Since the February 18, 2009, release of the National Research Council Report, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward,” we’ve published coverage and opinions about the report and its recommendations in the magazine and weekly e-newsletter. The 13 recommendations outlined a path, but it seems the work of clearing the brush has only begun. We will continue to follow this topic and, hopefully, the actions that will take place over the next months and years.

Recently, the Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence (SWGDE) posted a position paper on the report that states the “report is a call to action for SWGDE to strengthen the digital evidence discipline.”

While SWGDE endorses many of the recommendations, some endorsements are with reservations and qualifications. The SWGDE response to Recommendation 7: Mandatory accreditation and certification supports accreditation for digital evidence laboratories but notes that “mandatory accreditation using the current process is not feasible for all laboratories…” In lieu of a mandatory accreditation, they recommend “that all digital evidence laboratories have a written quality management system in place to provide confidence and assurance in the quality of that laboratory’s work.”

However, on the certification issue, SWGDE does not qualify the response and states that “SWDGE supports mandatory certification of all digital evidence practitioners.” They take a practical stance and recognize that it is “unlikely any one certification will ever be all encompassing,” going on to note that the rapidly evolving area of digital evidence means continually changing the training and certification related to it. Though they do not offer a specific solution, the particular challenge for this area of expertise is duly noted.

The response to Recommendation 4: Removing public labs from administrative control of law enforcement is a clear “does not agree.” SWGDE states,

SWGDE does not agree that the removal of labs from law enforcement agencies will free them from the effects of context bias and exigency. Submitters of casework, even if coming from outside an independent laboratory, can always be a source of information leading to bias or pressure to perform quickly. Regardless of the laboratory’s funding source or management structure, the customers’ desires can be a source of bias for any laboratory or examiner.

Some forward progress has been made on Recommendation 2: Standardization of terminology for reporting and testimony. A glossary of terms related to digital and multimedia evidence, jointly authored by SWGDE and the Scientific Working Group on Imaging Technology (SWGIT) can be downloaded for free from the SWGDE website The glossary provides general as well as discipline specific terms as they apply to image analysis, computer forensics, video analysis, and forensic audio. (See John Barbara’s Digital Insider column in this issue for more on the disciplines).

The full SWGDE position paper is available at