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A Cure for Junk Forensic Science?

By: , Posted on: April 24, 2015

The US Forensic Science Commission allows access to draft recommendations and wants public feedback by May 15th.

This article first appeared on Michael’s personal blog. Click here for the original article or continue reading below:

Please peruse the NCFS portal link where such things as “forensic reform” of forensic ethics, forensic testimony language, rules of forensic discovery, etc are available via links. This is a total data dump forcing public “stake-holders” to wade into this package without an organized paddle, such as a “read-me” or category TOCs.   Public Portal to drafts

Nevertheless, here is their draft for the model “National Code of Professional Responsibility for Forensic Science and Forensic Medicine.Service Providers.”

Remember, none of this is compulsory for anybody. It is a “wish-list.” Don’t expect all of these ethics and associated scientific requirements for data discovery and reporting to survive.

I will highlight in BOLD the ethical recommendations that will make bitemark and some other pattern matching groups impossible to provide.


The National Code of Professional Responsibility (“Code”) defines a framework for promoting integrity and respect for the scientific process and encouraging a research-based culture. To increase public confidence in the quality of forensic services, each forensic science and forensic medicine service provider must meet the requirements enumerated below:

1. Accurately represent his/her education, training, experience, and areas of expertise.
2. Pursue professional competency through training, proficiency testing, certification, and presentation and publication of research findings.
3. Commit to continuous learning in the forensic disciplines and stay abreast of new findings, equipment and techniques.
4. Promote validation and incorporation of new technologies, guarding against the use of non-valid methods in casework and the misapplication of validated methods.
5. Avoid tampering, adulteration, loss, or unnecessary consumption of evidentiary materials.
6. Avoid participation in any case where there are personal, financial, employment-related or other conflicts of interest.
7. Conduct full, fair and unbiased examinations, leading to independent, impartial, andobjective opinions and conclusions.
8. Make and retain full, contemporaneous, clear and accurate written records of all examinations and tests conducted and conclusions drawn, in sufficient detail to allow meaningful review and assessment by an independent person competent in the field.
9. Base conclusions on generally-accepted procedures supported by sufficient data, standards and controls, not on political pressure or other outside influence.
10. Do not render conclusions that are outside one’s expertise.
11. Prepare reports in unambiguous terms, clearly distinguishing data from interpretations and opinions, and disclosing all known associated limitations that prevent invalid inferences or mislead the judge or jury.
12. Do not alter reports or other records, or withhold information from reports for strategic or tactical litigation advantage.
13. Present accurate and complete data in reports, oral and written presentations and testimony based on good scientific practices and validated methods.
14. Communicate honestly and fully, once a report is issued, with all parties(investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other expert witnesses), unless prohibited by law.
15. Document and notify management or quality assurance personnel of adverse events, such as an unintended mistake or a breach of ethical, legal, scientific standards, or questionable conduct.
16. Ensure reporting, through proper management channels, to all impacted scientific and legal parties of any adverse event that affects a previously issued report or testimony.

Recommendations for Implementation

The National Commission on Forensic Science recommends that all forensic science and forensic medicine service providers, associated certification and accrediting bodies, and professional societies adopt the Code, that the Code be annually reviewed and signed by all forensic science and forensic medicine service providers, and that steps be defined to enforce ethical violations. In addition, when an adverse event occurs (whether an unintended mistake or a breach of ethical, legal, or scientific standards), there must be a process in place for all forensic science and forensic medical service providers to manage the reporting of and the corrective action to remediate the adverse event.

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More from Michael on SciTech Connect:

Michael’s most recent book Forensic Testimony: Science, Law and Expert Evidence is available on the Elsevier store for a 30% discount. Just use discount code “STC215” at checkout and save!

About Michael Bowers:

Michael BowersC. Michael Bowers, DDS, JD is a practicing forensic dentist and consultant who has testified and worked on hundreds of cases where dental evidence has been involved. He is a Senior Crime Scene Analyst for the International Association for Identification (IAI) and has written other articles, chapters and books on forensic dentistry. He owns and operates his own dental practice in Ventura, CA.


Additionally, he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a past member of the editorial board for the Journal of Forensic Sciences. He is author of Forensic Dental Evidence, published by Elsevier’s Academic Press in 2010, and his new book, Forensic Testimony: Science, Law and Expert Evidence will be published in October 2013.

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Forensic Sciences

Forensic science is a key component of criminal investigation and civil law worldwide. This broad-based field ranges over topics as varied as DNA typing, osteology, neuropathology, psychology, crime scene photography, ballistics, criminal profiling, and more. Elsevier provides forensics publications that cover all these topics, written by top authorities, to students, professors, researchers, and professionals.