Proficiency Tests to Estimate Error Rates in the Forensic Sciences

6 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2011 Last revised: 6 Jun 2016

Date Written: September 19, 2010


A proficiency test is an assessment of the performance of laboratory personnel using samples whose sources are known to the proficiency test administrator but unknown to the examinee. Proficiency tests can help identify reasonable first pass estimates for the rates at which various types of errors occur. It is crucial to obtain error rate estimates because the reliability and probative value of forensic science evidence is inextricably linked to the rates at which examiners make errors. Without such information, legal decision makers have no scientifically meaningful way of thinking about the risk of false identification and false non-identification associated with forensic reports.

Keywords: forensic reporting

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Koehler, Jonathan J., Proficiency Tests to Estimate Error Rates in the Forensic Sciences (September 19, 2010). Law, Probability & Risk, 12, 89-98 (2013).. Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan J. Koehler (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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