President’s Message – June 2017

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

Forensic science is a field with no borders, and it is a field that provides a vast platform for collaboration among scientists throughout the world. Meetings and conferences this spring and summer have highlighted these characteristics. The AAFS has been well represented at these meetings, but I encourage all of our members to attend an international conference to both experience our diversity and to build our professional connections. Future achievements in forensic science may originate from a conversation among colleagues at one of these international meetings that leads to collaborative research or even just a shared idea.

On May 23, 2017, I gave the inaugural presentation at the interFORENSICS meeting in Brasilia, Brazil.  The meeting was organized by the Brazilian Academy of Forensic Sciences (BAFS), the first Associate Academy recognized by AAFS, and featured ten conference tracks for more than 1,200 domestic and foreign attendees. Kyra Stull (Anthropology), first-place winner of the BAFS/AAFS/Fredric Rieders Family Foundation Young Forensic Scientist Scholarship that covered her expenses to travel to Brazil, presented her paper, Comparing Population-Specific Versus Universal Subadult Age Estimation Models Using Artificial Neural Networks. On May 25, 2017, Steven Benjamin (Jurisprudence) and I delivered a presentation concerning the intersection of science and the law and the ways defense attorneys use and confront scientific evidence. Past President Barry Logan (Toxicology) also made several presentations on forensic toxicology issues during the three-day conference. The meeting highlighted the commonality of forensic science issues in many different countries and promoted collaborative solutions that are possible in science.

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Steven Benjamin discussing how                                        BAFS Scholarship recipient Kyra Stull with         Henry Lee addressing attendees
defense attorneys use and confront                                                   AAFS Past President Barry Logan.         at the ISABS meeting.
scientific evidence at the interForensics


On June 19, 2017, President-Elect Susan Ballou spoke at the opening session of the 10th International Society for Applied Biological Sciences (ISABS) Conference on Forensic and Anthropologic Genetics and Mayo Clinic Lectures in Individualized Medicine in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Dragan Primorac, President of ISABS and chair of the AAFS International Affairs Committee, organized the conference and several AAFS members, including Moses Schanfield (Criminalistics), Henry Lee (Criminalistics), Past President John Gerns (General), and Past President Robert Barsley (Odontology), attended. The meeting commemorated the 20th anniversary of the conference series that was launched to bring international insights into genetic techniques in forensic science and clinical applications to practitioners in Croatia and the region. The ISABS is the second Associate Academy recognized by the AAFS.

The BAFS and ISABS programs highlight the collaborative nature of forensic science and the Academy’s efforts to foster relationships that improve the practice of forensic science. Our sponsorship of Associate Academies is an ongoing project that accommodates both new organizations, such as the BAFS, that are modeled on the AAFS structure, and existing organizations, such as the ISABS, that are seeking more opportunities and access for new forensic scientists. Recognizing our prominent leadership in forensic science, AAFS has actively sought to promote other professional associations to improve the access of forensic scientists to educational, research, and professional development possibilities around the world. Our 70 years of history and experience as an organization are a valuable resource for other organizations, and we seek opportunities to use that resource to advance forensic science nationally and internationally.

Similarly, AAFS’s participation in the International Association of Forensic Sciences (IAFS) has promoted collaboration, research opportunities, and access in the broader international forensic science community. On August 23-25, 2017, the 21st meeting of the IAFS will be hosted in Toronto, Ontario. AAFS Past President Doug Ubelaker (Anthropology) will receive the Douglas M. Lucas Medal for his outstanding contributions to forensic science. The registration deadline for the IAFS meeting is July 21, 2017. Travelers with a United States passport do not need visas and Toronto is a relatively short plane ride from much of the United States. The temperatures in Toronto in August are typically in the 70°F range during the day and the 50°F range at night. For residents in much of the United States, that will be a welcome break from the oppressive summer heat. I encourage everyone to attend the meeting to continue AAFS promotion of collaboration and to hopefully join in the conversation that sparks the idea leading to the next great achievement in forensic science.