New publication addressing complex scientific issues for court

In News by Angela Shaw

Sue Pope, PFS, and Alex Biedermann, University of Lausanne, are topic editors for this e-book collection of papers focusing on so-called evaluative uses of evidence, in particular DNA evidence.

Since DNA analysis became part of forensic science in the mid-1980s, its impact on investigation of crime and at court has been immense. In a few years the technique became the gold standard for evaluative evidence, overtaking some other evidence types, and replacing others completely. Part of this impact was due to formal statistical calculations, replacing subjective opinions, on the weight of evidence provided for the prosecution and defence views. The technology has improved quickly with ever more sensitive tests being introduced; the statistical interpretation of increasingly complex DNA results has not been as swift. The absence of a forum for inter-disciplinary discussion between developers and end users has led to methods being developed by statisticians, with little input from the working forensic scientists. It is forensic scientists who will be using the software, and typically have little opportunity to discuss with lawyers the data impact and presentation for non-scientific audiences such as Judges, magistrates and juries. There is a danger for courts in these interpretations — which are produced by a black box — where the reporting forensic scientist has little input and less understanding. It is time for a dialog between the scientists producing the DNA results, the statisticians developing the calculation methods and software and, the lawyers who present the findings to the court.

Citation: Pope, S., Biedermann, A., eds. (2020). The Dialogue Between Forensic Scientists, Statisticians and Lawyers about Complex Scientific Issues for Court. Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA. doi: 10.3389/978-2-88966-049-0