Professional Issues in Forensic Science

FIS 30500


P: FIS 20500, FIS 20600 and junior status required


This course will focus on the unique issues of which the forensic scientist must be particularly aware when working in a forensic science laboratory, whether in the public or the private sector.  These issues include, but are not limited to, discussions of the following issues:

  • The current state of forensic science, including the reappraisals reflected in the Report of the National Academy of Sciences, Subcommittee on Forensic Science, published in February, 2009.
  • The ethical responsibilities of a forensic scientist when conducting analyses, writing reports, and testifying in court.
  • Objective analyses of issues that have shaken the foundations of trust, and the presumptions of regularity and competence that previously had been accorded to forensic science laboratories and their personnel, and the formulation of some conclusions about directions for future policy and best practices.
  • Review and analyses of existing “Codes of Conduct” and similar standards documents or publications adopted by professional organizations over the past 10-15 years, in order to develop a fundamental grasp of what they mean, what their strengths and shortcomings are, and how they have been applied in practice.
  • Development of a richer cultural awareness of how forensic science has evolved over the past 25 years.
  • An ability to navigate the unique, nested ethical and practical issues raised by reliance on outsourcing of forensic laboratory work by governmental entities.
  • Building constructive relationships and mechanisms for interaction with quasi-governmental oversight bodies, e.g., boards and commissions, in addition to accrediting bodies.
  • Handling the personal and institutional challenges of balancing research and productivity.
  • The fundamentals of grant-writing and grantsmanship in support of laboratory productivity and research.
  • Legislative trends affecting the forensic sciences.
  • Enhancing ability to access the research library and other resources to better prepare testimony, and to assist the court and the attorneys to properly frame and focus issues.
  • The requirements for quality assurance systems and quality control procedures to maximize the effectiveness of the laboratory work-product.
  • Scientific Working Groups and their historical and evolving role in forensic science.
  • A deeper understanding of accreditation of forensic science laboratories, as well as proficiency testing and certification of forensic scientists.

Course Documents: