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:

The composition of species is changing in ecosystems across the globe
While the identities of species in local assemblages are undergoing significant changes, their average number is relatively constant.
Geochemists measure new composition of Earth's mantle
Geochemists have investigated the volcanic rocks that build up the Portuguese island group of the Azores in order to gather new information about the compositional evolution of the Earth's interior.
Images from the surface of asteroid Ryugu yield clues to its composition
New images taken by a lander on the surface of the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu have yielded clues into the composition and origins of its rocks, which bear strong similarities to primitive meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites.
Dietary quality influences microbiome composition in human colonic mucosa
Studying the association between diet quality and microbiome composition in human colonic mucosa revealed that a high-quality diet is linked to more potentially beneficial bacteria, while a low-quality diet is associated with an increase in potentially harmful bacteria.
Researchers show that the composition of human skin microbiome can be modulated
Scientists at UPF and the company S-Biomedic have demonstrated the use of living bacteria to modulate skin microbiome composition.
Scent composition data reveal new insights into perfume success
Mathematical analysis of online perfume data shows how the unique scent combinations found in different perfumes contribute to product popularity and consumer ratings.
Scientists dissolve crude oil in water to study its composition
Researchers from MIPT, Skoltech, the Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Lomonosov Moscow State University have offered a new approach to oil composition analysis.
Body composition shown to affect energy spent standing versus sitting
A person's body composition could influence the difference between the amount of energy they spend while sitting versus standing, according to new research published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
How to generate a brain of correct size and composition
To build the neocortex, a brain area involved in higher cognitive functions, stem cells produce billions of neurons of various types.
Improved PCOS symptoms correlate with gut bacterial composition
Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) improved with exposure to healthy bacteria in the gut, according to a study in a mouse model of this common women's endocrine disorder.
More Chemical Composition News and Chemical Composition Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.