Report: U.S. forensic science system direly needs to toned up

The United States’ forensic science system is gravely scattered and direly needs improvements – says a congress mandated report scripted by the nation’s premier scientific body. The National Academy of Sciences’ report, which is based on a broad study of forensic techniques, was released on Wednesday.

According to study, the nation’s forensic labs are not getting adequate funds; they lack in scientific basis; and consequently there are “critical delays in analyzing physical evidences”.

Funded by Congress, the study - "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward," articulates that the nation needs a new federal agency to govern these laboratories, standardize and tone up the forensic techniques and provide funds for researches.

The study was commenced in 2007 when Congress authorized the National Academy of Sciences to study forensic practices in the United States. The committee of the United States National Research Council, the working arm of the United States National Academy of Sciences, found that “the criminal and civil litigation rely on forensic science, but forensic science does not have adequate resources, talent, standards, and governance”.

The committee, in its study, counted a backlog of 359,000 requests for forensic analysis in 2005; a 24 % increase in delays since 2002. The study found that 80 percent of crime laboratories were understaffed. 

Commenting to the report, the Committee co-chair and senior circuit judge and chief judge emeritus of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Harry T. Edwards said, "The forensic science system in the United States has serious problems that can only be addressed by a national commitment to overhaul the current structure that supports the forensic science community.”

The report has called the Congress to set up a new federal agency, to be called the National Institute of Forensic Science or NIFS, to monitor and manage forensic science department in the United States. It has also made a dozen of other recommendations to strengthen forensic science labs. However, the report is not legally binding.