Stronger forensic science equals justice for all

The confirmation of Eric Lander as President Biden’s science adviser, Cabinet member and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy brings a renewed effort to strengthen the nation’s charge to improve forensic science applications in the pursuit of “justice for all Americans.” As President Biden wrote in his nomination of Lander, “This effort will require us to bring together our brightest minds across academia, medicine, industry and government—breaking down the barriers that too often limit our vision and our progress, and prioritizing the needs, interests, fears and aspirations of the American people.” The Global Forensic and Justice Center, a preeminent program at Florida International University (FIU), is committed to strengthening forensic science and its application to justice and welcomes a coordinated federal effort.

Established in 2018, the center is the global leader in the multi-disciplinary approach in research, training, technology and collaborations. Its mission and vision are based on shattering the siloed approach and promoting innovative and creative solutions that bridge the gap between academia and the real world.

While forensic science has had momentum since the release of Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (2009) by the National Academies of Science, new technologies and capabilities have created a continued need to address “a path forward.”

The 2009 report found “strengthening” can “only be done with effective leadership at the highest levels of both federal and state governments, pursuant to national standards, and with a significant infusion of federal funds.” The end result would improve investigations, reduce wrongful convictions and improve America’s security.

Lander, in his confirmation hearing, pressed for a more inclusive environment in STEM. The center is committed to outreach, education and partnerships that encourage people from all walks of life to unite the sciences for justice. Our path forward includes the talents of forensic scientists from across the street and around the world. 

Effective Leadership
The center welcomes a collaborative effort with local, tribal, federal and international leadership to ensure science serves justice across all borders and without prejudice. This includes developing new partnerships that align with the recommendations of the science adviser.

Establishing Standards
Working with laboratories and agencies to meet or exceed created standards and earn accreditation has been an established practice of the center. Because of our ever-interconnected world, there is an immediate need to work with international laboratories. The center has provided nearly 20 trainings to international laboratories, including five accreditation-seeking agencies. To date, three of those agencies have successfully met or exceeded standards to be granted accreditation in their desired field including: Forensic Science Testing, DNA, Drug Chemistry and Questioned Documents

Federal Funding
Since the establishment of the center, more than $25 million in federal funding has been secured. Leadership at FIU understands the importance of meeting the needs outside of the academic world to make a lasting impact on the improvement of forensic science.

We believe forensic science can, should, and is applied to the balanced arm of justice to improve the world at large. The center will continue to move research, training and technology forward in pursuit of this mission.