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Evaluation of the Forensic DNA Unit Efficiency Improvement Program

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2012
190 pages
Evaluation findings and methodology are presented for the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) 2008 Forensic DNA Unit Efficiency Improvement Program, which involved a competitive solicitation to provide funding to public crime laboratories for the implementation of new and innovative approaches designed to improve the efficiency of DNA evidence processing.
The evaluation found some evidence to support the hypothesis that DNA processing can be improved by using novel and innovative ways beyond just increasing a laboratory's capacity; however, due to implementation challenges and methodological limitations, the findings might be best viewed as a conservative estimate of the short-term outcomes of the grant program. Regardless of measured outcomes, significant scientific contributions in the field were made by the six participating labs. Examples include the demonstration of how organizations-wide changes can be made, validating steps that can be taken to decrease time-consuming steps in DNA processing, expanding the kinds of systems and chemistries that are acceptable as valid field practices, and making this information available publicly to other labs. The evaluation findings also indicate the importance of future research for both the social science and physical science fields in this area. Understanding the interrelationships among capacity, productivity, and efficiency is particularly important for policymakers and practitioners in making the most informed choices about how to address processing backlogs and bottlenecks in crime laboratories. The evaluation assessed the implementation of funded innovations at each of the six sites. Data were collected and analyzed from a wide variety of site-specific documents, interviews, and on-site observations. Outcomes were assessed in several ways using site processing data; case and sample productivity (i.e., throughput and turnaround time) were measured. In addition, efficiency indices were created in order to examine changes in productivity as a function of resource units. 83 figures, 15 tables, and 24 references

Date Published: May 1, 2012