It’s hard for juries to shake such images, and they’ve come to expect miracles and absolute certainty. But for the sake of justice and science, forensic experts need to be honest – in investigations and on the stand – about the limitations.
The NAS recommends a National Institute of Forensic Science, empowered to uphold “best practice” standards and set up mandatory certification and accreditation programs. In addition, crime labs should be independent of police departments and more peer-reviewed research should be undertaken.
Science editor Kelly Pyrek, author of “Forensic Science Under Siege,” believes that forensic practitioners will collectively welcome the NAS directives. The real issue is whether the report will translate into a commitment from lawmakers. “The report is just the first step on a very long journey toward addressing the forensic science community’s many pressing needs,” she says, “I think that continued dialogue between all stakeholders, improved research into scientific methods to help validate forensic methods, and improved funding all are exceedingly critical.”