Recognizing that significant improvements are needed in forensic science, Congress directed the National Academy of Sciences to undertake the study that led to this report. There are scores of talented and dedicated people in the forensic science community, and the work that they perform is vitally important. They are often strapped in their work, however, for lack of adequate resources, sound policies, and national support. It is clear that change and advancements, both systemic and scientific, are needed in a number of forensic science disciplines—to ensure the reliability of the disciplines, establish enforceable standards, and promote best practices and their consistent application.

In adopting this report, the aim of our committee is to chart an agenda for progress in the forensic science community and its scientific disciplines. Because the work of forensic science practitioners is so obviously wide-reaching and important—affecting criminal investigation and prosecution, civil litigation, legal reform, the investigation of insurance claims, national disaster planning and preparedness, homeland security, and the advancement of technology—the committee worked with a sense of great commitment and spent countless hours deliberating over the recommendations that are included in the report. These recommendations, which are inexorably interconnected, reflect the committee’s strong views on policy initiatives that must be adopted in any plan to improve the forensic science disciplines and to allow the forensic science community to serve society more effectively.

The task Congress assigned our committee was daunting and required serious thought and the consideration of an extremely complex and decentralized system, with various players, jurisdictions, demands, and limitations. Throughout our lengthy deliberations, the committee heard testimony

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