Forensic Science Effectiveness Research Paper

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This research paper reviews the state of the art in the area of effectiveness of forensic science and ultimately attempts to address the central question: What do we actually know about the impact of forensic science on the criminal justice system in general and on criminal investigations in particular? It is concluded that, although research to date has shown interesting trends, there is a need to better understand and explain the broader contribution of forensic science, as a precondition to accounting for its effectiveness. Otherwise, conclusions drawn from limited studies may have unintended effects for the whole system.

Research outcomes to date probably reveal more about the need for methodological improvements in how to undertake such research than providing a clear answer with respect to the effectiveness of forensic science. More research is needed.


Over the last decade, forensic science has been heavily present in popular culture through a number of TV shows, fiction or documentary. It has been argued that this situation led to increased public awareness of, and interest in, forensic science. There is a widespread belief that science and technology have become a “magic bullet” against crime, partly fuelled by the media continuously reporting forensic science successes, in particular those obtained through DNA analysis. Not only is such analysis often described as having “revolutionized” the ability of law enforcement to protect the innocent from wrongful prosecution (Innocence Project 2012), but it is also quoted as having enhanced the capability of police to identify, arrest, and prosecute offenders. For example, in a number of countries, “cold cases” have been revisited, taking advantage of modern technologies, primarily DNA profiling and novel fingermark detection methods. This situation has reinforced the perception of the infallibility of science in solving crime.

Contrary to this view, recent studies have questioned the effectiveness of forensic science on actual crime solving and justice outcomes (Baskin and Sommers 2010; Brodeur 2010). For example, the effectiveness of DNA testing was found to be questionable when applied to serious or violent crimes (Wilson et al. 2010) unlike in volume crimes such as break and enters. It also appears that the perception of scientists about their own contribution is not uniform; and such questions do not even seem to be of major interest to laboratory scientists (Crispino 2008). In fact, current knowledge regarding the application of forensic science, particularly its effectiveness in criminal investigations and judicial outcomes, is limited. Further, as quoted by Julian et al. (2011), “to a large extent, the policing and forensic services community has been ‘flying blind’ in terms of the true impact of its work.”

These discrepancies may be symptomatic of the fact that the contribution of forensic science is not straightforward to assess because it occurs on a number of different dimensions or levels depending on the context of the judicial response or police activity. In addition, the judicial response itself is not linear nor continuous but can be seen as successive phases with different aims, distinct reasoning, and distinct ways of using information (Dele´mont et al. 2013). This research paper reviews the state of the art in this area and ultimately attempts to address the central question: What do we actually know about the impact of forensic science on the criminal justice system in general and on criminal investigations in particular?

Efficiency Or Effectiveness?

The terms “efficiency” and “effectiveness” are often used interchangeably in attempts to assess the value and/or impact of forensic science in the criminal justice system. However, the terms have distinct meanings and should be clarified if being applied for the purpose of impact assessment. A lack of clarity when using these terms creates confusion when undertaking research and leads to difficulties in identifying any trends in the value of forensic science in the criminal justice system. In their research, Kelty and Julian (2012a) found that stakeholders attached five different meanings to the terms “effectiveness of forensic science” and how it could be better achieved:

  • Higher quality science
  • Broadening the role of forensic science
  • Reflection on, and improvements to, the current process
  • Having an influence on justice outcomes
  • Ensuring a “bang for your buck”

It is the latter, with its emphasis on cost-effectiveness, that is meant by the term “efficiency.” The meaning of the term “effectiveness” is broader, can be operationalized in a number of ways, and may often encompass “efficiency.” Since the studies we discuss below assess the value of forensic science in a variety of ways, we will adopt the term “effectiveness” throughout, unless the research specifically incorporates a financial component in its assessment.

This research paper reviews current knowledge on the effectiveness of forensic science in the criminal justice system by focusing on the stages of the forensic process: crime scene, triage, laboratory processes, databases, and from identification to charges and to court. This is followed by a review of studies that examine the whole process from crime to court. This research paper concludes with a brief discussion of future directions in research that is attempting to measure the value and/or impact of forensic science.

Crime Scene

It is often quoted that good forensic science starts at the crime scene. Many well-publicized miscarriage of justice cases find their root in poor crime scene work. In general, crime scene processing cannot be reproduced. It predetermines the quality and quantity of the information available to the investigation and ultimately presented in court. From this angle, it is impossible to discuss the topic of effectiveness in forensic science without a closer examination of what is happening at the crime scene (Julian et al. 2012).

Despite the paramount importance of this work, it is interesting to note that, from an organizational standpoint, crime scene models vary greatly depending on the type of crime and across jurisdictions. Laboratory scientists often attend specific scenes requiring specialized capabilities. Examples include disaster victim identification cases, mass murders, and fire scenes. However, in most countries, the vast majority of crime scenes are attended by police personnel. And in many jurisdictions, a further distinction is made between volume crime (e.g., break and enter) and serious crime (e.g., homicide). The personnel attending the latter have access to more resources, including the latest technology, compared to those attending volume crime. The status of crime scene personnel also varies greatly: sworn police officer with minimal training in forensic science, fully trained sworn police officer, civilian with a science degree, etc.

Beyond these very general trends, police models are variable, and it is difficult to identify what the dominant model is (Tilley and Ford 1996; Bradbury and Feist 2005; Adderley et al. 2007; Girod et al. 2008; Roman et al. 2008). Regional or local structures and customs usually dictate the most appropriate implementation model. The time spent at the crime scene, the types of crime attended, or even the type of trace that is collected may sometimes be imposed by the investigation process in practice within a specific police force. Other peculiarities such as the size of the police force and the local topography are also factors to be considered. The following observations can be considered as symptoms of an apparent lack of harmonization between organizations:

  • The number of crime scenes attended by crime scene examiners per annum can vary greatly depending on the crime scene unit. For example, Tilley and Ford (1996) noted a variation between 400 and 1,350 in their English study.
  • The quantity and quality of traces collected at the scene can also vary greatly depending on the region or crime scene unit. For example, Girod et al. (2008) showed that shoe-marks are collected in 60 % of domestic break and enter cases in a region and in only 10 % of the cases in another region in Switzerland. This picture converges with results obtained by Rix (2004) in England.

More puzzling is the variation which may exist within one crime scene unit. In his study on shoe-marks, Girod (2002) showed that the collection rate could double within the same unit, depending on the individual crime scene examiner. Further, Adderley et al. (2007) found that some crime scene examiners are more prone to collect some types of traces than other types and that high performers collected higher quality evidence, attended more scenes, and submitted evidence more quickly, and the evidence they collected was more likely to lead to positive identifications. It appears that, in addition to individual knowledge, experience, and motivation, the quantity and quality of traces collected at the scene also depends on the quality of the relationship between the crime scene examiner and the investigator (Bradbury and Feist 2005; Adderley et al. 2007; Crispino 2008; Girod et al. 2008; Kelty et al. 2012b).

The trend identified by these studies is that crime scene work appears to encompass a major “human factor,” which makes any study on its effectiveness at the team or unit level difficult to interpret or generalize. To this end, in their Australian study, Kelty et al. (2012b) attempted to profile “top-performing” crime scene examiners. They found that such examiners shared a number of qualities within the following seven key skill set categories: knowledge base, experience, work orientation, approach to life, communication, professional demeanor, and cognitive abilities.

Overall, forensic science at the crime scene shows significant variations in terms of quality and quantity of the work undertaken. It appears that there is no universally accepted role for forensic science at this stage, and, in turn, this role depends on the historical development of the hosting organization. Further, these variations cannot solely be explained by differences of organizational setting and/or personnel status, and dimensions that are individual to the crime scene examiner have to be factored in. It is fair to conclude that, with regard to the paramount significance of the work undertaken at the crime scene, we only have limited empirical data to assess the true effectiveness of forensic science in this area and further research is strongly needed.


Once the crime scene is completed, specimens are generally sorted, and a decision is taken as to whether they must be considered further and forwarded to a forensic science laboratory. This step, called triage, is essential for financial reasons and also to focus the forensic examination on relevant traces, that is, those traces that are more likely to bring valuable information to the investigation and intelligence or are the more promising in terms of evidence. Efficient triage is therefore necessary to avoid flooding the laboratory with unnecessary items which contribute to laboratory backlogs.

Delays in providing laboratory results strongly diminish the relevance of potential links or “matches.” In homicide cases, laboratory results are often provided once the case is solved (Schroeder and White 2009). In some cases, traces are not sent to the laboratory because the investigator has not identified a suspect or assumes that results will not be obtained in time for the investigation to progress satisfactorily (Strom and Hickman 2010).

Interestingly, despite its crucial role, triage has been rarely studied. Some trends however exist. According to Bradbury and Feist (2005), the selection is based on the case urgency, whether the specimen is degradable and how serious the case is (e.g., violent crimes vs. property crime). Specimens coming from cases where a suspect is known or in cases where there is a direct judicial request tend to be selected and analyzed as a priority. Scientific aspects are also considered, for example, the probability of extracting a usable DNA profile from a given substrate and/or from a degraded specimen (Raymond et al. 2009). It becomes evident therefore that the best model for an efficient triage should integrate police (investigation) and scientific (laboratory) considerations with a strong focus on the trace and its relevance. However, it appears that, in reality, the triage function largely remains reactive in response to judicial pressures and does not follow a proactive strategy aimed at solving a problem. It is believed that sound triage management would go a long way to addressing the challenge of laboratory backlog, as well as providing value-added information to the criminal justice system.

Laboratory Processes

Once traces have been sorted, a number of exhibits and/or specimens are generally forwarded to one or several well-equipped forensic science laboratory or laboratories or otherwise examined using scientific equipment. This stage of the process, compared to crime scene, appears more codified and more in line with the work undertaken by traditional (i.e., non-forensic) scientific laboratories. However, does it mean that the work is more effective? Or even that its effectiveness can be more easily and accurately assessed? The studies reported so far give a rather confusing picture. However, it seems relevant to distinguish the results obtained in serious crime vs. volume crime.

Serious Crime

In their studies based on homicide cases, Mucchielli (2006) and Brodeur (2010) provided a rather skeptical picture with respect to the effect of modern technology on case resolution:

  • In two thirds of the cases going to court, the perpetrator was arrested because of his or her behavior, and the enquiry did not contain elements of identification or localization (Mucchielli 2006).
  • The trace found at the scene was crucial in charging a suspect in only 7 % of the cases (Mucchielli 2006).
  • 71 % of homicides were solved within 24 h without the need to exploit traces collected at the scene (Brodeur 2010).
  • DNA enabled the perpetrator identification in only 1 % of the cases Brodeur (2010) studied. These results are supported by other studies which showed the minor contribution of DNA in solving homicides (Schroeder and White 2009) and the fact that serial murderers were primarily identified by means other than forensic traces, for example, traditional eyewitness or victim statements and confessions. However, Bradbury and Feist 2005 showed that, in serious crimes (e.g., homicide), traces are mostly useful to solve difficult cases. In other words, the potential for a positive contribution would exist in only 10–20 % of homicides approximately. This could explain the limited apparent contribution of forensic science in the studies described above.

Volume Crime

There is only a small number of studies focusing on volume crime (e.g., break and enter, vehicle thefts). It is also difficult to make generalizations. However, the trend regarding the impact of forensic science appears to be more positive than the results obtained considering serious crime. In particular it appears that a systematic use of DNA in such cases has a significant effect on solving such cases (Roman et al. 2008; Wilson et al. 2010).

Roman and coworkers compared, between 2005 and 2007 and across five police forces, cases where a DNA specimen was sent to the laboratory for subsequent search in a DNA database with similar cases where no specimen was analyzed and only a traditional method of investigation was applied. Using DNA led to more than double the number of suspects being identified, twice the number of suspects being arrested, and twice the number of suspects being accused, compared to the control group where no DNA was used. Multirecidivists were also in higher number in the group using DNA than in the group using traditional methods. This indicates that these methods of investigations are complementary as DNA databases and traditional methods tend to identify different suspects.

Wilson and coworkers included the study by Roman et al. in their systematic review of field studies on the effectiveness of DNA testing. This review included:

  • A study that had examined the impact of a DNA database on rates at which crimes are cleared and/or offenders prosecuted and convicted in the context of prison inmates in New South Wales, Australia
  • Studies of the effect of DNA on case outcomes
  • An evaluation of DNA use in burglary investigations

Wilson et al. concluded that their findings “generally support the value of DNA testing for police investigations, particularly for high volume crimes such as burglary, although most of the empirical evidence is methodologically weak. Additional work is needed, not only with respect to DNA testing but other forensic methods as well.”


If forensic databases have been in existence for a long time, in some cases for more than 100 years (e.g., fingerprints, identification systems), the scope and computing power of these databases only really took off in the late 1990s with the development of systematic collection and collation of DNA profiles. Not only did the development of these databases change the way investigations are carried out, but it also changed the perception of the judiciary toward forensic traces (Walsh 2009). Such databases usually contain information (1) derived from traces found at crime scenes and (2) obtained from people. The use and success of these databases are constantly reported in the news. Anecdotal evidence about the effectiveness of such databases in identifying people is compelling. However, the question ought to be asked: In regard to their cost as well as the legal and broader societal concerns associated with their use, are forensic databases (and in particular DNA databases) really effective? What is their actual impact on solving crime and on other aspects of policing and security?

Bradbury and Feist (2005) confirmed that DNA databases lead to impressive results. An interesting finding, based on the experience in England and Wales, is that such databases seem to change the way forensic traces are perceived and used: From being mostly corroborative evidence previously, they are now more systematically used to identify suspects.

It is, however, difficult to make general and global conclusions in this area because the management of these databases and the processes involved vary greatly across jurisdictions and police and forensic organizations. Factors having an effect on the content and uses of DNA databases, and hence impacting on their effectiveness, include:

  • Number of cases attended
  • Number of organizations involved in the collection of specimens and their analysis
  • Anonymization protocols
  • Profile removal policy
  • Technology used
  • Crime scene and triage policies
  • Training and qualifications of the people involved
  • Legislative compliance

The ideal database would contain the entire criminal population that is active at a given time. This is obviously impossible in practical terms.

DNA databases performance can be measured in different ways (Walsh 2009). A common model is to measure the ratio between the number of “matches” and the number of people profiles stored in the database. Recent European data based on 19 available databases (ENFSI DNA Working Group 2011) show this ratio varies between 0.03 (France) and 0.26 (Denmark and England and Wales). This variation reflects variation in practices and usages rather than intrinsic differences between databases. For example, if a jurisdiction submits fewer profiles from traces than others for a similar number of people profiles stored in the database, there will be fewer “matches” and the performance ratio will, in turn, be smaller. Differences in the policy applied with respect to profile removal will also have a major effect on the calculated performance.

Another point to emphasize is that the discovery of a database “match” will have an influence all through the criminal justice chain. It is, however, difficult to know the global effect of this “match” on operations including the effects of saving time and linking cases on court outcomes (see below).

In summary, it can be accepted that the development of forensic databases such as DNA databases leads to spectacular results, especially when the aim is to identify links between a trace found at the crime scene and a person. However, their effectiveness in terms of linking information obtained from traces remains unclear. Further, accurate database performance evaluation is difficult and may be misleading without a complete understanding of the overall information treatment processes involved (Bieber 2006). As stated by Bieber (2006), “a lack of integration between the DNA laboratories and the other components of the justice system responsible for following up on results is perhaps the biggest weakness, in that desirable outcomes have not been clearly defined or carefully researched.” In this regard, the integration of forensic information in a crime intelligence database should be seen as a positive development (Rossy et al. 2012). This approach seems particularly effective when the system in place enables the exchange and comparison of marks and traces across several jurisdictions.

From Identification To Charges And To Court

If the identification of the offender is one of the major aims of an investigation, the forensic science work goes well beyond the discovery of a fingerprint or a DNA “match.” Identifying an individual does not necessarily lead to an arrest, let alone to a guilty outcome in court. The effectiveness of forensic science is therefore closely related to the conversion rate between “identifying an individual (through forensic means)” and “arresting this individual.” Do we have an idea of what this rate could be? Only a small number of studies have been undertaken in this area and the results appear sometimes inconsistent. However, the following trends have been identified:

  • In England and Wales, out of ten fingerprint and DNA “matches,” approximately seven could be translated into an arrest in high-volume crime cases (Bradbury and Feist 2005).
  • In a 1-year study across seven divisions of two police forces in England, it was found that 81 % of links identified on the basis of shoe marks, tool-marks, and biological traces led to an arrest. Further, investigators interviewed in this study estimated that forensic traces played an essential or secondary role in the arrest in 91 % of the cases (Burrows and Tarling 2004). Overall, there seems to be an attrition rate of 20–30 % between the identification and arrest stages. There are many reasons to explain this attrition. For example, the suspect may admit a contact with the scene or surface under investigation but challenges the context that would lead to the charges; for example, he or she can claim a legitimate contact. Further, secondary transfer, contaminations, uncertainty in the identification, and laboratory or clerical errors are well-known phenomena and can also play a role in some cases. For these reasons, a forensic “match” has little value per se. The investigator in charge must integrate the results obtained from forensic examination into the remaining information available in the case. In other words, the exploitation of a forensic result is strongly related to the investigation. It is therefore not surprising to see that the likelihood of an arrest once an identification is made depends on the quality of the investigator in charge (Julian et al. 2012). To this end, the investigator’s work appears scientific in nature, not only because material traces are considered, but also because hypotheses are identified and tested in a structured and logical manner. However, some cultural issues (i.e., investigator vs. scientist) often remain and explain why investigators usually tend to favor human aspects (e.g., eyewitnesses, informants, and psychological profilers) over material traces. Integrating investigators and scientists, sharing the same goal, in a common (or at least closely related) structure appears to deliver improved outcomes, although this is difficult to capture and measure (Barclay 2009).

It is also interesting to note that a “match” may be identified once an individual has already been arrested. The forensic result in this case is added to the file, and it becomes difficult to measure its impact on the defendant’s behavior and on the defense or prosecution strategies through the court process. There seems to be a difference between serious crime and volume crime. For example, Briody and Penzler (2005) found that

DNA evidence was a positive predictor that prosecutors would pursue cases in court and had a powerful influence on jury decisions to convict. Incriminating DNA evidence demonstrated no significant effect on inducing guilty pleas from defendants for serious crimes against the person. However, it did correlate significantly with cases reaching court and with guilty pleas being entered for property offence cases. In serial cases involving DNA, offenders have the tendency to confess their involvement in additional cases, in which no forensic traces exist and no suspects have been identified (Bradbury and Feist 2005).

 “End-To-End” Process

It is clear that the accurate assessment of forensic science effectiveness requires a consideration of the overall process involved in the practice of this discipline, from the actual crime to court or other contributions to policing. Such studies are difficult to undertake because the process by which forensic traces are discovered at the scene and then moved through the criminal justice system to court is very convoluted. As a result, while end-to-end studies provide a more holistic view on how forensic science contributes to the criminal justice system, there are many difficulties in generalizing any statement about forensic science effectiveness as practices vary tremendously and are almost never explicitly integrated with clear policing strategies. Examples of such studies reported to date are briefly described below.

  • United Kingdom Scientific Work Improvement Model (SWIM) and Derbyshire Constabulary Study

The SWIM project (Home Office 2007) built upon some work undertaken during 2002 and 2003 in the Derbyshire Constabulary, in which a direct correlation between the time taken from crime occurrence to forensic-led detection (lead time) and crime levels had been identified. In other words, reducing the lead time could reduce the level of crime. The SWIM program ran over a 2-year period and involved 41 forces looking at the police and scientific functions in England and Wales. Focusing on burglaries and vehicle thefts and on DNA and fingerprints, the study examined the main stages of the overall process (attendance, submission, identification, and detection) and evaluated the lag time between each of the phases and the success of the case as it moved through to the next stage. At each stage, the result was calculated as the proportion of transactions that were transferred to the next stage. The lead time was calculated for each crime report as the earliest activity date at each forensic process stage. The success rate was calculated as the percentage of cases that successfully moved to the next stage.

The SWIM report made a large number of general and police force specific recommendations for improvement at all stages of the forensic process. In particular, it demonstrated the need to identify significant leakage points in the process and that systems should be developed to capture and compare relevant data and learn from top performers.

  • Denver Colorado Study

This study (Ashikhmin et al. undated) aimed to evaluate the effectiveness and cost of DNA technology on high-volume crimes such as burglary, auto theft, and theft from motor vehicles in 2006. The study found that aggressive use of DNA in such investigations and subsequent prosecutions resulted in a significant decrease in property crimes compared to similar metropolitan areas in the United States. It also found that, in burglary cases with hits in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), much harsher sentences were given to high-volume, habitual offenders whose criminal activity had a higher impact on society. The study also conducted a cost benefit analysis and found that the return on investment for every dollar spent with this approach was estimated to be $90 with an actual 2-year savings to the citizens and the city of Denver of more than $5 million in police costs and $36.8 million in property loss. In conclusion, this study recommended an expansion of DNA science in high-volume crimes based on the high success rate for prosecution and the value for money return on investment.

  • Waikato District and Environmental Science and Research: Forensic (ESR Forensic) DNA Project

In mid-2010, the Waikato Police District in New Zealand (NZ) undertook a 3-month study in collaboration with ESR Forensic, the main government forensic science laboratory in New Zealand (Coley 2010). The aims of this trial were to monitor the implementation of quicker turnaround times by ESR Forensic and police for DNA submissions from volume crime scenes and to assess the value of the forensic submissions being made in terms of their likelihood to produce a profile and the value of those links to investigators. Return on the investment was also considered.

The trial led to a significant improvement in turnaround times by ESR Forensic which significantly increased the value of the forensic results to police. It was also found that the trial made a significant contribution to volume crime reduction through better prioritization of district volume crime DNA collection and submission and through the actioning of forensic identifications. For example, it was found that ESR Forensic Volume Crime Laboratory averaged 5.4 days turnaround time from receipt to result in the laboratory for 78 % of Waikato submissions over the 3-month trial period, improving significantly on the previous 4-week turnaround. By ensuring attendance within the same day as a crime is reported, Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCO) were able to see the added value of their forensic results and the effect of their timely response on the current crime environment. Further, investigators identified the benefits of working with rapid identifications: (1) It has the potential to recover property and to prevent future offending and (2) it assists in identifying current “hot” offenders, which in turn allows the police to apply a targeted approach disrupting and influencing the current crime patterns.

  • ANZPAA-NIFS End-to-End Forensic Identification Process Project

The Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency National Institute of Forensic Science endorsed this project in 2010 to “review end-to-end forensic processes and develop a national framework for efficient crime scene analysis” (Brown and Ross 2012). End-to-end processing was defined in this project as the time from the report of a crime through to the arrest of an offender. The process was broken into five distinct stages: attendance, submission, analysis, identification, and investigation. The study aimed to benchmark performance for the use of fingerprints and DNA in burglary cases. It was carried out in 2011 in partnership with the eight Australian police agencies and a number of relevant DNA laboratories. In total, 17 sites across Australia were considered for more than 8,000 burglaries reported over a 5-month period.

The findings and recommendations are still being discussed and reported to the participants and stakeholders at the time of writing. It is hoped that this project will not only provide an appreciation of the forensic performance within Australia but will also identify some directions with respect to (1) the scope of evaluation that could be carried out and (2) the possibilities that exist to improve forensic science service delivery. Further, a second snapshot study is envisaged to determine if recommended changes have a positive impact on performance for the end-to-end forensic process.

Conclusions: Future Directions

This research paper presents a critical review of the topic of effectiveness of forensic science. In particular, it attempts to address the central question: What do we actually know about the impact of forensic science on the criminal justice system in general and on criminal investigations in particular?

It is, however, impossible to discuss the topic of effectiveness without knowing what the contribution of forensic science is expected to be. Similarly, it is impossible to assess effectiveness without contrasting outcomes and impact against what the forensic science community itself claims to be able to achieve. This discussion is challenging because, in general, expectations are poorly defined. Further, the traditional contribution of forensic science is primarily oriented toward the court’s needs and requirements. How can we account for this contribution? In this context, it is impossible to define what “successes” and “failures” are, because, in this dimension, forensic science’s role is to provide impartial information to the trier of facts. Forensic scientists never celebrate the outcome of a court process. Why would they be assessed on this basis then?

Beyond the court process, assessing the effectiveness of forensic science is equally challenging. Effectiveness cannot only be measured in terms of crime resolution. The contribution of forensic science is actually much broader (Barclay 2009). To this end, there is an emerging shift from the traditional focus on forensic science in the laboratory toward a more significant contribution of forensic science in intelligence-led policing and investigation (Ribaux et al. 2006, 2010a, b; Roux et al. 2012). This contribution, which is not trivial, must be accounted for in the overall assessment of the effectiveness of forensic science.

Research to date has shown interesting trends, such as that the best use of forensic science is reached when the collection and processing of forensic case data is promoted through close cooperation between forensic scientists and investigators. There are however major discrepancies in forensic policies across institutions and even across individuals, and they are poorly integrated into policing strategies. Thus, inference of any general rules about the effectiveness of forensic science drawn from individual studies may be invalid. It is argued that there is a need to better understand and explain the broader contribution, as a precondition to accounting for effectiveness. Otherwise, managerial decisions taken on the basis of limited studies and misunderstandings about what forensic case data can bring may have unintended consequences for the whole system.

Research outcomes to date probably reveal more about the need for methodological improvements on how to undertake such research than providing a clearer answer with respect to the effectiveness of forensic science. In other words, more research is needed in this area.


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