This project involved the appointment and use of a National Forensic DNA Review Panel (NFDRP) to explore alternative strategies for a potential blind proficiency testing program for forensic DNA testing laboratories in the United States and to conduct limited blind proficiency tests in a selected sample of forensic DNA testing laboratories to assist in determining the overall feasibility of a national program.
The NFDRP consisted of 20 members, including most of the members of the DNA Advisory Board at the time the project was initiated, as well as 6 other persons who represented interested groups and organizations. The project was divided into two principal phases. Phase 1 involved an initial survey of forensic DNA testing laboratories and law enforcement agencies that submit evidence to them. The literature review was begun in Phase 1 and completed in Phase 2. Phase 2 included a number of tasks designed to help answer some of the questions raised in the advisory panel's discussions, so as to help guide future policymakers on questions about a national blind testing program. These activities included a round of additional blind testing, a closer consideration of the reanalysis program, an estimate of the fraction of worked DNA cases that were reviewed/reanalyzed, and the extent to which original evidence items were still available in worked DNA cases that had been adjudicated. The project showed that blind proficiency testing is possible, although it is not successful in every trial. Compared with open testing, it is more complex and significantly more expensive. It also tests more components of a laboratory system; whereas, open proficiency testing primarily tests the accuracy of analytical results. The project also demonstrated that moderately more complex evidence that required more than perfunctory judgment by analysts can be replicated and manufactured successfully. Among project recommendations is that a national blind proficiency testing program be deferred for now until it is clearer how well implementation of project recommendations for appropriate quality-assurance guidelines are serving the same purposes as blind proficiency testing. 23 figures, 20 tables, and appended supplementary information and survey instruments
Date Published: May 1, 2001
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