In stark contrast to their portrayal in TV shows like CSI, the National Academy of Sciences, in a recent report, describes the nation’s crime laboratories as “a system plagued by a paucity of good research, fragmentation, inconsistent practices, and weak governance.”
The report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, provides a detailed analysis of the challenges facing the forensic science community and makes numerous findings and recommendations for improving the practice of forensic sciences in the United States. Most notably, the report calls on Congress to create a new, independent federal entity: the National Institute of Forensic Science, which would provide a “strong, independent, strategic, coherent, and well-funded federal program to support and oversee the forensic science discipline.” The report was prepared by the Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Science Community at the National Academy of Sciences. Judge Harry T. Edwards, co-chair of the committee, last week, presented the report’s findings in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. See his prepared statement as well as the report’s executive summary for more information.