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About NIJ's Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences

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Overview of the NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences

The NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences (OIFS) is the lead federal government agency for facilitating forensic science research and development through academic, federal, state, and local entities. OIFS mission is to strengthen the quality and practice of forensic science through research and development, testing and evaluation, technology, and information exchange.

Major Activities of the NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences

OIFS' major activities include establishing needs from leaders in the community, funding research and development, transitioning technology into the laboratory and developing knowledge to help inform both policy and best practice.

Research and Development

OIFS' research and development efforts focus on three primary goals:

  • Expand the information that can be extracted from traditional types of forensic evidence and quantify its evidentiary value.
  • Develop reliable and widely applicable tools and technologies that allow faster, cheaper and less labor-intensive identification, collection, preservation and analysis of forensic evidence.
  • Strengthen the scientific basis of the forensic science disciplines.

Learn more about our forensic science research and development portfolio and our focus areas.

NIJ continues to fund the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE), which supports our research and development programs and provides testing, evaluation and technology assistance to forensic laboratories and practitioners in the criminal justice community. One primary goal of the FTCoE is the transition of forensic science technologies into practice to increase utility in labs as well as facilitate effective use of new and innovative techniques and methods for processing and testing forensic evidence.

Collaboration with Peers, Policymakers, and Practitioners

OIFS' scientists collaborate with their peers from across the government, industry and academia as well as the other science offices within NIJ. This collaboration ensures that we are both informing the scientific community about the issues faced by criminal justice policymakers and practitioners and bringing in top researchers to address those needs.

For example, NIJ collaborates with --

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Science Foundation

OIFS also learns from the people who work day-to-day with the issues. We sponsor meetings, workshops and working groups that bring together researchers, policymakers and practitioners. These meetings generate a rich exchange of ideas. They guide future research and help ensure that our research, development, and evaluation activities meet real-world needs.

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Organization of the NIJ Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences

OIFS' is led by Office Director Lucas Zarwell who supervises science staff that develop, conduct, and manage forensic science research activities surrounding their individual areas of expertise.  Scientists manage extramural research portfolio activities and disseminate findings in accordance to NIJ’s listen, learn, and inform approach.  Scientists also may perform intramural research.  In order to move research into practice, NIJ applies its Forensic Technology Center of Excellence to transition technology and knowledge into adoption by the forensic science community.

Date Published: May 6, 2021