A Dutch team says they’re developing international forensic standards for probability in forensic science.
The four-year project is a collaboration between the Netherlands Forensic Institute and the University of Twente’s CTIT (Center for Information and Communication Technology).
The initial phase of the work is establishing “likelihood ratios” for biometric evidence collections. But that methodology would later be extrapolated to include all other forms of evidence, they said.
“It will increase trust in forensic investigations, as everyone will work to the same standard and research is validated in the same manner everywhere,” said Dider Meuwly, principal scientist at the Netherlands Forensic Institute.
Practitioners from the NFI have been required to interpret evidence in courtrooms in context of the likelihood ratio for several years, according to the country’s Minister of Security and Justice. Simply saying “much more probable” in terms of testifying was not sufficient – they had to attach a number to their testimony.
The Dutch scientists said they have the cooperation of representatives from 15 different countries agreeing to the four-year development of the international standards organization, or ISO. Those nations include the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Sweden, Russia and Australia.
Other initiatives to quantify science are underway in various countries – with several already proceeding in the U.S. Last month, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) approved a report dismissing some forensic science, such as bite marks and hair analysis, while casting doubt on other disciplines such as ballistics, which have traditionally been accepted.
Forensics first came under widespread scrutiny in 2009, with a report by National Research Council entitled “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.” It called for major reforms to the criminal-justice system – and to establish national forensics scientific standards.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has already undertaken what could become a “transformational” reevaluation of American forensic science, in response to the 2009 report. Ten disciplines are going to be subject to investigation. First up is firearms and toolmark identification, latent fingerprints and arson investigations. Those are already underway.
The British government is also reevaluating forensic science standards in that nation, as a long-term project.