“This is a broad call across the entire forensic science community. The forensic science community includes practitioners, research scientists, measurement scientists, accreditation and certification specialists, statisticians, human factors specialists, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges.”
-Mark Stolorow, Director of NIST OSAC (April 14, 2014 phone conversation with Justin McShane)
In the past I have frequently compared the state of the modern practice of forensic science to The Wild Wild West including this quote that was featured in the Boston Globe when the Annie Dookhan scandal hit:
[F]orensic science is like the “wild, wild west.” Just like in the bygone days of the wild wild west, in forensic science today there is a lack of the rule of law, some vigilantes, some rough characters who are up to no good who lie, cheat, and steal exist. There is a lack of standards in terms of behavior or process. Life back then was indeed nasty, brutish and short. Back then, just like today, the innocent got swept up in it all. It was a dangerous place to be that Wild Wild West. Being judged (guilty or not guilty or life versus death) by forensic science in America today is a very shaky proposition. It is getting better, but this modern day wild wild west has yet to be tamed.
I was very skeptical with the DOJ/NIST approach to taming this Wild Wild West initially as you can read in this post:
I still have grave reservations about the NFSC. I have practically none about the vision of the NIST OSAC.
After attending in-person the 2014 AAFS/NIST news conference, I was fully converted. It is with the OSACs where the nuts and bolts will be handled: the real science. You can read about here:
Well, sign-ups start today as noted below.
It’s like voting. If you don’t vote, then you cannot legitimately complain.
If you don’t put your name in for consideration by the NIST OSAC, then you likewise cannot legitimately complain.
Unlike the NFSC application process, the NIST OSAC process is very streamlined and simple: NIST Organization of Scientific Area Committees Membership Application
We will see what the end result of the NIST OSAC efforts are. I am hopeful that it will not be as political as the NFSC. Time will tell. It was also quite clear from the presentation at the 2014 AAFS what I termed in the past as “SWG-OLD” meaning the tendency of the SWGs to be populated by historical people who are anointed into their positions in the SWGs simply by existing on the planet earth for longer than anyone rather than current merit, and the absence of young and emerging leaders in the community. According to the press conference at 2014 AAFS, everyone will have to apply.
It is vitally important to note that this is not just for forensic scientists.
At the 2014 AAFS meeting, Mark Stolorow, Director of NIST OSAC, and John Paul Jones II, Assistant Director of NIST OSAC, wanted to make sure that forensic scientists know that there are potentially over 400 positions available for forensic scientists as well as spots for lawyers and judges particularly in Legal Resource Committee as noted below:
Legal Resource Committee
Provide input throughout the OSAC on legal issues related to standards
- Provides guidance about the legal ramifications of forensic science standards; specific items will include the meaningful presentation of forensic science results to the legal system
- Participates and consults with SACs or subcommittees as needed to address legal issues
- Observes work in progress to identify areas with legal ramifications
- Reviews and provides legal perspective relative to standards and guidelines submitted to SACs and/or FSSB for approval including impact of expert testimony and admissibility issues
- Provides guidance to subcommittees on the development of standards (e.g. admissibility review, potential Brady issues)
- Adopts a Professional Code of Ethical Conduct for the presentation of scientific evidence
- Evaluates conflict of interest of FSSB, SAC and subcommittee members and makes recommendations to the FSSB
- Communicates and liaises with the legal community and related professional organizations
Membership and Leadership:
The Legal Resource Committee will consist of up to ten members representing the legal community, i.e. judges, lawyers (prosecution and defense) and other experts.
The Legal Resource Committee Chair shall perform the following duties:
- Provide leadership and preside over meetings
- Appoint task group chairs and task group members as needed.
A NIST-DOJ membership committee will select the initial Legal Resource Committee members and chair.
Here is the press release from NIST:
Calling Forensic Scientists: Apply Now to Join the NIST Organization of Scientific Area Committees
April 11, 2014
Contact:John Paul Jones
The application process for positions in the new NIST Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) is now open. NIST is welcoming members of the forensic science, criminal justice and academic research communities to serve as committee and subcommittee members. Applications will be accepted through an online form until 11:59 PM EDT, Sunday, May 11, 2014.
NIST is establishing OSAC to strengthen forensic science by supporting the development of standards and guidelines to ensure accuracy of methods and practices in the nation’s crime laboratories.
OSAC will consist of a Forensic Science Standards Board, three resource committees, five scientific area committees and 23 subcommittees. NIST needs between 500 and 600 subject matter experts representing a balance of experience and perspectives to serve on OSAC. An OSAC term will be three years, although the initial appointees will serve terms of two, three or four years so that subsequent members are appointed on a staggered basis.
For more information about OSAC, go to the main OSAC webpage on the NIST Forensic Science website.