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Forensic DNA Interpretation and Human Factors: Improving Practice Through a Systems Approach

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2024
436 pages

The study of human factors in forensic science informs our understanding of the interaction between humans and the systems they use. The Expert Working Group (EWG) on Human Factors in Forensic DNA Interpretation used a systems approach to conduct a scientific assessment of the effects of human factors on forensic DNA interpretation with the goal of recommending approaches to improve practice and reduce the likelihood and consequence of errors. This effort resulted in 44 recommendations. The EWG designed many of these recommendations to improve the production, interpretation, evaluation, documentation, and communication of DNA comparison results. Additional discussions include: 

  • The potential for cognitive bias and how to reduce it. 
  • DNA transfer, persistence, prevalence, and recovery. 
  • Work environments and how they can impact productivity and morale. 
  • Building a more equipped workforce through investment in centralized forensic education and training. 
  • How forensic science service provider management and leadership can foster a culture where errors are seen as a learning opportunity and not treated punitively. 
  • Future research and funding directions in forensic DNA interpretation. 

This report serves to educate both forensic science service providers and criminal justice partners (e.g., legal practitioners, law enforcement investigators, parent organization leadership, forensic science educators).

Date Published: May 1, 2024