Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $4,000,000)
The University of Alabama System and The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences along with our partners and under the guidance of the NIJ will combine our capabilities and expertise to operate a National Center on Forensics (the Center). We will:
Develop and implement scientific and technical learning opportunities that focus on underserved rural areas for the medico-legal community (especially medical students);
Provide forensic science and legal training to law enforcement, district judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and other appropriate criminal justice agencies;
Develop, consolidate, and provide access to resources, such as education, training, and best practices in the forensic science community; and,
Guided by our External Advisory Board (EAB) that includes representation from NIJ and the FY20 Center, we will prioritize topics for presentation in our national meeting workshops, flipped classrooms, webinars, and online learning activities. We will disseminate manuscripts and other materials from these efforts to a wide variety of relevant audiences and for direct communications to policymakers.
The Center will deliver a yearly report of activities and associated outcomes outlined in this proposal and any additional or substitute activities as directed and approved by NIJ. We will also deliver all data sets that results from the proposed and amended work undertaken. All copies of our scholarly activity, including our journal, Forensic Science Review, will be provided to NIJ. Findings will be distributed to current and future practitioners and policymakers via a dedicated website and periodic electronic distribution of information pushed through a dedicated listserv. Rural Alabama is our initial service area for the development of the Center’s activities, with the systematic expansion of the Center’s efforts made available nationwide via workshops, webinars, online courses, etc.
Ultimately, the efforts of this Center will improve the availability and level of medico/legal training and knowledge for those working in rural areas, which will thereby increase access to justice for those living in these communities. Since many rural areas also have high- and sustained-poverty levels, they too will benefit from the resources provided for their medicolegal offices. Physicians often hold an enduring and trusting relationship with their communities, and therefore we contend that their greater involvement with the death investigation system and the development of collaborative relationships with law enforcement will help build trust between law enforcement and the community.