President’s Spotlight—May 2020

Source: Jeri D. Ropero-Miller, PhD, AAFS President

I can’t believe we are already in May and it seems like we were enjoying the February meeting just yesterday. It was a productive meeting and I was able to share my agenda with hundreds of members at the business meeting through my presidential address. I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts and vision for this year more broadly. While we were aware of COVID-19 during our meeting, none of us were prepared for its impact on our lives—personally and professionally—and what may be the ‘new normal.’ I, like most, marvel at how something so devastating has compelled us to join in the mantra of “we are all in this together” to be strongly united in perseverance and doing all we need to do for global wellness.

My agenda for the 2020-221 Presidency is busy moving with leaps and bounds. My chosen theme, “One Academy Pursuing Justice Through Truth in Evidence” is foundational and at the grassroots of the Academy mission. As Academy members and supporters, we believe in the mission and pursue it passionately with our daily work and identity. Research, education, and training; promising and best practices; forensic standards; information sharing; advancement of the sciences through global alliances; and finally, serving our membership, public health, and safety communities, including the justice system—ALL factor into our work, this shared agenda and our efforts.

We will have change this year. Anne Warren, a great woman who has led the Academy’s progress for 35 years will be retiring as Executive Director in a few short weeks. We will truly miss her and wish her all the best. Thank you, Anne, for your many years of leadership. You have made the Academy strong and we are ready to welcome our next Executive Director very soon.

This Academy year is already bustling with efforts including strategic planning, an executive director search, Academy Standards Board sustainability, digitization, and with the greatest priority, identifying the diverse needs of our multidisciplinary membership.

I’d like to take a few minutes to identify example efforts for some of the named thematic responsibilities that we as forensic science professionals have to work together to address.

Research, Education and Training: Our nearly 6,500 members contribute individually, within their agencies and organizations, and as the Academy, to research and education, which are the underpinnings of our advancements. Specific Academy efforts that continuously support Research, Education and Training include our annual meetings, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB), the Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center (HHRRC), the Journal of Forensic Sciences (JFS), and the research scholarships given through the Forensic Sciences Foundation (FSF). To augment this, at this year’s meeting we launched AAFS Connect, digitizing portions of this meeting, including six workshops, which are now available online for interested parties to attend. A great deal of science is shared in our annual meeting and we want to extend this information ‘beyond the borders’ of our traditional onsite venue. Click HERE for more information on AAFS Connect.

Promising and Best Practices: Forensic sciences will continue to have challenges. It is important that we work as a community to develop standards and promising and best practices. Challenges such as limited funding and support of research; building our professional pipeline and workforce resiliency; and informing public policy impact fundamental needs of resources, research, technological advancements, education/training, and communications. We must learn for ourselves and ‘pay it forward’ by taking the time to share with our communities for the greatest continuous improvement possible.

Advancement of the Science through Global Alliances: This year our International Education and Outreach Program (IEOP) planned to have a delegation traveling to Vietnam in the Fall. We were hoping for the first time, to plan and include a Regional AAFS Symposium. While COVID-19 still holds the destiny of the IEOP as an unknown, we are still looking at possibility for the future date which will most likely be in 2021.

Membership Stewardship: Everything the Academy does stems from serving its membership. It has been quite some time since we have reached out in a formalized and Academy-wide effort to learn about your needs and vision for the Academy. This year we will ask each of you to complete our Membership Survey which is planned for release in June. Your feedback and responses are vital to serving this vast membership. Embracing our young professionals, international collegues, and newest attendees and members with diversity and inclusion will also be key. As stewards of your own membership, I encourage you to get involved—participate on committees, submit workshops, scientific abstracts, and publish.

Serving public health and safety communities, including the justice systems, is what we do!

Thank you for your support and belief in me as your President, and I am joining you in moving the Academy vision forward through a challenging, yet productive year!