Challenges in Forensic Science Sector

The role of forensic laboratories is changing speedily. Forensic laboratories are able to investigate various types of evidences, and to gather and extract more information from minuscule traces. According to cases and different types of evidences its criteria of research and developments is increasing rapidly.

ROLE OF FORENSIC SCIENCE

The role of forensic science is changing for sake of justice. Whereas previously, it was cast in a supporting role, it is now poised to become a leader in a wide range of investigations, providing fast and reliable information on cases and suspects and also direct investigators so that they do not destroy evidence carelessly. In the present day forensics is no longer just a name, but it is also changing into a profession, in which the individual’s personal experience and expertise play a major role, where skilled person have complex basic knowledge of empirical science and cutting-edge technical knowledge is integrated into the framework.

Backlogs

📌 Taking advantage of these developments to achieve the full potential of the forensic sector will naturally require some adjustment.

📌 Despite the sector’s rapid growth in recent years, its structure remains largely unchanged.

📌 Most of these laboratories are primarily production units that lack sufficient mass or funding to conduct research, or to develop innovative products and services.

📌 This lack of critical mass creates major organizational vulnerabilities, which are in part responsible for the backlogs.

Greater Awareness Of The Value, Efficiency And Potential Of Forensics

▫️The use of forensic investigations has increased not only due to the advent of new technologies but also due to an increased awareness of what forensics has to offer.

▫️Existing and potential end-users, the press and the public are all more aware today of the extent of forensic capabilities. This in turn, is generating an increasing demand.

▫️Forensic investigation is gradually assuming a more central and high-profile role, and is becoming an essential tool for law enforcement, homeland defense, and others entrusted with maintaining justice, social order and security.

▫️Increasingly, court cases depend on DNA evidence, security and terrorism threats are being prevented on the basis of digital traces, and a wide variety of investigators are taking an interest in what forensics has to offer them.

Demands

🔹️Forensic laboratories supply their customers with “value-added” information—specifically, about past events and behaviors, as well as about the individuals involved in these events.

🔹️This information is obtained from the traces that resulted from these events and behaviors.

🔹️All customers want the supplier laboratory to provide as much relevant information from available traces as possible, and they want the information to be reliable and objective.

🔹️They do not want the information to depend on the particular forensic investigator handling the case; and, if necessary, they want the forensic investigators to be able to show a solid scientific basis for their conclusions.

More Valuable Information By Forensics

▪️Forensic laboratories can increase the value of the information they provide in at least three ways.

▪️The first is by increasing reliability by strengthening objectivity and scientific underpinning.

▪️The second is by providing more information at “activity” level, i.e., information that reveals how traces fit together in larger patterns of crime related activity.

▪️Finally, laboratories can enhance the information they offer by developing tools and methods that bring to light traces that have hitherto been unavailable because they are imperceptible to the human senses.

Shortening Delivery Times of Conclusions

Quick delivery is one of the most important needs that customers of forensic laboratories articulate. In fact, as forensic investigations are increasingly becoming “mission critical” to customers, forensic laboratories have to reconcile themselves to the fact that customers if given the choice would like the results immediately. This does not mean that customers in all circumstances need the results immediately, or that they are always in a position to act on the information the moment it is provided. However, regardless of how fast investigators are able to act on the laboratory’s results, it is a laudable goal for forensic laboratories to reduce the odds of being the choke point in the critical path of criminal investigations.

Need Of Larger Space and Faculty

🔸️ If the forensic laboratory could service a much larger geographical area and a larger number of customers, then the caseload at a certain point would become sufficient to support a staff with critical mass.

🔸️ If there are 10 or 20 qualified forensic examiners in the discipline in question, for instance, one or two of them could be freed up to conduct research full-time.

🔸️ Furthermore, a larger staff has much more flexibility to deal with setbacks such as illness.

🔸️ In short, the current fragmentation of the forensics sector, with its many, relatively small, laboratories, is not conducive to R&D, and gives rise to problems relating to flexibility and continuity.

Training And Education

▪️ As mentioned above, forensic investigations are becoming increasingly important and “mission critical” to customers.

▪️ At the same time, forensic science and technology are becoming more complicated and difficult to understand for the layman.

▪️ This constitutes one of the fundamental challenges of the field.

▪️ For almost everyone, a suspect’s confession is much easier to understand than, for example, the evidential value of a complex chemical analysis.

▪️ Furthermore, using forensic investigations correctly, in a non-biased way, and interpreting results as intended, is not as easy as it may seem.

▪️ This applies not only to forensic investigators, but even more so to the users of forensic information.

Forensic Products and Tools

▪️ This type of work often leads to specialized high-end products and tools, because examiners need them to do their cases.

▪️ This may take the form of both hardware and software.

▪️ Subsequently, such products and tools can be made available to the forensic community at large, to beneficial effect.

▪️ However, the benefit goes beyond the immediate use of the product or tool.

▪️ If many integrated forensic institutes around the world were to do the same, this would create a whole new dynamic in the field.Conversely, if innovative products and tools that require large investments in R&D were distributed free of charge, this would only mean that funds to fuel the innovation engine would become depleted, stopping further innovation in its tracks.

▪️ Laboratories that do not invest in R&D would benefit from the investments of others, who would subsequently become starved of funds themselves.

▪️ Clearly, that is not a sustainable model for innovation, and it would perpetuate the situation in which most forensic laboratories are mere production units.

POTENTIAL AND CHALLENGES

🔸️ Forensic science is clearly at an important stage in its development.

🔸️ New advances in technology have placed forensics in an accelerating cycle of growth, as a wider range of parties than ever before comes to realize just how useful forensics can be for their own purposes.

🔸️ But this popularity— gratifying as it may be—nonetheless brings its own challenges, as laboratories become bogged down in work and customers become more demanding.

🔸️ The sector will need to resolve if it is to meet the demands of society: understanding what customers need, increasing the value of the information we provide to them, and generally accelerating our operations.

🔸️ More profoundly, however, we will need to undergo a shift in mindset and governance.

🔸️ It is equally certain that the sector can only succeed if it takes up the challenge and makes fundamental changes where necessary.

🔸️ The forensic sector has great potential, but it will certainly find itself challenged to live up to the high expectations that customers and society have of it.

Authored by:

Neelima Seth (Forensic Enthusiast)

References

▪️ Trends, Challenges and Strategy in the Forensic Science Sector by Dr. T.B.P.M. Tjin-A-Tsoi

▪️ Contemporary issues in forensic science—Worldwide survey results by Melissa Airlie, James Robertson, Matt N. Krosch, Elizabeth Brooks

▪️ Forensic Science Education in India: Challenges
and Opportunities by Deepika Bhandari

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