interest categories,’ of which we have eight: academia, consumer groups, general interest (typically lawyers and judges), laboratories and testing facilities, producers, subject matter experts, user/government and user/ industry. This helps to ensure balance of interest – one of the key requirements for an SDO.
Consensus bodies (which develop the standards) hold meetings open to all interested parties and are comprised of experts from the eight interest categories listed above. There is a defined process to develop the documents – ensuring due process, including an appeals procedure. Each document is put out for public review, so that any interested party—even if they do not participate on the consensus body—may comment on the document. The consensus body is responsible for adjudicating any issues that may arise during the review. Consensus must be reached among the members of the consensus body for a document to be adopted. In addition, the Board of the ASB must approve the document prior to submission to ANSI (which allows a standard to become an American National Standard).
This is all well and good, but it still doesn’t answer the question of why the AAFS now has an SDO.
When OSAC was established, it became apparent that some fields in forensic science had existing relationships with SDOs – such as in fire science and gunshot residue. Others may have had professional organizations (such as the American Board of Forensic Odontology) which had issued guidance documents. In some fields there were Scientific Working Groups (SWG), such as in DNA. However, the standards and best practice guidelines produced by professional organizations and SWGs do not meet the requirements of the NTTAA for being voluntary consensus standards. OSAC approached several professional groups, including AAFS to see if any were interested and capable of establishing an SDO to generate voluntary consensus standards.
The AAFS accepted the challenge and created the ASB. The ASB CBs have close relationships with their corresponding OSAC subcommittees but the CBs may also generate documents on their own. Some documents may be proposed directly by professional organizations, or even by individuals not associated with OSAC.
The CBs need assistance in determining the scientific underpinnings that must be included in ASB standards and best practice recommendations. CBs will typically reach out to OSAC subcommittees to provide the necessary scientific and operational foundation for the requirements in a standard or best practice recommendation.
Once a standard or best practice recommendation is finalized by the ASB, the corresponding OSAC subcommittee may refer it for inclusion in the appropriate Registry – thus completing the loop of interrelationship of OSAC subcommittees and ASB CBs.
The ASB Consensus Bodies are open to anyone with an interest in forensic science. Updates as well as applications for a Consensus Body membership can be found on the ASB site.
There is a vacancy on the Digital/Multimedia SAC. To apply, complete the OSAC Application Form.
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, which will be combined into one OSAC Registry in early 2017. 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 the status of standards or guidelines that are under consideration for the OSAC Registries, along with their status in the approval process.
Standards Documents Open for Public Comment
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.)
There is nothing available for Public Comment at this time.
Standards Documents in Public Comment Adjudication Phase
Public comment period is closed for the following standards/guidelines as OSAC units review and adjudicate comments received.
ASTM E2388-11 Standard Guide for Minimum Training Requirements for Forensic Document Examiners
This guide may not cover all aspects of training for the topics addressed or for unusual or uncommon examinations.
ISO/IEC 17020:2012 Requirements for the Operation of Various Types of Bodies Performing Inspection
ISO/IEC 17020:2012 specifies requirements for the competence of bodies performing inspection and for the impartiality and consistency of their inspection activities.
It applies to inspection bodies of type A, B or C, as defined in ISO/IEC 17020:2012, and it applies to any stage of inspection.
ASTM E2451-13 Standard Practice for Preserving Ignitable Liquids and Ignitable Liquid Residue Extracts from Fire Debris Samples
This practice describes procedures for preserving residues of ignitable liquids in extracts obtained from fire debris samples and questioned ignitable liquid samples.
Standards Documents at SAC for Vote
There are currently no items at the SAC for Vote.
Standards Documents 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
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 E2926-13 Standard Test Method for Forensic Comparison of Glass Using Micro X-ray Fluorescence (μ-XRF) Spectrometry
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).
NFPA 1033: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator, 2014 Edition
This standard facilitates safe, accurate investigations by specifying the job performance requirements (JPRs) necessary to perform as a fire investigator in both the private and public sectors.
Standards Documents 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.
ASTM E2548-11e1 Standard Guide for Sampling Seized Drugs for Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis
This guide covers minimum considerations for sampling of seized drugs for qualitative and quantitative analysis.
Standards Documents Returned to SDO for Modifications Based on Comments
After careful consideration of the comments from the either the public and/or other OSAC committees, the OSAC has elected to submit the following documents to the SDO for revisions prior to proceeding through the OSAC process. They believe the issues raised during the comment period can be addressed by the SDO, and intend to bring the updated standards back through the OSAC Registry Approval Process.
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.
With the change of seasons come some membership changes within the OSAC. We bid farewell to five members of the FSSB: Andrew Baker, Anil Jain, Douglas Ubelaker, Scott Oulton, and Barry Logan. We are sorry to see them go. In their place are five new appointees beginning October 1, 2016:
• JoAnn Buscaglia, Ph.D., Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory
• S. Jim Gates, Ph.D., University System of Maryland Regents Professor
• Lucy A. Davis, LDH Consultants, American Academy of Forensic Sciences
• Jeff Salyards, Ph.D., MFS, Executive Director, Defense Forensic Science Center
• Roger A. Mitchell, Jr., M.D., DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, National Association of Medical Examiners
OSAC Affairs would like to thank all current and past members for their service and dedication to strengthening the field of forensic science.
Documents Approved for the OSAC Working with an SDO Process
The Biology/DNA Scientific Area Committee (SAC) recently reviewed and approved the recommendation from the Biological Data Interpretation Subcommittee to submit the following potential documents to a Standards Developing Organization (SDO). The following two projects were sent to the Academy Standards Board (ASB) at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).
· Validation Standards for Probabilistic Genotyping Systems
· Standards for Validation Studies of DNA Mixtures and Development and Verification of a Laboratory’s Mixture Interpretation Protocol
· The Wildlife Forensics Subcommittee sent their Wildlife Forensics Morphology Standards to ASB for review. The document will now move through the ASB process where it hopefully will be converted into an SDO approved standard. It can then be considered by the OSAC for inclusion on the OSAC Registry.
The designated SDOs will subsequently announce when these documents are available for public comment.
NFPA 921 posted to the OSAC Registry
NFPA921 is the first guideline to be posted to the Registry, a list of high-quality, science-based standards and guidelines for forensic practice.
NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, 2014 Edition applies to the investigation of all types of fire and explosion incidents, both accidental and intentional, from residential and motor vehicle fires to multi-story high-rise fires and industrial plant explosions.
Read more about NFPA 921 on the OSAC Registry.
Laboratory Standard ISO/IEC 17025 Added to OSAC Registry
The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science announces the addition of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission’s (IEC)17025:2005 General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories to the OSAC Registry.
ISO/IEC 17025:2005 specifies the general competency requirements for conducting laboratory tests and calibrations, including sampling, using standard methods, non-standard methods, and laboratory-developed methods.
Read more about ISO/IEC 17025:2015 on the OSAC Registry.
• (Internal OSAC Meeting) FSSB, Dec. 1-2, 2016 in Atlanta, GA.
• (Open to the Public) OSAC Scientific Area Committees Public Status Reports & Open Discussions occur at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) in New Orleans, LA on Feb. 13-14, 2017. (Save the Date)
• February 13, 2017 (Monday)
8:00 AM – 10:00 AM OSAC Digital/Multimedia Scientific Area Committee Public Status Reports & Open Discussion
10:15 AM – 12:00 PM OSAC Biology/DNA Scientific Area Committee Public Status Reports & Open Discussion
1:00 PM – 5:00 PM OSAC Crime Scene/Death Investigation Scientific Area Committee Public Status Reports & Open Discussion
• February 14, 2017 (Tuesday)
8:30 AM – 12:00 PM OSAC Physics/Pattern Interpretation Scientific Area Committee Public Status Reports & Open Discussion
1:00 PM – 5:00 PM OSAC Chemistry/Instrumental Analysis Scientific Area Committee Public Status Reports & Open Discussion
• (Internal OSAC Meeting) Full OSAC Meeting, April 2017 tentatively in Leesburg, VA.
Standards Development News
ASTM Committee E30 on Forensic Sciences Recent Activity
The following work items are underway:
Propose New Standard – WK23817 New Practice for Characterization of Smokeless Powder is a work item to draft a new standard. (LINK EXPIRED)
Proposed Revision – WK56155 Standard Test Method for Determination of Concentrations of Elements in Glass Samples Using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) for Forensic Comparisons is a work item revision to existing standard E2330-12.
Proposed Revision – WK56156 Standard Test Method for Forensic Comparison of Glass Using Micro X-ray Fluorescence (µ-XRF) Spectrometry is a work item revision to existing standard E2926-13. (LINK EXPIRED)
Ballot Item Approved as E2998-2016 and Pending Publication – WK56043 -Terminology for Relating to the Examination of Fire Debris is a work item to draft a new standard.
E30.12 Digital and Multi-Media Evidence
The following work items are underway:
Proposed New Standard – WK56121 Standard Practice/Guide for Facial Recognition Systems: Capture Equipment and Specification is a work item to draft a new standard. (LINK EXPIRED)
Newly Approved Standard – E3016-15 e1 - Standard Guide for Establishing Confidence in Digital Forensic Results by Error Mitigation Analysis has been published with an editorial change.
The American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) American Standards Board (ASB) have announced the preliminary development stage of several documents.*
BSR/ASB BPR 005-201x, Mass Fatality Incident Data Management: Best Practice Recommendations for the Medicolegal Authority (new standard)
BSR/ASB BPR 006-201x, Best Practice Recommendation for Planning DNA Sample Collection and Analysis for the Identification Process in Mass Fatality Incidents (new standard)
BSR/ASB BPR 007-201x, Postmortem Impression Submission Strategy for Comprehensive Searches of Essential Automated Fingerprint Identification System Databases: Best Practice Recommendations for the Medicolegal Authority (new standard)
BSR/ASB BPR 008-201x, Mass Fatality Scene Processing: Best Practice Recommendations for the Medicolegal Authority (new standard)
BSR/ASB BPR 009-201x, Best Practice Recommendations for the Examination of Human Remains by Forensic Pathologists in the Disaster Victim Identification Context (new standard)
BSR/ASB BPR 010-201x, Forensic Anthropology in Disaster Victim Identification: Best Practice Recommendations for the Medicolegal Authority (new standard)
For the formal notification of the standards projects initiated by ASB, see ANSI Standards Action, October 14, 2016, Pages 21-23.
[*The submittal of a Project Initiation Notification System (PINS) is required by ANSI for the development, revision, reaffirmation or withdrawal candidate American National Standards (ANS). These notices are published in ANSI Standards Action. The notice is intended to serve as is an opportunity for deliberation among stakeholders and the opportunity to lodge a claim if there is a concern of conflict or duplication.]
The American Academy of Forensics Science (AAFS) Academy' Standards Board (ASB) has publicized their upcoming consensus body meetings.
All Consensus Body meetings are open to all interested parties, but only members may vote. Visit the full calendar, including call-in information and agenda.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
12:00 pm to 3:00 pm MDT
Forensic Document Examination CB Meeting
Thursday, October 20, 2016
1:00 pm to 4:00 pm MDT
DNA Consensus Body Meeting
Thursday, October 27, 2016
11:00 am to 2:00 pm MDT
DVI Consensus Body Meeting
Thursday, Nov 10, 2016
11:00 am to 2:00 pm MST
Firearms and Toolmarks CB Meeting
Tuesday, Nov 15, 2016
11:00 am to 2:00 pm MST
Bloodstain Pattern Analysis CB Meeting