President's Spotlight—April 5

Source: Christopher Thompson, MD, 2024-25 AAFS President

I'm honored and humbled by the trust the Nominating Committee, Board of Directors, and the membership have put in me, and I'm really looking forward to working with everyone during this upcoming year. The 2025 AAFS Annual Conference in Baltimore, MD, will focus on the responsible, ethical, and just use of technology in the forensic sciences and will be titled "Technology: A Tool for Transformation or Tyranny?" This title may sound a bit hyperbolic to some, but technological advances are happening at a remarkable, perhaps exponential, pace and will be ubiquitous in almost every field of forensic science in the near future. These tools (e.g., artificial intelligence, forensic genealogy, risk assessment algorithms) have tremendous promise but also great potential peril. In addition to the aforementioned technologies, I'm sure readers can think of other technologies that likely will impact each of their section's members.

In expectation of the more widespread use of these technologies, I'm hoping for the Academy to begin exploring questions like:

  • How do we implement and utilize new technologies appropriately, ethically, and justly in forensic science (e.g., fMRI, forensic genealogy, AI, risk assessment algorithms, and other predictive analytics)?
  • How do we balance the interests of probative value and justice/fundamental fairness?
  • How do we communicate with and educate the judiciary and governmental agencies around the responsible use and implementation of these technologies in the forensic sciences?

I believe the Academy's proactively (to the extent possible) addressing these issues will be incredibly Important for both societal/altruistic reasons and professional survival. AAFS is an organization uniquely poised to address these challenges, given its varied sections (each with a unique perspective) that can work together and collaborate to this end.

In order to help effectuate this and make AAFS' collective organizational expertise more impactful, the Academy should continue to track case law and legislation relevant to forensic science, particularly new technologies in forensic science and, hopefully, impart this expertise to policymakers. In my opinion, this can be done by:

  • Continuing our relationship with the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations (CFSO) in order to monitor and positively influence federal legislation related to the forensic sciences;
  • Re-invigorating the Judicial Outreach Ad Hoc Committee (JOAHC), which was started by Past President Laura Fulginiti, in order to facilitate the education of the judiciary regarding forensic science topics and technologies;
  • Developing a more standardized/systematized process for joining amicus briefs and providing input on legislation, keeping in mind our need to balance the potential divisiveness in membership of weighing in on an issue with the potential judicial educative benefit of doing so.

I realize that the Academy will continue to address these matters for many years past the end of my presidential term, and that our position(s) will continue to evolve. My goal is merely to "begin the conversation" around these topics on an Academy-wide basis and hope future leadership and membership will continue to address these issues in as proactive a manner as we can.

That said, I'm quite excited about the upcoming year and really looking forward to working with the Staff, the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, Section leadership, and the membership in the coming year. And now on to some announcements: 

  • The AAFS Program Committee, led by AAFS Program Chair Karen Rosenbaum and Co-Chair Claire Shepard, is beginning to plan for the 2025 Annual Scientific Conference. The preliminary discussions are underway regarding the Keynote Address and the Plenary Session.
  • Please remember to nominate your AAFS colleagues and associates within the forensic science community for one of the many AAFS Awards.
  • The April 15 deadline for the Past Presidents Council Award for Outstanding Early Career Achievement in Forensic Science is nearly upon us. 
  • June 1 is the deadline to submit nominations to the Awards Committee Chair and AAFS Immediate Past President Ken Williams for the Gradwohl Medallion and the Distinguished Fellow Award.
  • August 1 is the nomination deadline for the Ambassador of Forensic Science Award.

Please review the March 15 AAFS Newsfeed article for the full criteria and nomination procedure for each award.

Christopher Thompson Incoming President Address


The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.