Forensic Science: Why No Research?

17 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2011 Last revised: 17 May 2014

See all articles by Paul C. Giannelli

Paul C. Giannelli

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Date Written: September 8, 2011


The National Academy of Sciences ground-breaking report on forensic science – Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward – raised numerous issues. One dominant theme that runs throughout the Report is the failure of some forensic science disciplines to comport with fundamental scientific principles – in particular, to support claims with empirical research. The Report observed that “some forensic science disciplines are supported by little rigorous systematic research to validate the discipline’s basic premises and techniques. There is no evident reason why such research cannot be conducted.”

The Report went on to identify fingerprint examinations, firearms (ballistics) and toolmark identifications, questioned document comparisons, hair analysis, and bite mark examinations as disciplines lacking such empirical research. This essay attempts to answer the “why” question: Why was there a lack of research across so many forensic disciplines?

Keywords: Forensic Science, Scientific Evidence, DNA Evidence, Fingerprint Evidence, General Acceptance Test, Empirical Research, Frye Rule, Evidentiary Standards, Crime Laboratories, Underfunded Crime Laboratories, Strengthening Forensic Sciences in the United States, National Academy of Sciences, Daubert

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Giannelli, Paul C., Forensic Science: Why No Research? (September 8, 2011). Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 38, No. 2, p. 503, 2010, Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-23, Available at SSRN:

Paul C. Giannelli (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

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