Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1755722
 
 

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The Need for a Research Culture in the Forensic Sciences


Jennifer Mnookin


University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Simon A. Cole


University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Itiel Dror


University College London (UCL)

Barry A. J. Fisher


Independent

Max Houk


West Virginia University - College of Business & Economics

Keith Inman


California State University, East Bay

David H. Kaye


The Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law

Jonathan J. Koehler


Northwestern University - School of Law

Glenn Langenburg


Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

D. Michael Risinger


Seton Hall University School of Law

Norah Rudin


Independent

Jay Siegel


Indiana University; Purdue University

David A. Stoney


Stoney Forensic, Inc.

January 12, 2011

Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 11-20
The Pennsylvania State University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 5-2011

Abstract:     
The methods, techniques, and reliability of the forensic sciences in general, and the pattern identification disciplines in particular, have faced significant scrutiny in recent years. Critics have attacked the scientific basis for the assumptions and claims made by forensic scientists both in and out of the courtroom. Defenders have emphasized courts’ long-standing acceptance of forensic science evidence, the relative dearth of known errors, and the skill and experience of practitioners. This Article reflects an effort made by a diverse group of participants in these debates, including law professors, academics from several disciplines, and practicing forensic scientists, to find and explore common ground. To what extent do the forensic sciences need to change in order to place themselves on an appropriately secure foundation in the 21st century? We all firmly agree that the traditional forensic sciences in general, and the pattern identification disciplines, such as fingerprint, firearm, tool mark and handwriting identification evidence in particular, do not currently possess – and absolutely must develop – a well-established scientific foundation. This can only be accomplished through the development of a research culture that permeates the entire field of forensic science. A research culture, we argue, must be grounded in the values of empiricism, transparency, and a commitment to an ongoing critical perspective. The forensic science disciplines need to substantially increase their commitment to evidence from empirical research as the basis for their conclusions. Sound research, rather than experience, training, and longstanding use, must become the central method by which assertions are justified. In this Article, we describe the underdeveloped research culture in the non-DNA forensic sciences, offer suggestions for how it might be improved, and explain why it matters.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 59

Keywords: Forensic Science, Research Culture

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K40, K49

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Date posted: February 14, 2011 ; Last revised: May 17, 2014

Suggested Citation

Mnookin, Jennifer and Cole, Simon A. and Dror, Itiel and Fisher, Barry A. J. and Houk, Max and Inman, Keith and Kaye, David H. and Koehler, Jonathan J. and Langenburg, Glenn and Risinger, D. Michael and Rudin, Norah and Siegel, Jay and Stoney, David A., The Need for a Research Culture in the Forensic Sciences (January 12, 2011). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 11-20; The Pennsylvania State University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 5-2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1755722 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1755722

Contact Information

Jennifer L. Mnookin (Contact Author)
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )
385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
Simon A. Cole
University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society ( email )
2340 Social Ecology 2, RM
Irvine, CA 92697
949-824-1443 (Phone)
949-824-3001 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.seweb.uci.edu/faculty/cole/
Itiel Dror
University College London (UCL) ( email )
35 Tavistock Square
London WC1H 9EZ, WC1H 9EZ
United Kingdom
HOME PAGE: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucjtidr/
Barry A. J. Fisher
Independent
Max Houk
West Virginia University - College of Business & Economics ( email )
P.O. Box 6025
Morgantown, WV 26506
United States
Keith Inman
California State University, East Bay ( email )
25800 Carlos Bee Boulevard
Hayward, CA 94542
United States
David H. Kaye
The Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law ( email )
Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States
814 865-8974 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://law.psu.edu/faculty/resident_faculty/kaye
Jonathan J. Koehler
Northwestern University - School of Law ( email )
375 E. Chicago Ave
Unit 1505
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
Glenn Langenburg
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension ( email )
1430 Maryland Avenue East
St. Paul, MN 55106
United States
D. Michael Risinger
Seton Hall University School of Law ( email )
One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States
(973) 642-8834 (Phone)
Norah Rudin
Independent
Jay Siegel
Indiana University ( email )
107 S Indiana Ave
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
Purdue University
610 Purdue Mall
West Lafayette, IN 47907
United States
David A. Stoney
Stoney Forensic, Inc.
14101G Willard Road
Chantilly, VA 20151
United States
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