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ASA Endorses Recommendations to Improve Forensic Methods

1 June 2010 1,189 views No Comment
Rosanne Desmone, ASA Public Relations Specialist

    The ASA Board of Directors recently voted to endorse recommendations made in Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, a 2009 National Academies’ report. In its statement, the board recognized the pivotal role of forensic science in the U.S. judicial system and cited the value of statistical methods and research to improve forensic methods.

    The National Academies’ report identified several deficiencies in the nation’s forensic science system and called for major reforms and new research. It came after years of critiques of specific forensic science practices and calls for reform, but broke new ground by offering a comprehensive review of the forensic science system.

    “Statisticians have played an important role in the constructive criticism of current forensic science practices,” said Sastry Pantula, ASA president. “We can continue to play an important role in the reforms urged by the National Academies. Statisticians can make vital contributions toward establishing measurement protocols, quantifying uncertainty, designing experiments for testing new protocols or methodologies, and analyzing data from such experiments.”

    One of the recommendations of the report is to establish an institute of forensic science, and the ASA board noted that sound statistical practices are essential for the proposed institute to achieve its mission. Examples of such practices include the following:

    • The assessment of current and newly developed forensic practices using properly designed experiments and data analytic methods
    • The use of statistical methods based on established principles and procedures for the analysis of data, including estimated error rates
    • The review, in mainstream scientific journals, of novel methods (beyond variants of established methods) developed for the analysis of data; reviewers should include statistically qualified experts
    • The employment of modern statistical quality control and quality assurance procedures to ensure that measurements, procedures, and testimony are of high quality
    • The application of proficiency tests that employ accepted statistical designs and, whenever possible, are double blind to avoid potential biases
    • The availability of all expert reports to interested parties and the provision of sufficient supporting data and information to permit independent review

    Click here (PDF download) to view the complete statement approved by the ASA board, including background.

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