Nav: Home

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science

April 09, 2018

LA JOLLA -- (April 9, 2018) With forensic science facing mounting scrutiny as it plays an increasingly prominent role in the administration of justice, six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes. Their call to action appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of April 9, 2018.

"Forensic reform is challenging because the field of law is based on historical precedent, whereas science builds on itself to advance continuously," says Thomas Albright, professor and director of Salk's Vision Center Laboratory who has studied why eyewitnesses fail. "But if the ultimate goal of a legal system is to deliver justice, then forensic evidence should be based on up-to-date methods that have been scientifically validated."

Since the 1990s, when DNA exonerations revealed problems with some forensic disciplines, various groups have been calling for reform. This led to a landmark 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that found many forensic practices were highly subjective and paved the way for the 2013 establishment of the National Commission on Forensic Science to examine such practices. A number of independent scientists served on the commission, along with forensic scientists, attorneys, judges and law enforcement personnel, from 2013 to 2017 when the Department of Justice declined to renew its charter.

Six of the independent scientists--Albright, Suzanne Bell of the University of West Virginia; Sunita Sah of Cornell University; S. James Gates, Jr., of Brown University; M. Bonner Benton of the University of Arizona and Arturo Casadevall of Johns Hopkins University--write in the new paper that the complex methodologies of forensic science, which range from DNA analysis to pattern recognition to chemical composition, must be subjected to scientific testing rather than relying on historical precedent. They cite the example of bite-mark identification, which has been scientifically discredited and has resulted in false convictions, but continues to be accepted in U.S. courts due to precedent.

"In many forensic procedures, such as fingerprint or footprint or bullet matching, decisions about the similarity of visual patterns are made by people--and people make mistakes," says Albright, who holds the Conrad T. Prebys Chair in Vision Science. In 2017, Albright published a paper in PNAS about an NAS study on eyewitness testimony that described why identification errors occur and how they can be prevented. "We encourage the scientific community to welcome forensic scientists into their ranks to help identify the causes of forensic failures, predict when they might occur and lend support to developing strategies to mitigate or prevent them," says Albright.
-end-
About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk's mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer's, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin. Learn more at: salk.edu.

Salk Institute

Related Chemical Composition Articles:

Gut microbiome composition is associated with age and memory performance in pet dogs
Our gut microbiota can crucially influence our behaviour and neurodevelopment.
New genetic markers of glucosinolates in rapeseed may help improve oil composition
A group of scientists performed a genetic analysis of the Russian rapeseed collection.
Children with type 1 diabetes may have a less desirable gut bacteria composition
Children with type 1 diabetes have a less desirable gut microbiome composition which may play a role in the development of the disease, according to new research published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Understanding the role of cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition in brain health
Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated that brain chemistry is sensitive to fitness and body composition.
Chemical composition of bedrock limits vegetation growth in karst regions, research shows
Scientists have revealed the critical role that the chemical composition of bedrock plays in limiting vegetation growth in some of the world's most barren and rocky terrains.
New rules for the physical basis of cellular organelle composition
New findings about critical cellular structures have upended common assumptions about their formation and composition and provided new insight how molecular machines are built in living cells.
ALMA reveals unusual composition of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov
A galactic visitor entered our solar system last year -- interstellar comet 2I/Borisov.
'Mars quakes': First seismological data help understand the Red Planet's composition
Almost 14 months after the landing of NASA's InSight Mission on Mars, researchers present the first data ever gathered on the Red Planet's seismic activity.
Nitrogen fertilizers finetune composition of individual members of the tomato microbiota
Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients as is a key component for healthy crop production globally.
IKBFU scientists developed capsule composition for enzyme against intellectual disability
Phenylpyrovirogradnaya oligophrenia is a disease that results in degradation of the amino acid called phenylalanine.
More Chemical Composition News and Chemical Composition Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.