The Foundations of the Comparison Forensic Sciences: Report of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

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In September 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) in the United States published its report to the President entitled Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods. The need for this report arose out of the highly critical 2009 National Research Council report on the state of forensic sciences in the United States. The report had noted that there were particular problems in feature-comparison disciplines where the science underpinning the validity of the discipline was poor. The PCAST report has developed the National Research Council’s thinking further. It looked at the foundational validity of a number of forensic disciplines, including, for example, bite mark interpretation in forensic odontology. PCAST concluded that bite mark analysis does not meet the scientific standards for foundational validity. In addition, it felt that the prospects of developing bite mark analysis into a scientifically valid method were poor, and they advised against government investment in research to try to establish such validity. The principles discussed in this report, focused as they are on forensic science, will need to be digested by forensic medicine. Forensic medicine will be increasingly called upon to justify the validity of the various areas in which its practitioners provide expert evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-302
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Law and Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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