Emerging Forensic Research Series Promotes Sharing Ideas

Sharing ideas and resources isn’t just the name of a National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-supported school safety publication series; it’s the underlying goal beneath all the work done by the projects that have belonged to the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) System. That includes the NIJ Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, and there’s no better example of how the NIJ FTCoE meets that goal than its new Emerging Forensic Research Webinar Series.

Starting with a webinar on Firearm and Toolmark Research in February 2019, the series has addressed topics such as toxicology and drugs, medicolegal death investigations, biology and chemistry, with more events planned later in 2019. Through the series page on the center’s website, the FTCoE encourages the forensic community to reach out with ideas on emerging research in the forensic sciences, and researchers have responded positively.

“Researchers help us achieve our goal of sharing knowledge about forensic science research and best practices to a wide variety of stakeholders. We’ve always encouraged researchers to share updates and challenges through our webinars and podcasts, and they’ve always responded,” says FTCoE Innovation Analyst Rebecca Shute. “It’s a mutually beneficial partnership: researchers showcase their work to the community, and the community learns how the science will impact their work down the road.”

The series is not just about sharing ideas. It also fosters dialogue between researchers and practitioners: “Focusing on emerging research gives our presenters a chance to share their work with multiple stakeholders during the development process and learn more about end users’ needs,” Shute says.

For example, in a recent webinar on forensic chemistry, researchers talked about a variety of analytical methods, ranging from Raman spectroscopy to coupling mass spectrometry with a vacuum-ultraviolet detector for the analysis of a range of evidence, including paint, body fluids, explosives and fentanyl analogs.

Shute goes on to explain that emerging research topics foster robust commentary through the webinar software’s chat features, which gives the audience a chance to ask questions, provide input, and discuss challenges and opportunities. Receiving input from researchers, practitioners, potential development partners and other members of the forensic community provide the presenters with valuable insights on how to transition research into practice. The law enforcement community can also provide input, while learning about what is in development in areas of special interest, such as firearms and toolmarks.

“Our goal is to assist researchers with the transition process, starting when their research is in progress,” Shute says. “By getting this important feedback at this point in the research, it can help researchers avoid eventually pushing technology at the forensic community that may not meet user needs. These webinars provide a different opportunity than a conference presentation. We wanted to give the presenters a chance to talk about their research in a different way, almost like an ’elevator pitch.’ And the fact that so many of them were interested and excited to present the research in this manner has made it easy for us to span a wide variety of disciplines.”

In addition to the focus on a different type of presentation, the FTCoE began switching to a new platform in April that uses a smoother, more user-friendly interface, with features such as a more interactive chat function and closed captioning. The FTCoE will continue providing access to and certificates of completion for all of its archived and upcoming webinar content. Users will be prompted to update their information in the new platform, but will still be able to access a transcript of the webinars they have attended.

To learn more about the Emerging Forensic Research Series, click here. Researchers who would like to use the FTCoE platform to showcase their work to the forensic community should email forensicCOE@rti.org.

Article photo: Couperfield/Shutterstock.com

About The Author

Becky Lewis has written professionally for nearly 40 years, the past 12 as a technical writer/editor with the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center System and its Justice Technology Information Center. She writes for SchoolSafetyInfo.org as well as for TechBeat.

Related Posts