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Bite-mark analysis has come under increased scrutiny in recent months, and now a major re-analysis of American forensic disciplines will put it under the microscope to determine the fate of the technique – with results coming by the end of this year, experts told Forensic Magazine.

The White House has also now condemned bite-mark analysis with one official calling on the technique to be “eradicated,” according to those who attended a forensic conference this week in Virginia.

Jo Handelsman, the assistant director of the White Office of Science and Technology Policy, told the conference this week that bite-mark evidence lacks scientific foundation, according to those who attended the “International Symposium on Forensic Science Error Management,” hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The remarks were well-received, said Alicia Carriquiry, the head of the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence at Iowa State University, who was there. She said she was thrilled to hear the White House stance - since bite marks have been a "particularly troubling" discipline, in terms of the science.

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Bite marks came under scrutiny in a 2014 Washington Post investigation, which found that results and accuracy widely varied.

But bite-mark analysis will be one of the disciplines focused on by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences project to assess criminal forensics, according to Mark Frankel, the director of the project.

The bite-mark re-analysis report is expected by the end of the year, Frankel told Forensic Magazine.

Studies have continually shown problems with the bite-mark science, Carriquiry said.

"They all, without exception, find unacceptably high error rates (meaning false positive identifications)," Carriquiry told Forensic Magazine. "Further, there is absolutely no mechanism to certify examiners in this area, there are not standards whatsoever, and it is almost incredible that this type of evidence is still admitted in court."

But it’s not the only forensic discipline which has been called into question in a public way. The FBI announced in April that decades’ worth of hair analysis was flawed. Multiple states are now auditing thousands of prosecutions that may have relied on the evidence for convictions.

Hair analysis is another AAAS report expected by the end of the year, Frankel said. Bloodstain pattern analysis is also expected in the same time frame. (Already underway are ballistics and tool markers, latent fingerprints and arson investigations).

Since a 2009 report blasted some of the scientific underpinnings of forensic disciplines, the NIST has been spearheading a review of the way evidence is processed and presented in the courtroom.

The National Research Council published “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward” six years ago. It called for major reforms to the criminal-justice system – and to establish national forensics scientific standards.

Since then, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has undertaken a complete review of some 10 forensic disciplines which could be “transformational,” according to officials.

The NIST has also announced $20 million in funding for a national forensics center at Iowa State University, headed by Carriquiry.

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