The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) works to facilitate the development of technically sound forensic science standards and to promote the adoption of those standards by the forensic science community. More information is available on the OSAC Website.
At the time of OSAC’s launch, NIST stated its intention to transition OSAC beyond its initial format, which is why we are now soliciting input for the next generation of OSAC via a Request for Information. This document presents additional concepts for the next generation of OSAC, referred to as OSAC 2.0.
Our goal in presenting these concepts is to encourage thinking beyond the current paradigm. Note that these three concepts are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. Commenters should feel free to use any part of these concepts, to combine them, to incorporate them into other concepts, or to disregard them entirely and generate new concepts.
In this concept, OSAC would continue to function within its current structure and with its current core mission—the development, review, approval and placement of industry-leading standards and best practices to the OSAC Registry. OSAC would continue to operate and be funded as it is currently, but may be overseen/funded by NIST, by another federal agency, or by another appropriate organization.
NIST or another agency/organization would manage the overall structure and continue to fund OSAC as it is currently formulated (see OSAC Organizational Structure).
OSAC would develop a registry of standards and related documents such as best practices and guides.
OSAC would facilitate the development of standards and best practices for the OSAC Registry. OSAC would ensure that standards have a high degree of technical merit and are developed via an appropriate process. OSAC would also ensure a balance of interests and transparency. In general, OSAC would rely on standards developing organizations (SDOs), but provide a mechanism for public comment, as many SDOs do not perform this function.
OSAC would continue to function as is within the currently formulated organizational chart, subject to future revisions by the parent agency/organization. Oversight and financial support of OSAC may continue to reside within NIST or be transferred to another federal agency or appropriate non-federal organization.
In this concept, OSAC would consist of two primary structures: Scientific Area Committees (SACs) and a Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB). The SACs would be staffed by forensic science practitioners who would identify needed standards, advocate for research and development to support needed standards, and find standards that meet forensic needs. The FSSB would be staffed with scientific experts who would address issues of scientific merit. Standards would be placed on a registry based on SAC and FSSB concurrence. Lab managers, accreditors, regulators and others would use the registry as a source for vetted standards.
NIST or another federal agency would manage the overall structure by awarding grants to forensic science organizations to staff the SACs and to scientific and professional organizations to staff the FSSB.
OSAC’s only work product would be a registry of standards and related documents such as best practices and guides.
Standards would be developed by any organization that chooses to engage in this area. OSAC would ensure that standards have a high degree of technical merit and are developed via an appropriate process. OSAC would also ensure a balance of interests and transparency. In general, OSAC would rely on standards developing organizations (SDOs), but provide a mechanism for public comment, as many SDOs do not perform this function.
The subcommittees would be replaced with standards developing organizations. The FSSB would be composed of experts from outside the forensic science community.
In this concept, OSAC would develop model laws for use by regulators and state/local legislative bodies. The goal would be to promote uniformity across forensic laboratories. This is especially important given that most forensic practice happens at the state and local level, rather than the federal level. Model laws would cover issues of forensic laboratory quality, and would extend to the entire legal system, including matters of accreditation, certification, training, and requirements for standards and best practices. OSAC would consist of legislative, legal, forensic, and other experts serving as representatives of federal, state and local governments. (This concept is based on the National Conference on Weights and Measures.)
NIST or another federal agency would establish a new organization and would fund its startup. The organization could become financially self-sustaining by charging fees for training and credentialing.
The primary work products would be model laws specifying licensing and proficiency requirements, rules of evidence, accreditation and other performance requirements. Products would also include educational material.
OSAC would develop minimum requirements for standards and best practices including evaluation criteria. The development of specific standards would happen outside of OSAC.
Instead of focusing on populating a registry of standards, OSAC would mainly focus on producing model legislation. In this scenario, instead of accrediting bodies monitoring for compliance with standards, legal requirements would mandate an infrastructure that supports and improves forensic science.
In this concept, OSAC would assess standards, identify research needs, and coordinate the development, testing and evaluation of forensic methods, protocols and technologies. This function is critically important because standards have diminished value when the underlying scientific basis in not well understood. OSAC would look at all forensic science disciplines from established to novel. For example, single source DNA analysis is mature and has established protocols, large validation studies, and well understood uncertainties. Other areas in forensic science may lack established protocols, large scale validation studies, or a sufficient understanding of uncertainties. OSAC would publish reports assessing whether forensic methods have a sufficient basis of research to support the development of technically-sound standards. These reports would also identify the research needed for developing standards or improving them.
NIST or another federal agency would lead the work and may establish partnerships with additional federal and private sector entities.
OSAC would produce peer reviewed publications based on results from literature surveys and from OSAC-coordinated studies on standards readiness, method development, validation, inter-laboratory comparison, and reference data and materials. The resulting reports would be used to understand the correct use and limitations of evidence and supply standards developing organizations (SDOs) with the data and materials they need to implement new documentary standards or improve existing ones. OSAC would also produce gap assessments.
OSAC would produce reports that SDOs would use to understand whether existing documents should be revised, and to know what technology is ready for standardization. SDOs would be responsible for writing, correcting, and distributing documentary standards
A library of resulting scientific studies would replace the registry. The committee structure would be replaced by a steering committee that assists OSAC in prioritizing work areas. OSAC would support the development of reliable technical documentary standards by functioning as a clearinghouse and coordinator of information on the development, validation, and uncertainty of forensic technologies and methods. Emphasis would be placed on both existing and new technologies. This will enable a path to implementation for existing methods as well as new approaches developed in the field by federal, state, and local agencies, in academia, and in other research organizations.