This ninth episode of the Forensic Advancement season of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Ramit Plushnick-Masti, Director of Communications for the Houston Forensic Science Center, who discusses the role of transparency in the forensics community.
In this interview, she notes that in the processing and analysis of evidence by forensic labs, mistakes are inevitable. The issue discussed is the handling of mistakes with transparency rather than a cover-up in an effort to avoid the perceived adverse consequences of the mistake becoming widely known. Plushnick-Masti advocates the development and implementation of a policy of transparency that takes the initiative in acknowledging the mistakes of the forensic laboratory and its personnel, as well as the adverse consequences of any mistake. Coupled with this acknowledgement and its consequences should be an explanation of changes in policy and practice that will prevent the recurrence of the mistake. She also discusses the importance of developing a policy framework for managing transparency when mistakes occur. Training in and circulating this transparency policy among personnel and agencies involved in criminal investigations is likely to indicate that mistakes are inevitable and are best acknowledged and will be handled with corrective actions rather than a cover-up, punishment, and continuation of policies and practices that contributed to the mistake. Plushnick-Masti discusses ways in which the Houston Forensic Science Center structures transparency and manages its effects.