President’s Message – July 2017


Source: Betty Layne DesPortes, JD, MS, 2017-18 President

As President of the Academy, I have had the honor of talking to a wide variety of audiences about forensic science and the mission of the Academy. I often describe the greatest strengths of the Academy as the extensive knowledge base of our members and their level of commitment to advancing forensic science.

I would like to highlight several opportunities currently available for members to become involved in Academy activities. These activities range from the more time-intensive standards development work and education program accreditation to a brief survey giving your opinion on an issue of national importance and meeting volunteer opportunities. Get involved, share your knowledge, and accumulate the good karma that comes with volunteer work while helping the Academy and your fellow forensic scientists.

Academy Standards Board (ASB):

The ASB is seeking to fill openings in specific interest categories in the consensus bodies. Information on current openings is available on our website (select “Academy Standards Board (ASB)” at the top of the webpage) and applications will be accepted until September 1. New consensus bodies are created throughout the year and the ASB annually reviews membership rosters on the active consensus bodies, so check the webpage often to see if new openings occur in your areas of interest.

Participation opportunities are also available for international standards development work. The ASB is a member of the United States Technical Advisory Group (TAG), which responds to and comments on international forensic standards under development through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). To provide a robust response to draft ISO documents, the ASB needs AAFS members to provide comments and edits. The number of documents involved is relatively small, so participating in the response effort is not cumbersome. If you are willing to participate in this effort, please contact ASB staff (contact information is available on the website). You will be contacted when documents are submitted for comment. This is one way for membership to share our wealth of knowledge, perspective, and expertise.

The ASB also needs your help to publicize the standards. Standardization of measurements, best practices, materials and testing, protocols, and other aspects of forensics work will aid in the reliability and reproducibility of all aspects of forensic science. However, law enforcement communities, government agencies, legal professionals, and others need to know that standards are under development and will soon be available. One of the best things AAFS members can do is to promote the adoption and use of ANSI/ASB standards as they become available. Spread the word to fellow colleagues; share the AAFS webpage that leads them to the ASB standards work, and let them know that ASB staff is more than willing to answer any questions they have. Additionally, if you have ideas of groups or organizations that would be interested in hearing about the standards work, contact Mary McKiel, the ASB Communications Liaison at mmac684@gmail.com. Increasing awareness of the work of the ASB will ensure the standards are implemented and will help us continue to strengthen forensic science.

Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC):

FEPAC is seeking applicants for three Commissioner positions (two Academics; one Practitioner) that will be available in February 2018. Applicants must be AAFS Members or Fellows. We are seeking faculty members or administrators at a college or university that offers a FEPAC-accredited forensic science program for the Academic position. Practitioner applicants should have one or more of the following:

  • forensic lab management experience or supervisory experience in a large lab and/or in a longstanding capacity;
  • membership in ASCLD;
  • experience as a FEPAC assessor;
  • service in other capacities to AAFS and/or other forensic organizations;
  • involvement in hiring decisions in a forensic lab; and,
  • involvement in training of new hires in a forensic lab.

Interested candidates should submit a letter of intent with a current curriculum vita by August 14, 2017, to Nancy J. Jackson, Director of Accreditation, at njackson@aafs.org.

Synthetic Opioid Ad Hoc Committee:

On July 17, 2017, an email blast went out to the membership concerning a proposed position statement submitted to the Board from the Synthetic Opioid Ad Hoc Committee. The proposed statement and a supporting report of the Committee are available in the member Account Portal (select “View All Documents,” then, under “AAFS Documents,” select “Academy members,” then “View Synthetic Opioid Report”). A link to a survey to provide input on the statement is embedded within the email, the Committee report, and here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SYNOPIOID. Please complete the survey by July 31, 2017. After reviewing membership input, the Board will vote on the proposed position statement.

The statement concerns a workplace safety guideline advocating for first responders and forensic service providers to have access to naloxone at the worksite as an antidote for inadvertent opioid exposure. The provision of an opioid antidote has become an issue of significance in the forensic science community as a result of the recent and widespread emergence of highly potent synthetic opioids. These synthetic opioids present a new and enhanced risk to the health and safety of forensic personnel and first responders at the worksite, particularly personnel handling evidence and performing examinations in the areas of death investigation, seized drug analysis, and toxicology. The report provides the background and potential risks associated with this workplace safety issue. The proposed position statement advocates for access to the antidote and raises considerations for implementing workplace safety guidelines addressing the issue. Elizabeth Gormley (M-Crim) and Robert Kirkby performed a tremendous amount of work drafting the report and statement and Adrian Krawczeniuk (F-Crim) made substantial contributions to the final product.

The Committee is also addressing other issues concerning synthetic opioids, including storage requirements, analytical tool kits, best practices for analytical challenges, education and outreach, medicolegal issues, and response infrastructure assessments. If you have any experience with these issues, please contact the Committee chairs or any committee members from your section. Committee contact information is available on our website (under “About AAFS,” select “Committees,” then “Presidential Ad Hoc: Synthetic Opioid”). The Committee is also interested in hearing from you if you have concerns regarding the opioid situation and topics you feel need to be addressed by the forensic science community.

Meeting Volunteers:

We need volunteers for the 2018 Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA. We need volunteers for an array of administrative and gatekeeping tasks throughout the week of the meeting (February 19-24, 2018). Volunteers who are not members of the Academy may receive complimentary registration to attend all non-ticketed sessions of the meeting with a minimum of eight hours of volunteer service. Inactive members and student affiliates are also eligible to receive complimentary registration for volunteer service. Other members are not eligible for complimentary registration, but you will receive our undying gratitude and a big smile. It is a great way to interact with meeting attendees and to help make the annual meeting a success. The volunteer form and submission instructions are available here: https://news.aafs.org/aafs-news/volunteers-needed-for-the-2018-aafs-annual-scientific-meeting/.

The Young Forensic Scientists Forum (YFSF) is also seeking qualified volunteers to review resumes during their Breakfast Session. This is a great opportunity to provide the young forensic scientists (students, near-graduates, or recent employees) with practical information and perspective. For more information, contact Alex Krotulski at alex.krotulski@frfoundation.org.