In this report, The National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Science Community fulfills the congressional charge of providing recommendations on policy initiatives that must be adopted in any plan to improve the forensic science disciplines and to allow the forensic science community to serve society more effectively.
The committee reached a consensus on the most important issues now facing the forensic science community and medical examiner system, producing 13 recommendations to address these issues. The recommendations are intended to address the following deficiencies in the forensic science enterprise in the United States: underresourcing that has created laboratory backlogs and undermined the quality of the work done; lack of a unified strategy for developing a forensic science research plan across Federal agencies; and multiple types of practitioners with different levels of education, training, professional cultures, and standards for performance. The fragmented nature of forensic science in America increases the likelihood that the quality and interpretation of evidence presented in court will vary unpredictably among jurisdictions. The committee's key recommendation for addressing these deficiencies is for Congress to establish and appropriate funds for an independent Federal entity, the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS). This federally funded independent body will oversee and direct the forensic disciplines in the Nation. The other recommendations in this report are linked to the creation of the NIFS; however, even if the creation of the NIFS is impeded, the core ideas and principles in each of the other recommendations should be pursued. They pertain to standardized terminology and reporting; more and better research; best practices and standards; quality control, assurance, and improvement; codes of ethics; improved education and training; the medicolegal death investigation system; automated fingerprint identification system interoperability; and the linking of forensic science disciplines to homeland security. A subject index and appended committee meeting agendas and biographical information for committee members and staff
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