The AAFS Academy Standards Board in Full Swing

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Source: Mary McKiel, PhD

In less than a year, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) standards developing organization, the Academy Standards Board (ASB), has established 13 consensus bodies with more than 27 standards projects underway. Seven documents are already at the working draft stage and include best practice recommendations for such areas as Mass Fatality Data Management, Mass Fatality Scene Processing, Planning DNA Sampling Collection and Analysis for the Identification Process in Mass Fatality Incidents, and others.

Brad Wing, Secretariat for the ASB, believes there could be as many as three completed standards by the end of 2017.  This is good news for the purposes of the forensics-focused Organization of Scientific Areas Committee (OSAC) for Forensic Science and for the forensic community as a whole.

Lucy Davis, chair of the ASB Board of Directors, addressed the assembly of AAFS members at the 2017 Annual Business Meeting in New Orleans and applauded the excellent progress that the ASB has made in such a short time. She added that with 12 people from various countries included in the mix, ASB has a true international perspective.

The work of the ASB consensus bodies coincides with the scientific areas of the OSAC committees administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  ASB Consensus bodies are limited to no more than 25 voting members and must be balanced so that no single interest group can dominate.  The ASB board reviews membership applications to ensure balance and to secure needed expertise. Membership on the current consensus bodies includes experts, users, government representatives, laboratories, academia, law enforcement, and lawyers. All of the meetings are held online and observers are welcome, but cannot vote.

That does not mean, however, that the ability to provide input is necessarily limited. Under the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) rules of accreditation, consensus bodies can divide work among Work Groups (WG), which do not have to consist of only members of a consensus body. In other words, all interested and affected parties have the opportunity to contribute.

Furthermore, and of key importance, the public can provide comments on a draft standard or technical report during the required public comment period. Through ANSI’s online Standards Action, as well as by notification on the AAFS-ASB website, ASB alerts and welcomes comments from the public. Consensus body members, board members and others are also free to announce the public comment period for a draft document on their own organizational websites. Maintaining the openness of the ASB process is both vital to the endurance of the work and a mandated element of accreditation.

NOTE: All ASB projects are listed on the ASB website.  ASB welcomes active participation and encourages those who are interested to apply online.