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Source: Iain A. Pretty, DDS, PhD, Section Chair
As we begin looking towards fall, Adam Freeman has been busy organizing the scientific program for the 2016 annual meeting in Las Vegas. I am sure it will be a great collection of research, case reports, and thought-provoking presentations. There is no doubt that the scientific program is a great way to get up-to-speed on the latest research findings in our discipline and in those disciplines of our forensic colleagues. Science and research must underpin all of what we do – both in our clinical practice and also in our forensic casework.
However, research cannot simply be taken at face value – we must critically appraise it and, just like a jury in a trial, apply appropriate weight to it. While there are many reputable journals, not least the Academy’s own Journal of Forensic Sciences, there are increasing numbers of so-called “predatory publishers” journals with a “pay-to-publish” business model. Such publishers are categorized by having poor or non-existent peer review, hundreds of titles, often with only a few articles in each. Jeffrey Beall, an academic from the University of Colorado Denver, maintains a list of these journals and an internet search will provide you with a wealth of information on such publishers.
The presence of such journals in the academic space is yet another complication as we aim to become effective consumers of forensic science literature. The abundance of research, the need for effective searching, appraisal, and reviewing of the evidence is time consuming and often beyond the resources of a single individual. Forensic scientists have an additional complication – that of the law. Our science is not only practiced in laboratories and mortuaries but also in the courts, so we need not only be aware of the science, but also its acceptability within the legal system. Yet this burden is no justification for practitioners to be unaware of the current state of the science in relation to their casework. The Academy’s mission includes the promotion of education, competency, and foster research to improve practice. I believe that the Odontology Section has an obligation to assist the membership in the review, appraisal, and assessment of the scientific basis for forensic dental practice.
As such, and in the spirit of President Weedn’s request for our sections to be proactive within their disciplines, I am convening a new permanent committee within the Odontology Section: the Science and Legal Review Committee. This committee will be charged with the development of a series of robust, systematic reviews of the state of the scientific and legal issues in each area of our forensic practice. These will be dynamic documents that will be updated regularly. The committee will have its first meeting in Las Vegas, but in advance of this, I would like to invite members who are interested in contributing to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). We need a broad mixture of experience from both legal and scientific backgrounds and also within our scope of practice. I will also reach out to other disciplines where this is appropriate. I do hope this new committee, with a task-and-finish approach, will be further evidence that the Odontology Section is proactive, evidence based, and keen to serve justice through the application of science.