President's Spotlight—Promoting the Values of the AAFS

Source: C. Ken Williams, MS, JD, 2023-24 AAFS President

I have proudly called myself a forensic scientist for over two decades. I am equally proud to say that I have been affiliated with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) the entire time. I was fortunate to have mentors to encourage me to attend my first meeting as a student. Mentors also encouraged me to join the Academy years ago for networking opportunities. To this day, membership with the AAFS provides access to investigators, medical examiners, engineers, anthropologists, toxicologists, forensic nurses, dentists, educators, criminalists/analysts, psychiatrists, lawyers, document and digital evidence examiners, and many others. With over 6,600 members, the diversity of our membership makes us strong and creates wonderful opportunities for connection.

The AAFS is a multidisciplinary membership organization with a mission to provide "collaborative research, quality education, and recognized leadership to advance forensic science to inform its application to the law." I chose to join this organization because I believed in the foundation on which the organization stands. I chose to take an active role in the organization because I believed I could make a difference.

I am honored to serve as the AAFS President and I am equally honored to serve with a dedicated Board of Directors, a devoted staff, and a diverse section and committee leadership. We all have the privilege of serving the entire membership as we promote the vision, mission, and values of the AAFS together as an organization.

One of the values statements is to provide leadership and public awareness. The Board recently received notification from a concerned member with a request for the organization to provide the leadership and awareness we proudly proclaim. The member shared a link to a bitemark video created by the Center for Integrity in Forensic Science and a link to NIST Interagency Report 8352 (Bitemark Analysis: A NIST Scientific Foundation Review) and sought a response to recent criticisms of the bitemark discipline. A response to the criticisms is provided, but not from the AAFS Board of Directors.

The AAFS Odontology Section was engaged as the subject matter experts of the discipline in which the criticism was directed. In an effort to be inclusive, the leadership of the section collaborated with the American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO) and the American Society of Forensic Odontology (ASFO) to prepare a response to the NIST Interagency Report and the CIFS video. The collaboration produced a thoughtful and balanced response to the criticisms by recognizing the need for the improvement of scientific rigor in some areas while providing explanations in others. The response is not a position taken by the AAFS or the Forensic Odontology Section. However, the response is intended to highlight "areas of agreement, concern, and missed opportunities" revealed in the report and video. You may find the complete response in the Odontology Section News under "Odontology Response to NIST".    

Awareness of the recent criticism is given by this spotlight. Although the report may not directly impact the entire AAFS, it is important for all members to remain informed to help strengthen the entire forensic science community. For your additional awareness, the words appearing in bold are all part of the AAFS Values Statements. You may not have paid much attention to the words upon your first read, but if you're like me, you checked after the reason for the bold was brought to your attention. If you didn't check, you still have time. I'll wait. Awareness of the values is important for all members. As an organization, we must promote these values to make our organization and the entire forensic science community stronger. We should bring awareness to those areas of the field worthy of praise, but we must also give attention to those areas in need of strengthening. By doing this, we can and will make a difference. Let's promote the values of the AAFS and make a difference together! 


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.