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Forensic Science Methods Called Into Question by National Academies Report

Study Calls for Oversight of Forensics in Crime Labs
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/19/us/19forensics.html

Call For Forensics Overhaul Linked to 'CSI' Effect
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100831831

Forensics under the microscope
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/chi-forensics-specialpackage,0,4244313.special

Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12589#toc

Forensic Magazine
http://www.forensicmag.com/

DNA Forensics [Flash Player, pdf]
http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/forensics.shtml

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory [pdf, Flash Player]
http://www.lab.fws.gov/

The average person watching any number of procedural crime television shows might be forgiven if he or she believed that every piece of carpet fiber or DNA can lead to a "case closed" finale. In real life, forensic science isn't nearly as infallible as it appears on television, and that is something that has troubled many at the National Academy of Sciences. In a report released this Wednesday, the National Academy of Sciences research team found that in 2005 there was a backlog of 359,000 requests for forensic analysis and that 80 percent of all crime laboratories are understaffed. The report went on to call into question the scientific merit of practically every commonly used forensic method of analysis, including the analysis of ballistics, arson, hair, and fingerprints. The team of scholars who wrote the report also recommended that the United States should standardize forensic tests and assume responsibility for the certification of forensic experts. These findings have garnered attention from the general public, the law enforcement community, and elected officials such as Senator Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Leahy commented, "I am troubled by the report's general finding that far too many forensic disciplines lack the standards necessary to ensure their scientific reliability in court."

The first link will take users to a New York Times article from this Wednesday, which talks a bit about this recent report. The second link leads to an audio piece from National Public Radio about the report and how it might transform forensic science. Moving on, the third link leads to a very fine set of investigative articles on forensic science from the Chicago Tribune. The fourth link will whisk users away to the full-text of the Academies' recent report on the state of forensic science. The fifth link leads to the homepage of Forensic Science magazine. Here, visitors can learn more about the field and read articles from current and past editions of the publication. The sixth link leads to a set of resources on DNA forensic analysis offered by the Human Genome Project. Finally, the last link leads to the homepage of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory, which is "the only lab in the world dedicated to crimes against wildlife."
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GEM Subject
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Date Issued 2009-02-20
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Scout Publication
Date of Scout Publication 2009-02-20
Archived Scout Publication URL https://scout.wisc.edu/Reports/ScoutReport/2009/scout-090220#1

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