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Assessing Cognitive Bias, Method Validation, and Equipment Performance for theForensic Anthropology Laboratory

Award Information

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $114,106)

As submitted by the applicant: In 2015, the HCIFS Forensic Anthropology Division (FAD) was the first of its kind to receive laboratory accreditation under the discipline of Forensic Anthropology. Although all requirements for this accreditation were met, several areas were identified for improvement; particularly, with respect to method validation, equipment performance measures, and effects of cognitive bias. Studies have been performed to address these issues; however, they have not been conducted within a medical examiner setting. Therefore, the goal of the project is to address these potential quality issues within a large medical examiner office. A postdoctoral fellow will be hired for 18 months of the 24 month grant period to execute this proposed project, which is divided into four phases. Phase 1 involves the project assessment and orientation in the FAD and Quality Management Division (QMD). During this phase, the fellow will actively observe the anthropologists performing casework, begin the training program, learn the role of QMD in maintaining quality assurance, and develop hypotheses for the next phases. Phase 2 involves the evaluation of cognitive bias and its effect on anthropological analyses.During this phase, the fellow will conduct internal studies to identify and mitigate potential areas of cognitive bias. The fellow will review reports to identify the point during the examination when biasing contextual information is encountered. A study will be designed using previous casework to determine whether conclusions vary between staff anthropologists when contextual information is present or absent. The fellow will evaluate cognitive bias as it relates to results acquired from analytical software and equipment used in skeletal analysis. Phase 3 involves developing validation and performance measures for osteometric equipment and analytical software used by the FAD on a daily basis. Internal validation of the FORDISC software will be performed using metric data collected from known specimens from Texas State University. In addition, the fellow will define the standard settings and configurations to ensure that all HCIFS users are following the same protocol. Phase 4 involves information consolidation, implementation and manuscript development. The fellow will complete the mentorship program, assist the FAD in revising and developing standard operating procedures, and develop manuscripts of the findings for submission to designated journals. The remaining grant period will involve implementing procedures and quality assurance measures into the FAD by the HCIFS staff. This project will help shape our institutional policies and produce best practice recommendations for the field. Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 12, 2016