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69 Duke L.J. Online 1 (2019-2020)

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Duke Law Journal Online


VOLUME   69                SEPTEMBER                          2019



                            Reflection

      FORENSICS AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL

                          SUE  BALLOUt

    What  have  the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST)  and other federal organizations done in the past ten years
since the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Identifying the
Needs  of  the Forensic  Sciences Community released its report,
Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States?' I know exactly
where I was ten years ago, on February 16, 2009, because the American
Academy of Forensic Sciences holds its meetings every year in
February.2 During  its 2009 annual meeting, the  tension among  all
participants was at the roof: Have you seen the Report? Did you
see a copy of the Report? When  is the Report coming out? What
is the Report saying? It was hard to pay attention to the educational
offerings provided at the meeting: Did they get a ding on their cell
phone?  Was it released?
    A  copy  of the Report was released that week, and  it was as if
everything stopped. People started putting the meeting aside just to
read the Report. Thank   goodness there was  an executive summary
(since, after all, the entire Report is 352 pages long). When we read the
Report  (and I know because I was pulled into several sidebars during
the meeting) many  people were  upset. Some scientists responded to
the report saying, This is my profession, you just dissed me; I'm not
going any further on it. I kind of felt the same way, having devoted
my  life to this profession. After the initial shock, a lot of people kind
of shook their heads, sat down, and said, Okay, let's really look at


Copyright 2019 © Sue Ballou.
   t  Program Manager for Forensic Science, National Institute of Standards and Technology;
Immediate Past President, American Academy of Forensic sciences. This Reflection piece is
adapted from remarks made at a March 6, 2019 conference at Duke Law School, made possible
by the Innocence Project, Duke Law School, and the Center for Statistics and Applications to
Forensic Evidence.
   1. COMM. ON IDENTIFYING THE NEEDS OF THE FORENSIC SCI. CMTY., NAT'L RESEARCH
COUNCIL OF THE NAT'L ACADS., STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES:
A PATH FORWARD (2009), https://www.nap.edu/read/12589/chapter/2 [https://perma.cc/JG6Y-
X8SN] [hereinafter STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE].
   2. Future & Past AAFS Meetings, AM. ACAD. FORENSIC SCI., https://www.aafs.org/home-
page/meetings/future-past-aafs-meetings [https://perma.cc/NJ7S-UV38].

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