Thursday, February 19, 2009

Forensics: US National Academy of Sciences report is released

DNA evidence was the pebble in the pond, so to speak, for elevating the "science" in "forensic science" - the scientific rigor that has accompanied this new discipline of forensic science continues to ripple through all of the forensic disciplines and our legal system.  Of course, DNA evidence was not the only motivating factor, but I do contend that it was the most significant and that the mindset that accompanied its introduction also carried over the other disciplines.

The latest ripple was the release yesterday of a report by the US National Academy of Sciences titled "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward".  You can read it online or pre-order a print copy at this link.

One should keep in mind while listening to or reading press accounts of this report something that Robert Mueller (physicist, USA) once said, and I'll paraphrase: "Everything reported in broadcast or print media is generally correct, except, that is, for what they report on things that you are actually well versed in, which they invariably get wrong."  Such will likely be the case with reporting on this subject.

That being said, how I am interpreting the early press accounts of the report is that this report is another step in this process of bringing the scientific rigor applied to the introduction of DNA evidence into our legal system to all of the disciplines that were already here. In my opinion, this is a worthwhile endeavor.  However, we must all be wise enough to understand that we are humans and that any system we create will not be perfect, but if we design the system correctly then mechanisms will be included to minimize and weed out these natural errors while also minimizing the adverse affects on the ability of the system to perform its intended purpose.

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