The National Academy of Sciences authored an excoriating examination on the state of forensic science as presented in the courtroom today. It called forensic science “badly fragmented” and in need of major reform. It highlighted how many techniques currently employed including many traditional “sacred cows” are non-validated and perhaps even invalid as practiced currently. There was a clear call for reform.
We blogged on the NAS report here: A Quick Summary of The National Academy of Sciences Report
At first glance, The Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2012 seems to be a good step forward in acknowledging that if left alone forensic science cannot police itself. We shall see how it meanders through Congress.
According to the press release issued by the bill’s author Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. [N.B., .S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, today introduced companion legislation in the House]
The Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2012 would:
Require standards development: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would be directed to develop forensic science standards, in consultation with the standards development organizations and other stakeholders. NIST could establish and solicit advice from discipline-specific expert working groups to identify standards development priorities and opportunities.
Implement uniform standards: A Forensic Science Advisory Committee, chaired by the Director of NIST and the Attorney General, would be established to implement new science-based standards. The Advisory Committee, comprised of research scientists, forensic science practitioners, and members of the legal and law enforcement communities, would make recommendations to the Attorney General on adoption of standards. The Attorney General would direct the standards’ implementation in Federal forensic science laboratories and would encourage adoption in non-Federal laboratories as a condition of Federal funding or for inclusion in national databases.
Promote research: The bill would establish a National Forensic Science Coordinating Office, housed at the National Science Foundation (NSF), to develop a research strategy and road map and to support the implementation of that road map across relevant Federal agencies. NSF would establish a forensic science grant program to award funding in areas specifically identified by the research strategy. NSF would be directed to award two grants to create forensic science research centers to conduct research, build relationships with forensic practitioners, and educate students. All agencies with equities in forensic science would be encouraged to stimulate innovative and creative solutions to satisfy the research needs and priorities identified in the research strategy.