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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
Many forensic science organizations—such as the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the California Association of Criminalists, and ASCLD—have codes of ethics or codes of professional practice imploring members to act with honesty, integrity, and objectivity; to work within the bounds of their professional competence; to present testimony and reports in a clear and objective manner; and to avoid conflicts of interest and potential bias, among other things. The codes that do exist are generally comprehensive, but they vary in content. As a consequence, there is no single code of ethics to which all members of the forensic science profession subscribe. As the committee concluded its work, it learned of an effort by ASCLD/LAB to develop a uniform code of ethics.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Although some areas of the forensic science disciplines have made notable efforts to achieve standardization and best practices, most disciplines still lack any consistent structure for the enforcement of “better practices,” operating standards, and certification and accreditation programs. Accreditation is required in only three states—New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. In other states, accreditation is voluntary, as is individual certification. Certification, while broadly accepted by the forensic science community, is not uniformly offered or required.
Although many forensic science organizations have codes of ethics, these codes can be enforced to regulate only the practices of persons who belong to a given organization. A uniform code of ethics should be in place across all forensic organizations to which all forensic practitioners and laboratories should adhere.
To facilitate the work of the National Institute of Forensic Science(NIFS), Congress should authorize and appropriate funds to NIFSto work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology(NIST), in conjunction with government laboratories, universities, and private laboratories, and in consultation with ScientificWorking Groups, to develop tools for advancing measurement,validation, reliability, information sharing, and proficiency testingin forensic science and to establish protocols for forensic examinations, methods, and practices. Standards should reflect best practices and serve as accreditation tools for laboratories and as guidesfor the education, training, and certification of professionals. Uponcompletion of its work, NIST and its partners should report find-