Open Forensic Science

Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 2019

61 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2019

See all articles by Jason Chin

Jason Chin

Sydney Law School

Gianni Ribeiro


Alicia Rairden

Houston Forensic Science Center

Date Written: May 21, 2019


The mainstream sciences are experiencing a revolution of methodology. This revolution was inspired, in part, by the realization that a surprising number of findings in the bioscientific literature could not be replicated or reproduced by independent laboratories and were likely false discoveries. In response – as reflected in a 2018 report of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – scientific norms and practices are rapidly moving towards openness. These reforms promise many enhancements to the scientific process, notably improved efficiency and reliability of findings. Changes are also underway in the forensic sciences (although they have recently hit substantial political roadblocks). After years of legal-scientific criticism and several reports from peak scientific bodies, efforts are underway to establish the validity of several forensic practices and ensure forensic scientists perform and present their work in a scientifically valid way.

In this article, the authors suggest that open science reforms are distinctively suited to addressing the problems faced by forensic science. Openness comports with legal and criminal justice values, helping ensure expert forensic evidence is more reliable and susceptible to rational evaluation by the trier of fact. In short, open forensic science allows parties in legal proceedings to understand and assess the strength of the case against them, resulting in fairer outcomes. Moreover, several emerging open science initiatives allow for speedier and more collaborative research. These, in many cases, may be readily applied to forensic science.

Keywords: Law, open science, forensic science, evidence law, criminal law, criminal justice, reproducibility, reproducibility crisis

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Chin, Jason and Ribeiro, Gianni and Rairden, Alicia, Open Forensic Science (May 21, 2019). Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 2019, Available at SSRN:

Jason Chin (Contact Author)

Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

Gianni Ribeiro

Independent ( email )

Alicia Rairden

Houston Forensic Science Center ( email )

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