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From Chemistry World: Forensic science is “in crisis”

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Police line Vector Further to Why we should trust “science,” whatever that is, from a long form article by Rebecca Trager at Chemistry World:

Concerns about forensic science have lurked for some time. Major science advisory bodies in the US and UK had warned about deficiencies in the field that require action.

In 2013, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (Nist) initiated a study, known as Mix13, which involved more than 100 crime labs analysing the same DNA mixtures in five mock cases. The complexity of the mixture increased in each case, and in the final case, which was the most complex, about 70% of those labs falsely included a DNA profile that was not actually in the mixture.

Nist has disseminated these findings to the broader community through oral presentations at conferences and elsewhere. However, the agency still hasn’t officially published the results, despite their significant implications for the legal system.

‘Nist has sat on that study for five years,’ says Hampikian. At the time of writing, Nist was expected to submit the Mix13 study for publication in a peer-reviewed journal shortly. More.

Hmmm. Publishing that long-overdue paper on the problem might be an idea. When we already know that the problems are serious, bureaucrats sitting on information tend to make us think the worst. There is a spillover effect to other sciences too. We make inferences from what we do know to what we don’t know.

See also: Cop shows give a misleading picture of the gloomy state of forensic science today

Study of causes of science skepticism sails right by the most obvious cause

Flawed forensics: DNA analysis is NOT The Truth, as in endless cop show reruns

Forensics files: What? We can’t trust forensic science?

Forensic DNA evidence in doubt? (low copy analysis)

4 Replies to “From Chemistry World: Forensic science is “in crisis”

  1. 1
    Allan Keith says:

    A requirement for all accredited laboratories, not just forensic labs, is routine proficiency testing. Which is what this study was. They are intended to allow laboratories to compare the quality of their work against their peers. Laboratories are required to forward these PT reports to their accreditation bodies, who use them to determine what tests the lab should be accredited for. The standard that the PT providers are accredited to requires that they keep the performance information of specific laboratories confidential.

    It has been clearly shown that accreditation, of which PT is a requirement, significantly improved the quality of laboratory data.

    Medical and forensics laboratories are relatively new to the accreditation game.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Attention should also be drawn to the closure of the National Commission of Forensic Science by AG Jeff Sessions and the termination of a review of FBI evidence standards. Just as the flaws in forensic science are becoming apparent, the government suspends any attempt to raise standards and restore credibility? Why would that be? Well, if I were a conspiracy theorist (which, for the record, I’m not) perhaps it suits certain individuals to keep the question-mark over expert testimony in place as this may have a bearing on any charges these individuals may have to answer in court in the future.

  3. 3
    DATCG says:

    Seversky, yes “if” you “were a conspiracy theorist” you might spin a story without telling the entire truth as well?

    Perhaps it suits certain individuals to spin stories without acknowledging that AG Sessions took steps to improve forensic science with a new initiative of his own to advance it in April 2017?

    Or, were you not aware of this?

    The Obama administration was one of the most corrupt in a long time, using the IRS to target people it disagreed with politically. Hardly a font of trustworthy leadership itself and that was actionable, historic corruption – not conspiracy – to intimidate people. But enough of past Alinsky-ites out of Chicago.

    Here’s an update by AG Session’s office from April 10, 2017. It took me a few seconds to find in an online search at DOJ.

    So much for your conspiracy…

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions Announces New Initiatives to Advance Forensic Science and Help Counter the Rise in Violent Crime

    As part of the Department’s efforts under the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety (Task Force), Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced a series of actions the Department will take to advance forensic science and help combat the rise in violent crime.

    note: Session’s announced “… a series of actions the Department will take to advance forensic science”

    These actions are being undertaken on the expiration of the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS) and will increase the capacity of forensic science providers, improve the reliability of forensic analysis, and permit reporting of forensic results with greater specificity.

    “… will increase the capacity of forensic science providers”
    “… improved the reliability of forensic analysis,”
    “… permit reporting of forensic results with greater specificity”

    Again, so much for your conspiracy.

    The Task Force’s Subcommittee on Forensics will spearhead the development of that strategic plan.

    “The availability of prompt and accurate forensic science analysis to our law enforcement officers and prosecutors is critical to integrity in law enforcement, reducing violent crime and increasing public safety,” said Attorney General Sessions.

    “As we decide how to move forward, we bear in mind that the Department is just one piece of the larger criminal justice system and that the vast majority of forensic science is practiced by state and local forensic laboratories and is used by state and local prosecutors.

    We applaud the professionalism of the National Commission on Forensic Science and look forward to building on the contributions it has made in this crucial field.”

    What’s that? He “applauds” the NCFS and “looks forward to building on the contributions it has made…”

    He’s taking actions to build on those contributions, to improve upon it. But conspiracy theorist… say?

    The following three actions were announced today:

    1. In the coming weeks, the Department will appoint a Senior Forensic Advisor to interface with forensic science stakeholders and advise Department leadership;

    2. The Department will conduct a needs assessment of forensic science laboratories that examines workload, backlog, personnel and equipment needs of public crime laboratories and the needs of academic and non-traditional forensic science practitioners, and issue a report to Congress; and

    3. The Department will publish a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on how the Department should move forward to strengthen the foundations of forensic science and improve the operations and capacity of forensic laboratories. The notice will remain open until June 9, 2017.

    The Attorney General will continue to receive and act upon recommendations from the Task Force as they become available.

    So, far from what you stated Seversky in your paranoid leap, AG Sessions is seeking to better Forensic Science and standards and help those involved in Forensic labs and crime fighting.

    So much for conspiracy.

  4. 4
    Allan Keith says:

    Hopefully Sessions does more for forensic science than he does for promoting the family.

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