In January 2022, NIJ, a component of the Office of Justice Programs, announced $4.5 million for two new awards under its Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) program. The FTCOE program serves as the bridge between NIJ’s investments in research and development and forensic science laboratories, particularly at the state and local levels, by helping to transition products from those investments into operational use. In addition to supporting technology transition activities, FTCOE will embark on developing national forensic science library services. These first-of-its-kind library services will identify, curate, and make available scholarly literature relevant to the forensic science research and practitioner communities across the country.
“NIJ is intensely focused on making sure that forensic service providers have access to the latest knowledge and technology” said Lucas Zarwell, director of NIJ’s Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences. “To be successful, NIJ must provide opportunities for knowledge transfer and technology transition as promising new technologies are developed. For over a decade, the NIJ Forensic Technology Center of Excellence program has supported these efforts, and we look forward to working with the expert teams to continue to demonstrate the impact and value of forensic science research.”
This year NIJ has made two awards to support he FTCOE program. NIJ will work with both the Research Triangle Institute and Florida International University through cooperative agreements. The award to the Research Triangle Institute will facilitate technology adoption activities and develop resources for evidence-based practices. The award to Florida International University will focus on developing the national forensic library services.
Funding Highlights for Fiscal Year 2021
Since 2007, NIJ has invested over $62 million in the FTCOE program. This program has evolved to now focus on six specific efforts:
- Providing scientific and technical support to NIJ’s forensic science research, development, and technology transition efforts.
- Facilitating demonstration, testing, evaluation, transfer, and adoption of appropriate technology into practice by crime laboratories, medical examiner/coroner offices, law enforcement, and other criminal justice agencies and forensic science service providers.
- Providing technology transition assistance, knowledge transfer, and support to forensic science researchers and practitioners.
- Developing and providing access to resources for research dissemination, education, and evidence-based best practices in the forensic science and criminal justice communities.
- Working closely with NIJ program managers to assess and communicate the impact of forensic science RDT&E, evidence-based best practices, and systems-based approaches for the criminal justice system.
Developing a national forensic science library services to identify, curate, and make available scholarly literature relevant to the forensic science research and practitioner community.
Two awards were made this year:
Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, Fiscal Year 2021
The RTI-hosted Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) supports the forensic science research and development program of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) through efforts to transition technologies from research into practice. NIJ has funded RTI International since 2011 to provide objective support to forensic science stakeholders. As a world-renowned research institute, RTI has assembled a wide range of academic partners (including FEPAC-accredited partners). In addition, the FTCOE engages forensic laboratories, industry, and practitioners to accomplish NIJ’s objectives and to address the needs of the forensic and criminal justice communities.
The FTCOE advances technology through the assessment of NIJ research & development programs for testing, evaluation, technology transition and implementation, dissemination, and collaborative partnerships. It shares knowledge about evidence-based best practices using a wide variety of strategies, including forums, reports, webinars, blended live and online meetings, podcasts, social media, and forensiccoe.org. The FTCOE also addresses challenges to the forensic science community by promoting the exchange of ideas and connecting researchers, practitioners, industry, and other stakeholders in open dialogues at conferences.
During the proposed period of performance, and subject to NIJ direction under the cooperative agreement, RTI will provide technology assistance, facilitate the demonstration of new technologies, provide access to research and educational materials, and develop and communicate the scientific and social impact of forensic science to the field. Along with the NIJ, RTI will develop criteria to evaluate these and other programs.
FTCOE initiatives to guide research dissemination and technology assistance include technology implementation workshops and assistance programs, in-field evaluations, critical reviews and technology landscape reports, guides for best practices, and interlaboratory comparison studies. Proposed outreach activities (guidance documents, forums) specifically designated for diverse populations will promote inclusion within the forensic community. The FTCOE will provide a transformative platform to assist in achieving NIJ’s research strategy while addressing challenges, advancing technologies, and sharing knowledge by
- Directly engaging the community through discussions among laboratory directors and researchers (FLN-TWG, Virtual Round Tables).
- Participating in national conferences with practitioners (AAFS, ASCLD, IAI, IACP, IACME), working with legal professionals (Expert Witness Workshops).
- Assisting the medicolegal community (Workload and Data Exchange Analysis).
NIJ and its FTCOE team will provide evidence-based resources about forensic technologies and emerging challenges to enable forward-leaning methods to agilely drive innovation.
Title: Forensic Technology Center of Excellence - Florida International University (FIU) Forensic Science Library Services
To maximize the impact of science and technology, it is critical to invest in a strategic research, development, testing, and evaluation process. While research and development is recognized as a fundamental need in the forensic sciences, it is equally critical to implement a rigorous testing and evaluation program to facilitate the transfer and adoption of promising methods, tools, and technologies into practice. NIJ provides opportunities for R&D that focus on accurate, reliable, cost-effective, and rapid methods for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of forensic evidence. With these investments in R&D, there is a vital need to transition promising research into practice that will ultimately strengthen the forensic sciences and improve operational challenges. Forensic science practitioners often find it challenging to find and gain access to scientific research literature.
Florida International University (FIU), will develop, enhance, and facilitate a national forensic science library service(s) to identify, curate, and make available scholarly literature relevant to the forensic science research and practitioner community. FIU provides an extraordinary opportunity to offer an array of novel services, including: (1) A permanent website dedicated to the forensic science library supported by the FIU library system; (2) New articles, reports, drug monographs, and other relevant literature will be regularly posted on the library website. Additionally, this material will also be posted on selected social media sites for wider distribution and accessibility; (3) A searchable database of all publicly accessible material selected by the library will be available; (4) Literature searches focusing on each forensic discipline will be posted and regularly updated. Ideally this will save practitioners valuable time, as well as provide a more current and comprehensive list of references; (5) Based on discussions with NIJ, FIU will consider creating a limited or targeted archive of foundational documents related to each forensic discipline that will be accessible and downloadable; (6) While all material will be available on the website, subscribers will be able to receive daily postings via digest emails; (7) The library would coordinate with existing forensic-related organizations to maximize wider distribution of material; (8) FIU will explore opportunities with NIJ to make published articles behind paywalls available to the forensic community and increase the publication of forensic research in open access journals at all levels.