President’s Message – November 2015

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

Gearing up to become a Standards Development Organization (SDO) is dominating the myriad of activities of the Academy, but appropriately so. Standards-setting is a dominant activity in the forensic sciences community and the Academy has the strength and depth to step into a critical supportive role of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC). I recently sent out an email blast that announced that we, the Academy, have submitted our application to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to become an ANSI Standards Developer (ASD) — meeting our deadline set in our agreement with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), which has funded this effort through the first four years (~$400K/yr.). Our proposed procedures were submitted as part of the application, but changes are still possible. I have asked for input from all sections on these procedures, but received little input. We are in the process of hiring staff to run the operation. The Board of Directors voted to create this operation as a wholly-owned subsidiary corporation. The corporation will be called the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Standards Board, LLC and will include the Academy Standards Board (ASB) and multiple Consensus Bodies (CBs), which will create the standards. The CBs will have 7 to 25 members selected by the ASB from nominations from a roster of various professional associations in specific “interest categories” (user/government; user/industry; producers; independent laboratories or testing facilities; consumer groups; academia; and general interest). Proposed standards must attain a two-thirds supermajority for passage. The SDO Committee has developed a Frequently Asked Questions document and will be writing articles for the AAFS News Feed. They are also working on a public workshop on this SDO effort to be presented Tuesday evening at the annual meeting.

I encourage everyone to visit our website and, in particular, to view the AAFS News Feed, It not only contains the articles of the newsletter, but other articles as well and is intended to become the main mode of communication going forward. In fact, you can submit an article to the membership. See how to do this at the AAFS News Feed Guide: or via the AAFS News Feed Video:

In devoting my September message exclusively to the SDO effort, I failed to mention the International Educational Outreach Program to Croatia. The program was, by all accounts, fantastic! Dragan Primorac deserves great credit for making it so, as he and his colleagues put together a high-powered agenda, culminating in a meeting with the President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, and also the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Society of Applied Biological Sciences (ISABS). Unfortunately, I was unable to lead the delegation due to an eye infection. President-Elect John Gerns and Moses Schanfield ably filled in for me; I deeply appreciate their help.

In these newsletters, including this one, we have included a “Policy Page” which describes the efforts of the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations (CFSO), the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS), and the OSAC. It is very clear that collectively they represent a new and transformative policy landscape and the entry of a more regulatory environment. I urge everyone to pay attention to these various efforts and to comment if you have something important to say. All of these efforts give an opportunity for public comment.

The upcoming 68th Annual Scientific Meeting will be here before we know it. As a reminder, it will be in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, February 22-27, 2016. I know that Andrew Baker, Julie Howe, and the 2016 Annual Meeting Program Committee are hard at work to bring you the quality meeting that you have come to expect. Both the Plenary and Interdisciplinary Sessions will include topics that are relevant to the current forensic activities. The Interdisciplinary Session will highlight innovative and emerging technologies and best practices for all stakeholders. The Plenary Session includes representatives from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS), and international guests who will discuss the development and implementation of standards, accreditation, and certification. More on our annual meeting can be found elsewhere in this newsletter.