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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
the minimum information that should be included. As part of theaccreditation and certification processes, laboratories and forensicscientists should be required to utilize model laboratory reportswhen summarizing the results of their analyses.
Research is needed to address issues of accuracy, reliability, andvalidity in the forensic science disciplines. The National Instituteof Forensic Science (NIFS) should competitively fund peer-reviewedresearch in the following areas:
Studies establishing the scientific bases demonstrating thevalidity of forensic methods.
The development and establishment of quantifiable measures of the reliability and accuracy of forensic analyses.Studies of the reliability and accuracy of forensic techniques should reflect actual practice on realisticcase scenarios, averaged across a representative sample of forensicscientists and laboratories. Studies also should establishthe limits of reliability and accuracy that analytic methodscan be expected to achieve as the conditions of forensicevidence vary. The research by which measures of reliability and accuracy are determined should be peer reviewedand published in respected scientific journals.
The development of quantifiable measures of uncertaintyin the conclusions of forensic analyses.
Automated techniques capable of enhancing forensictechnologies.
To answer questions regarding the reliability and accuracy of a forensic analysis, the research must distinguish between average performance (achieved across individual practitioners and laboratories) and individual performance (achieved by the specific practitioner and laboratory). Whether or not a forensic procedure is sufficient under the rules of evidence governing criminal and civil litigation raises difficult legal issues that are outside the realm of scientific inquiry.
To improve the scientific bases of forensic science examinationsand to maximize independence from or autonomy within the lawenforcement community, Congress should authorize and appropri-