Source: Betty Layne DesPortes, JD, MS, 2017-18 President
Scientific evidence is a powerful tool in the search for the truth and the pursuit of justice. As forensic scientists, we have a duty to ensure our results and opinions are valid and reliable. Standards and best practice guidelines provide the foundation for our work and allow others to assess the value of our conclusions. Standards are necessary to assure the courts and the public of high-quality results. Through the work of the AAFS Standards Board and the efforts of individual members, AAFS is committed to developing and implementing voluntary consensus standards, best practices, and guidelines for the forensic science community. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been an important partner in promoting standardization through the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC). AAFS members have volunteered both their time and expertise to populate the subcommittees of the OSAC since its formation and have been crucial to the successful endeavors to improve the standardization of forensic science.
NIST recently announced it is soliciting input on the future of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees, which it has dubbed “OSAC 2.0.” A link to the announcement is here: https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2017/08/nist-seeks-input-osac-20.
The NIST Request for Information (RFI) includes four concepts for OSAC 2.0 developed by NIST in order to delineate a range of possible changes to the organization. The four concepts envision different management structures, funding models, and work products. These concepts, which are offered to generate ideas and input, are not meant to be exhaustive. Respondents may also submit ideas that fall outside the four concepts or that more closely resemble the current organizational structure. The RFI notes that NIST is open to maintaining elements of the current OSAC structure, modifying the structure, and considering substantially different structures, including the four examples offered. A link to the RFI is here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/08/30/2017-18355/request-for-information-on-the-development-of-the-organization-of-scientific-area-committees-osac.
The AAFS Board of Directors decided to submit a general statement of strong support for the work of OSAC (Statement of the AAFS Board of Directors), but declined to take a position on the appropriate structure for OSAC 2.0. The Board believes the individual voices of the membership should be heard on this issue. The path to the best-use OSAC leadership for the development and implementation of standards will be heard through the input of our diverse membership.
Your input is essential. Please review the four concepts and decide how OSAC can best strengthen forensic science relative to your discipline and in general. Feel free to note your AAFS membership status in your submission so we can demonstrate how important the issue of standards, and the future of OSAC, is to our organization. To submit responses, follow the link to the RFI and select “Submit a Formal Comment.” The deadline for submitting responses is October 30, 2017.
A Final Note About the Weather-Related Disasters
This summer has been a period of great distress for many of our colleagues and their families who were in the paths of either Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma, and for those who are currently facing Hurricane Maria. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them. We are all deeply saddened by the loss of life and property wrought by these storms. We have asked people to support the disaster relief efforts of American Red Cross, but there are many organizations providing disaster relief in these areas, so feel free to donate to any organization providing assistance. If AAFS learns of additional ways in which we can donate specifically to assist the forensic science community in those areas, we will add that information to the News Feed.