Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $321,025)
Validated methods of calculating the evidential value of fire debris samples are slow to move from the peer-reviewed literature to operational laboratories, and this constitutes a significant barrier to achieving broader goals laid out in the 2009 National Academies of Science report. Slow transitioning of the methods may be partially attributed to the fact that while these methods are totally objective, they offer only a likelihood ratio and do not assist the analyst in interpreting casework samples. This proposal details the design and testing of a computational aid for fire debris data interpretation that will provide the analysts with estimates of evidential value and chromatographic and compositional data to aid in the interpretation of casework samples. The problem of software implementation will be addressed by testing the solution as a web service. Analysts from the Division of Investigative & Forensic Services laboratory in the Florida Bureau of Forensic Services will partner with the National Center for Forensic Science (NCFS) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) to assist in the design, evaluation and testing of the method. Successful completion of the proposed research will demonstrate a path to modernizing current practice in fire debris analysis.
The method development, optimization and validation will be conducted at NCFS and will leverage previous investments by NIJ by using ignitable liquid, substrate and ground truth databases developed at NCFS. The optimized and validated method will be implemented as a web service and fire debris analysts from the Division of Investigative & Forensic Services will be trained on the use of the service and the underlying theory. The fire debris analysts will test the system and provide feedback to the NCFS research team. The system will be updated based on the feedback from the fire debris analysts and presented again to the laboratory personnel. A set of four interactions are planned over the two-year life of the grant.
The research will result in peer-reviewed publications, scientific presentations and the testing of a prototype web service to aid fire debris analysts in assessing the evidential value and the interpretation of casework samples.
Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).