AAFS Press Release, January 31, 2024

Source: American Academy of Forensic Sciences

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Academy Standards Board (ASB) Receives a Standards Development Organization Grant for Forensic Science Standards from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

ASB logo academy standards board

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, December 2023 /AAFS/ -- The AAFS is pleased to announce the receipt of a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that will support the Academy's efforts to develop, approve, disseminate, maintain, and review forensic science voluntary consensus standards and best practices and to make them available to the public free of charge. The NIST grant, in the amount of $496,836, has a performance period of one year.

Justice and equality are hallmarks of the AAFS, the largest U.S. private sector forensic organization of more than 6,000 forensic professionals representing science, criminal justice, law, and academia. One overarching objective stated in AAFS bylaws is to elevate the standards of forensic science. Therefore, AAFS established ASB, an SDO dedicated to promoting rigor to uphold scientific integrity as its direct response to 2009 National Research Council (NRC) report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward:  "…Standards and best practices create a professional environment that allows organizations and professions to create quality systems, policies, and procedures and maintain autonomy from vested interest groups. Standards ensure desirable characteristics of services and techniques such as quality, reliability, efficiency, and consistency among practitioners. Typically, standards are enforced through systems of accreditation and certification, wherein independent examiners and auditors test and audit the performance, policies, and procedures of both laboratories and service providers."

AAFS promotes the adoption of consensus‐based standards among Forensic Science Service Providers (FSSPs) and the broader legal community.  The ASB is currently the only standards development organization devoted exclusively to forensic science standards developed in an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited process. Encouragement to use standards will be achieved through forensic science standards‐related training, and targeted outreach to enable the rapid implementation of standards in an operational setting. 

The grant will allow ASB to expand the scientific rigor of the standards, to increase the efficiency of the standards development process, to broadly disseminate standards open for comment prior to publication, and to ease the burden of the administrative work currently placed on the volunteer officers of the Consensus Bodies (CBs).  This will improve the quality and consistency of the standards developed for the forensic science community.  The support from the grant will allow the ASB staff to provide more standards expertise to the growing number of CBs, expedite the ANSI processes, expand on partner collaborations, and conduct additional outreach and implementation efforts. The CB volunteers will be able to focus on technical content,  work more efficiently, and will have the benefits of input from additional subject matter experts, including document drafters from the NIST-administered Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science, which will in turn improve the quality and consistency of the documents.

OSAC maintains the OSAC Registry, a repository of selected published and proposed forensic science standards that contain minimum requirements, best practices, standard protocols, standardized terminology, or other information to promote scientifically valid, reliable, and reproducible forensic results. For a standard to be posted on the OSAC Registry, it must go through a rigorous evaluation process that includes a balanced evaluation from a variety of stakeholders. This process is designed to ensure that all points of view have been taken into consideration and the standards posted meet the high level of quality needed to ensure consistent forensic practice at the national level. The OSAC Registry currently contains more than 175 standards for various forensic science disciplines (many of which have been developed through the ASB process), and FSSPs are encouraged to implement these standards into their everyday practices.

As a measure of success for this process, more than 150 FSSPs have reported the implementation of standards on the OSAC Registry into their operating procedures, even though implementation is voluntary. The data received through the implementation declaration process allows for the testing and improvement of standards through use, demonstrates harmonization of forensic practice through the incorporation of standardized processes, creates a community of standards implementers that can rely on one another, and allows for the collection of critical data for the continuous improvement process for review, revision, and better allocation of resources. 

Through this source of funding, the ASB can support additional standards development and significantly expand its educational and outreach efforts within the extensive body of forensic science professionals within its sphere of influence. This in turn will help amplify the awareness of standards on the OSAC Registry, expand the extent of implementation, and further strengthen the important role standards play in the operations of the FSSPs and the forensic community at large.

"AAFS is grateful for the financial support provided by NIST which allows the ASB to promote justice for all through the continued development and approval of consensus-based standards and best practices that are made available free of charge to the public," said C. Ken Williams, President of AAFS.      

Forensic science is essential to the administration of justice. The services provided must be based on sound scientific principles, be conducted within robust quality-assurance programs by qualified personnel and be presented in a clear and unbiased manner. The development of consensus-based standards meets that critical need. Placement of standards on the OSAC Registry acknowledges the technical merit of those standards and encourages stakeholders in the forensic science and criminal justice communities to adopt their use and integrate them into everyday practice.

"NIST's OSAC team looks forward to collaborating with AAFS on the delivery of high-quality standards to the forensic science community and the implementation of those standards by forensic science service providers." said John Paul Jones, Forensic Science Standards Program Manager at NIST.

OSAC is administered by NIST with the goal of strengthening the nation's use of forensic science by facilitating and promoting the development and use of technically sound standards for forensic science. These standards define minimum requirements, best practices, standard protocols, and other guidance to help ensure that the results of forensic analysis are reliable and reproducible.

About AAFS

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) is a multidisciplinary professional organization that provides leadership to advance science and its application to the legal system. Since 1948, we have served a distinguished and diverse membership. Our 6,000+ members represent all 50 United States and 71 other countries. Membership is comprised of pathologists, attorneys, dentists, toxicologists, anthropologists, document examiners, digital evidence experts, psychiatrists, engineers, physicists, chemists, criminalists, educators, researchers, and others. Our objectives are to promote professionalism, integrity, competency, education, foster research, improve practice, and encourage collaboration in the forensic sciences.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences established the Academy Standards Board (ASB) in 2016 with a vision of safeguarding Justice, Integrity, and Fairness through Consensus Based American National Standards. To that end, the ASB develops consensus-based forensic standards within a framework accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and provides training to support those standards. ASB values integrity, scientific rigor, openness, due process, collaboration, excellence, diversity, and inclusion. The ASB is dedicated to developing, and making freely accessible, the highest-quality documentary forensic science consensus Standards, Guidelines, Best Practice Recommendations, and Technical Reports in a wide range of forensic science disciplines as a service to forensic practitioners and the legal system.

Media Contact

Donna M. Grogan
719.636.1100 x. 117

SOURCE: The American Academy of Forensic Sciences

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