The call has sounded from many quarters: more research is needed in forensic science. The demand is especially strong for study in the area of so called “pattern evidence:” fingerprints, firearms, tool mark evidence, foot print, tire impression, bite make, handwriting, etc.
Some pundits argue that practicing forensic scientists are not keen on such research – that existing studies are more then adequate. However, the real challenge is a lack of funding for the very research that is being called for.
Following the Daubert decision and subsequent cases defining scientific evidence, some expected courts to begin to demand more rigorous proof of the efficacy of pattern evidence. In fact there have been few successful challenges and the courts have not, for the most part, pressed the issue. As a result, neither Congress nor the Administration has made adequate funding a priority for forensic science research.
It will not surprise those in the academic community why there has not been a major effort to conduct more forensic science research. Research has to be funded and the paltry sums of money made available by the Federal government just don’t provide the impetus to conduct the called for research.
The fundamental questions become: How should research be funded and carried out in the U.S.? Should Congress fund it directly or should it be made a part of the NSF portfolio? Should the NIJ continue to have a role or should NIST, as is provided for in Senator Leahy’s proposed legislation?