NCFS Committee Report


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.

Source: Dean M. Gialamas, MS, AAFS NCFS Committee Chair

The National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS) was established in February 2013 to make policy recommendations to the U.S. Attorney General. Although, the NCFS is in its infancy regarding issuing formal recommendations, it appears poised to do so with great frequency. Current discussions of the NCFS and likely recommendations will have a substantial impact on the forensic sciences community. The AAFS NCFS ad hoc Committee was created to:

  • monitor the discussions, activities, and recommendations of the NCFS.
  • submit articles to the AAFS Academy News.
  • make recommendations to the AAFS Executive Committee in response to potential implications of anticipated or actual recommendations of the NCFS.
 deliberate issues pertinent to the activities of the NCFS, when asked by the AAFS President.

The NCFS Ad Hoc Committee members are:

  • Dean Gialamas, Chair (Criminalistics) – also serves as an appointed commission member of the National Commission on Forensic Science;
  • Joanna Collins (General);
  • Stephanie Domitrovich (Jurisprudence);
  • C. Upshaw Downs (Pathology/Biology);
  • David Green (Criminalistics);
  • Patricia Manzolillo (Questioned Documents) – also serves as an ex officio member of the National Commission on Forensic Science; and,
  • Thomas Vastrick (Questioned Documents).

Being that this is a new committee, we will have to “build our plane in flight.” However, with the National Commission on Forensic Science (herein referred to as “the Commission”) poised to introduce several documents for vote over the next few meetings, this committee will allow the Academy to evaluate the Commission work products and recommendations as well as allow the Academy to have an official voice in the process with comments and feedback to the Commission via the public comment process.

Since the inaugural meeting of the Commission in February 2014, there have been five Commission meetings to date. Some of the major activity on the Commission has surrounded activity on seven subcommittees. The subcommittees include:

  • Accreditation and Proficiency Testing – will consider the role of accreditation and proficiency test programs as part of a quality management system and explore issues such as consistency of existing standards, application to technological innovations, and challenges associated with implementation.
  • Interim Solutions – will develop near-term recommendations that are consistent with fundamental forensic science examination, scientific practice, and quality management principles which may include defining terminology, automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) recommendations, a national code of ethics, root cause analysis, and transparency of quality records.
  • Medicolegal Death Investigation – will examine ways to enhance services being provided by this array of practitioners and develop solutions that ensure that our nation is provided the highest quality services related to the determination of cause and manner of death.
  • Reporting and Testimony – will consider ways to address current inconsistencies and insufficiencies and to enhance adequacy, accuracy, 
and uniformity in such reports and testimony, as well as in the underlying documentation and processes.
  • Scientific Inquiry and Research – will consider ways to examine existing foundational research and recommend research priorities for technological investments that can improve the quality and timeliness of forensic analyses.
  • Training on Science and Law – will explore mechanisms for judges, lawyers, and forensic scientists to engage in collaborative training to ensure that legal professionals understand the probative value and limitations of forensic science and forensic practitioners understand legal procedure and issues associated with the presentation of scientific evidence in court.
  • Human Factors – will explore ways in which human performance (e.g., the judgments of experts) can be influenced by cognitive, perceptual, organizational, social and cultural factors, and other human tendencies.

Each subcommittee has been requested to provide a work product suitable for vote at each commission meeting and several will be introduced at the next Commission meeting to be held in Washington, DC (April 30-May 1). To stay up to date on the activities and work products of the Commission, members are encouraged to visit www.justice.gov/ncfs.