President’s Message – January 2016

Source:  Victor W. Weedn, MD, JD, 2015-16 AAFS President

The AAFS 68th Annual Scientific Meeting to be held in Las Vegas from February 22-27 is now right around the corner!! It is being held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, which is located a little way off the strip and is not too near other hotels. Also, be aware that McCarran Airport (LAS) is a busy airport. Despite the resort location, registrations have been brisk. I will remind you that my theme for the meeting is: “Transformation: Embracing Change.” As usual, we will have a fabulous line-up with workshops on Monday and Tuesday, the Plenary Session, the Annual Business Meeting and awards, and section business meetings on Wednesday, and Scientific Sessions on Thursday through Saturday noon for a few sections. The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) meetings are open to the public and will meet on Monday and Tuesday. The AAFS Welcoming Reception will be Tuesday evening and many Section Receptions will be Wednesday evening. For those of you who do not already know, the Bring Your Own Slides (BYOS) and the Last Word Society are particularly popular evening events (Wednesday and Thursday, respectively). The Tuesday morning Interdisciplinary Symposium will be a fascinating look into emerging technologies that will transform forensic science, and in the Plenary Session on Wednesday morning, we will hear from United States and global leaders on the forensic science initiatives that are transforming our landscape. Of course, there is so much more going on that I cannot begin to discuss all the sessions scheduled throughout the week.  On Sunday, February 21, prior to the meeting we will hold a Community Outreach at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum with various workstations from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and presentations in the Annex across the street thereafter—this would be a great family outing!

I am proud to announce that Bradford J. Wing has accepted the position of Secretariat for our newly created AAFS Standards Board. He comes to us with a wealth of experience in standards setting and has been active in the fingerprint and forensic dental standards arenas. He retired from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) where he was a Biometrics Standards Coordinator. At the NIST, Brad established and ran the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) -NIST Information Technology Laboratory (ITL) Standards Development Organization (NIST’s only SDO). He was also Chair of the Interagency Forum on Biometrics and Identity Management and Chair of the White House/National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC’s) Standards and Conformity Assessment Working Group on Biometrics and Identity Management. Previously, he had worked at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) (Department of Human Services (DHS) for 20 years and the Brookhaven National Laboratory for five years, as well as other government and private jobs. We intend to hire two Auditing Standards Board (ASB) Technical Coordinators to work under Brad.

We are responding to issues raised by ANSI to our application, as is usual for this process. We have waited to finalize our procedures and to file the incorporation papers until we are further into the ANSI approval process and give Brad and his staff a chance to provide their input. We hope to be fully functioning at the NIST OSAC meeting in January. You can learn more about our new AAFS SDO program in Las Vegas during the Tuesday Evening Session.

An important initiative, conceived by Past President Doug Ubelaker, this year’s AAFS Distinguished Fellow, and championed by the immediate Past President Dan Martell, is the creation of a Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center (HHRRC). The Academy contributed $50K and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) matched it.  Dr. Ubelaker established an advisory board and several committees and solicited grant proposals. We received many good proposals and awards are being made.

Incoming President John Gerns has selected New Zealand for his International Educational Outreach Program (IEOP), September 11-18, and articulating with the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society’s (ANZFSS) 23rd International Symposium on Forensic Sciences. You can learn more about the IEOP on Thursday afternoon (February 25) at 1:00 p.m. during the annual meeting.

This year we went green and you are reading this newsletter electronically. We are transitioning to the News Feed, which will be continually updated with news and events; however, the Board of Directors voted to continue the electronic newsletter on a quarterly basis for awhile longer before we drop it altogether. We hope that you will begin visiting the News Feed regularly and posting your own entries on it.

When I established my theme to be Transformation: Embracing Change, I had to gaze into a cloudy crystal ball. Of course, there were clues. Transforming the AAFS into a Standards Development Organization was not on my radar, but clearly the SDO effort will thrust our Academy into the operational and policy realm, well beyond our usual educational role. Recently, the NIST OSAC began to process standards. This year the NCFS did promulgate many recommendations and views, which will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on our community when they are put into place. The logjam that has characterized legislative efforts began to break, as the Rapid DNA Act bill was filed, Coverdell reauthorization and funding was being considered, and forensic science advancement legislation to create an Office of Forensic Science within DOJ is moving as well as another bill to create new research grant programs and place NIST OSAC funding on concrete footing. I cannot help but believe that 2015 will be recognized as an historic year for our community. As this will be my last Academy News entry during my presidency, I wish to say it has been a pleasure serving you. I want to thank the Board of Directors, the Section leadership, committee chairs and members, and the Academy staff for all of the hard work they have done. I want to particularly thank John Gerns, whom I relied on heavily as the President-Elect. The Academy is a strong organization that, I believe, serves our American forensic science community and our global forensic science community well. I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!!