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Error Quantification of Osteometric Data in Forensic Anthropology

NCJ Number
253873
Date Published
Author(s)
Natalie R. Langley, Lee Meadows Janta, Sharuna McNulty, Heli Maijanen, Stephen D. Ousley, Richard L. Jantz
Annotation
This study evaluated the reliability of osteometric data commonly used in forensic case analyses, with specific reference to the measurements in Data Collection Procedures 2.0 (DCP 2.0).
Abstract
Four observers took a set of 99 measurements four times on a sample of 50 skeletons (each measurement was taken 200 times by each observer). Two-way mixed ANOVAs and repeated measures ANOVAs with pairwise comparisons were used to examine interobserver (between-subjects) and intraobserver (within-subjects) variability. Relative technical error of measurement (TEM) was calculated for measurements with significant ANOVA results to examine the error among a single observer repeating a measurement multiple times (e.g. repeatability or intraobserver error), as well as the variability between multiple observers (interobserver error). Two general trends emerged from these analyses: (1) maximum lengths and breadths have the lowest error across the board (TEM < 0.5), and (2) maximum and minimum diameters at midshaft are more reliable than their positionally-dependent counterparts (i.e. sagittal, vertical, transverse, dorso-volar). Therefore, maxima and minima are specified for all midshaft measurements in DCP 2.0. Twenty-two measurements were flagged for excessive variability (either interobserver, intraobserver, or both); 15 of these measurements were part of the standard set of measurements in Data Collection Procedures for Forensic Skeletal Material, 3rd edition. Each measurement was examined carefully to determine the likely source of the error (e.g. data input, instrumentation, observer’s method, or measurement definition). For several measurements (e.g. anterior sacral breadth, distal epiphyseal breadth of the tibia) only one observer differed significantly from the remaining observers, indicating a likely problem with the measurement definition as interpreted by that observer; these definitions were clarified in DCP 2.0 to eliminate this confusion. Other measurements were taken from landmarks that are difficult to locate consistently (e.g. pubis length, ischium length); these measurements were omitted from DCP 2.0. This manual is available for free download online. (Publisher abstract modified)
Date Created: November 10, 2019