The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has updated the structure and operating procedures of its Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science. The revisions will allow for the rapid development of new, science-based standards, which can then be made available to forensic laboratories to make sure that everyone is following the same best practices and adhering to the same minimum requirements.
The OSAC was originally formed in 2014, and consists of several Scientific Area Committees (SAC). Those SACs draft standards for individual fields, and then send their proposals to Standards Developing Organizations (SDO) for further refinement. Once they are published, the high-quality standards are then consolidated in the OSAC registry to encourage adoption.
The structural updates will establish a new SAC for forensic medicine, and split the current chemistry SAC into two. The OSAC will also encourage collaboration with multidisciplinary committees for subjects that cover more than one field, and it will reduce the number of subcommittees from 25 to 22 after consolidating those with similar purview.
On the procedural front, the changes are intended to make the drafting process more transparent and more efficient. All standards proposals will now be submitted for technical review and public comment before being sent to an SDO, which will raise the quality of the proposal that eventually does get sent. In the meantime, those policy proposals will be listed alongside those that have been formally published on the OSAC Registry. Doing so will provide more insight on the status of an ongoing standards review. It will also give individual laboratories the opportunity to plan ahead and update their own practices before the official publication.
“These changes will optimize OSAC processes while strengthening the rigorous technical review of proposed standards,” said Shyam Sunder, a NIST Senior Science Adviser and the Acting Director of the Special Programs Office. “Our goal is to accelerate the widespread adoption and use of high-quality standards by forensic science practitioners.”
The NIST is hoping that the changes will help the organization keep up with the rapid pace of technological development. The OSAC Registry currently includes 37 published standards, all of which are designed to make sure that forensic results are both reproducible and reliable.
The NIST is one of the most renowned testing bodies for biometric technology. The organization conducts regular tests of leading biometric algorithms, covering face and fingerprint recognition in addition to other modalities.
October 5, 2020 – by Eric Weiss