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Social Science Research on Forensic Science: The Story Behind One of NIJ's Newest Research Portfolios

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 275 Dated: July 2015 Pages: 1-3
Date Published
July 2015
3 pages
Publication Series
This article reviews the rationale for and the evolution of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) portfolio of social science research on forensic science, with some examples provided of the studies NIJ has funded under this portfolio.
The rationale for the portfolio stemmed from the realization that little was known about how and even whether the products of forensic science research were being integrated into the policies and practices of criminal investigations and other components of the criminal justice system. Only through social science research, i.e., studying how humans can and should use these new technologies, can ensure that criminal justice practitioners are maximizing the use of developments in the forensic sciences. A decade ago, NIJ began to study how new forensic technologies were being used in the investigation and prosecution of crime and how they could be used even more effectively. NIJ's portfolio of social science research on forensic science was built in three "waves." Research in the first wave (2005-2007) asked basic questions, such as "How often is forensic evidence used in criminal cases?" The second wave (2007-2009) began to focus on emerging issues and "hot topics" surrounding DNA databases, improving the processing of impression evidence, and addressing evidence backlogs in police departments. The third wave, which began in 2010, focused primarily on findings and recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences in its seminal report "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward." In fiscal year 2015, NIJ is entering the fourth wave as it assesses and builds on what has been learned to date and explores new areas in forensic science.

Date Published: July 1, 2015