AAFS President’s Message March 2017


A22U2434 copy1One month into my term as your President, I am even more thankful to Immediate Past President John Gerns for his leadership and mentorship.  Without John’s diligent planning, the New Orleans meeting would not have been a success in his absence.  Without his transparency about the issues and decisions he faced during his tenure, the smooth transition in leadership would not have been possible. I am forever in his debt and cannot wait to share the Seattle meeting with him. For those of you who were not able to attend the New Orleans meeting and sign the memory book for John, please send him your thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery (email: gernsj@t-online.de).

The theme for the Seattle meeting is “Science Matters,” and we will be focusing on broadening our horizons. We will address three broad goals throughout the year: research, diversity, and communication.

Research: By emphasizing the mechanics of research, including funding, best practices, and collaboration, we can promote the integration of forensic science research into the broader scientific community.

Diversity: We will promote diversity in all forms, including diversity of people, places, backgrounds, and ideas. Our goal is to ensure that everyone feels welcome and empowered by the Academy.

Communication: Forensic science is well known, but is not well understood.  Instead of the public image of forensic science based on TV shows or other fictionalized portrayals, we want to showcase what we actually do in forensic science.  Promoting our work will ensure the justice system better understands science-based evidence and the fact that science is a process of endless inquiry.

Three efforts sponsored by the Academy reflect our commitment to these goals: the Forensic Sciences Foundation (FSF), the Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center (HHRRC), and the Academy Standards Board (ASB).  All three activities promote research, diversity, and communication through their work.  Each entity directly impacts different areas (FSF: education; HHRRC: international groups; ASB: practitioners) and improves the overall forensic science community through promotion of scientific rigor, collaboration, and community involvement.  Their work improves not only the forensic science community, but also the larger community – national and international.  I intend to highlight the great efforts of each of these groups throughout the year.

The Board of Directors has already implemented one change to help the Academy broaden its horizons.  We created the Diversity Outreach Committee to promote diversity in the Academy and the forensic science community by nurturing a culture that is welcoming and supportive and by engaging diverse ideas for the provision of culturally competent education, research, and expertise in the legal system. Nikolas Lemos (nikolas.lemos@ucsf.edu) has been appointed Chair of the Committee and he has selected committee members to further these objectives.  Please let Nik know if you have any ideas for the committee, including other groups or meetings where we can collaborate and encourage membership in the Academy.

I encourage all affiliates and members to get involved in the Academy through committee involvement.  Review the list of committees on the website (https://www.aafs.org/about-aafs/aafs-commitees/) and volunteer to assist the committees in which you have an interest.  Committees do not succeed solely through the work of appointed members; they need support from other Academy members to provide ideas, ways to implement goals, and staffing for subcommittees or events.  This is your Academy; help us make it work for you.

Betty Layne DesPortes, JD, MS

AAFS President 2017-2018