Research Topic

The Dialogue Between Forensic Scientists, Statisticians and Lawyers about Complex Scientific Issues for Court

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Since DNA analysis became part of forensic science in the mid-1980s, its impact on investigation of crime and at court has been immense. In a few years the technique became the gold standard for evaluative evidence, overtaking some other evidence types, and replacing others completely. Part of this impact was ...

Since DNA analysis became part of forensic science in the mid-1980s, its impact on investigation of crime and at court has been immense. In a few years the technique became the gold standard for evaluative evidence, overtaking some other evidence types, and replacing others completely. Part of this impact was due to formal statistical calculations, replacing subjective opinions, on the weight of evidence provided for the prosecution and defence views.

The technology has improved quickly with ever more sensitive tests being introduced; the statistical interpretation of increasingly complex DNA results has not been as swift. The absence of a forum for inter-disciplinary discussion between developers and end users has led to methods being developed by statisticians, with little input from the working forensic scientists. It is forensic scientists who will be using the software, and typically have little opportunity to discuss with lawyers the data impact and presentation for non-scientific audiences such as Judges, magistrates and juries.

There is a danger for courts in these interpretations — which are produced by a black box — where the reporting forensic scientist has little input and less understanding. It is time for a dialog between the scientists producing the DNA results, the statisticians developing the calculation methods and software and, the lawyers who present the findings to the court.

Update (30th August 2016): We welcome Dr Biedermann, who joins as co-Topic Editor on this date


Keywords: Criminal jurisprudence, Expert evidence, Daubert, Frye, DNA Likelihood Ratios, DNA evidence, DNA interpretation


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