Field Notes: Forensic Science Report Card

by Melissa Connor, Associate Professor and Program Director of Forensic Science

I was in Denver this February at the American Academy of Forensic Science meetings when the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a new report, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.” The NAS summary played on a large-screen television in a major presentation hall. People passed around jump drives with copies of the report. Printers were jammed with people.

Why was this 254-page, dry government treatise the buzz of a major, national conference? This report calls for a top-down overhaul of the paradigms, practice and education within the discipline. It states that “the forensic science system… has serious problems that can only be addressed by a national commitment to overhaul the current structure.”

The report discusses the court findings, for instance, that the process of fingerprint identification does not “rest on a reliable factual foundation.” The report analyzes the research behind each of the major forensic disciplines and points out where research is needed to provide more solid underpinnings.

The report also highlights the need for forensic science education and training. It states that the “demand for more and better-skilled forensic science practitioners is rising.”

There are certain ramifications for NWU’s Forensic Science Program. Universities across the country are gearing up to provide the training to meet the report’s specifications. Money is available for basic research that has never been done in fields like fingerprint analysis. With an established, respected forensic science program in place, we hope to be a part of this discipline-changing effort.