Monday, July 18, 2016

NCFS to Ask NIST to Institute an Additional "Technical Merit" Review Mechanism for Some Types of OSAC Forensic Science Standards?

A subcommittee of the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS) has approved a draft Recommendation to the Attorney General on Technical Merit Evaluation of Forensic Science Methods and Practices. It is available for public comment until August 15, 2016.

It asks the Attorney General (to whom NCFS reports) to ask the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish a committee of "measurement scientists and statisticians" who would review the scientific literature and do whatever else is needed to establish the technical merit of test methods and practices used in forensic science disciplines. The document also asks OSAC (the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science that NIST established a few years ago) not to place standards for forensic science test methods and practices on its Registry of Approved Standards before their technical merit has been reviewed by such an "independent scientific body."

In full, the draft recommendations are as follows:
1. NIST should establish an in-house entity with the capacity to conduct independent scientific evaluations of the technical merit of test methods and practices used in forensic science disciplines.

2. The results of the evaluations will be issued by NIST as publicly available resource documents. NIST’s evaluation may include but is not limited to: a) research performed by other agencies and laboratories, b) its own intramural research program, or c) research studies documented in already published scientific literature. NIST should initially begin its work by piloting three resource documents to establish their design and requirements. The release of these documents should be broadly disseminated in the scientific and criminal justice communities and accompanied by judicial trainings.

3. The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) leadership, the Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB), should commit to placing consensus documentary standards on the OSAC Registry of Approved Standards for only those forensic science test methods and practices where technical merit has been established by NIST, or in the interim, established by an independent scientific body. An example of an interim independent scientific body could be an OSAC created Technical Merit Resource Committee composed of measurement scientists and statisticians appointed by NIST and tasked with the evaluation of technical merit.
The surrounding explanation can be found at . Presumably, the Commission will discuss the recommendation at its September 12-13 meeting at, appropriately enough, NIST's campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland.


  1. This is a blanket condemnation of NIST and OSAC whose members should have made such a decision in 2013; a decision a high school general science student could have made. None of their involved members should be members of the new group.

    1. I am not sure what this means. The general membership of OSAC did not establish the decision-making process. As I understand it, NIST created an entity with many committees to be governed by a much smaller Forensic Science Standards Board. The board contains almost no "measurement scientists (metrologists?) and statisticians" who could be on an interim "Technical Merit Resource Committee."