CFS Bulletin Issue 6 July 2013
w: www.ucl.ac.uk/forensic-sciences e: firstname.lastname@example.org @UCLForensicSci
in this issue: •
The 7th International Crime Science Conference
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences 65th Anniversary General Meeting
Events and seminars round-up
News and upcoming events
7th International Crime Science Conference Crime scientists and forensic scientists from UCL and beyond gathered at the British Library, London on Tuesday 16th July for the latest International Crime Science Conference, organised by the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security & Crime Science. The focus for 2013 was on “Engineering emerging technologies for our future cities” and it showcased leading research projects that researchers are hoping will help to tackle threats to our urban societies as we move into a new phase of technological and societal development. The CFS ran a session on Forensic Technology, chaired by the director Dr Ruth Morgan. Dr Gill Tully, from independent forensic science provider Principle Forensic Services, gave a talk on bringing forensic research/ technology to market. Questions from the audience focused on exactly what the current forensic science landscape looks like, following the big changes to forensic science provision after the closure of the Forensic Science Service. It was a useful reminder for those working within the field that others in related disciplines don’t necessarily have the same knowledge that we have, and need to be better informed
before they can consider moving into the field of forensic technological development. Nigel Baker (UCL Security & Crime Science) talked about developing technological tools to incorporate intelligence and forensic evidence into terrorism prevention strategies, and Dr Mark Huckvale (UCL Centre for Law Enforcement Audio Research) talked about his Centre’s project on enhancement of poor quality speech recordings for use as forensic evidence. Dr Ali Anjomshoaa (from the Forensic Special Interest Group) was the external chair, and brought an industry perspective to the session. It was a popular session with delegates and the variety of talks showed the real diversity of forensic science applications. Thanks to all those who attended and we hope to see you again next year.
Research activities Forensic Science in the US: Following their path forward
It has been four years since the American National Academy of Science issued its controversial report criticising many aspects of forensic science practice and making recommendations for change. So what effect has this had on the discipline in the last four years, and how is America progressing along its ‘path forward’? The American Academy of Forensic Sciences 65th Anniversary General Meeting in Washington DC was an ideal arena in which to explore America’s progress. The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘The forensic sciences: founded on observation and experience, improved by education and research’. This brought home the importance of multidisciplinary academic research, such as that carried out through the SECReT programme, to aid the furtherment of forensic science following criticisms of its scientific foundations. This theme led to a number of interesting presentations which focused on the future of forensic science. The most fundamental post NAS report change in America appears to be a move towards federal governance, control and leadership of forensic science. The week prior to the conference the formation of the new National Institute for Standards in Technology (NIST) committee was announced. This committee aims to determine current needs in forensic science and bring in federal
legislation, with the president showing his interest in backing legislative changes. It would seem that the NAS report is beginning to prompt changes at a national level in the US, which forensic laboratories hope will allow the sharing of quality assurance protocols and the use of standardised reporting mechanisms. Expert opinion, the limitations of forensic evidence and the acknowledgement of error were key areas of discussion within a variety of specialisms. The greatest controversy was within the field of bite mark analysis, whose practitioners had originally met the NAS report with anger and resentment. Presentations in this domain focused on acknowledging the limitations of the field, and it was suggested that ‘identification’ should be dropped from the term ‘bite mark identification evidence’, in order not to overstate the scientific basis and power of the evidence. Controversial past cases were discussed where bite mark evidence has led to wrongful conviction and, in one case, sent the accused to death row. It was recommended that such cases should be studied systematically, analysing where mistakes had been made, as the issues involved may not be immediately obvious. This was clearly a highly emotive session for the practitioners in attendance and resulted in some heated discussion (particularly as the expert whose testimony had led to the conviction in the death row case was sitting in the audience!). It seemed, as an outsider, healthy that these views and frustrations were being aired and that some constructive ideas and the need to change and to stand up to scrutiny were being discussed. There seem to be a lot of areas in which academic research could benefit bite mark analysis (anyone need a research project?!). The need for an appreciation of inherent error within forensic sci-
ence was brought to the forefront by Sherry Nazhaeizadeh (UCL SECReT) who presented the poster from her MSc research, which exposed contextual biases within the field of forensic anthropology.
The poster was extremely well received (one of the most popular on display), shocking viewers but highlighting the need to acknowledge bias in their work. Hopefully SECReT students can continue to play a part in progressing forensic science along its ‘path forward’ through research which directly impacts upon forensic science practice, both in the UK and across the world. The next meeting is in February 2014. Article by Helen Earwaker (UCL SECReT)
2053 AD. Humankind has harnessed the super abilities of comic books and science fiction...Scientists have enhanced crime fighters’ human senses. The latest techniques and technology are applied to track down criminals...Roll back 40 years to 2013. How close are we to attaining these abilities? Probably closer than you think.
SuperLAB was a mini-series of events which took place at Bedroom Bar, Shoreditch, London on February 20th and 27th, 2013. Over two nights, a group of PhD researchers, artists and post-doctorates mixed up science and art in order to investigate how they influence each other and whether the super abilities conjured up from comic books and science
fiction could soon become a reality. The project was supported by a Train and Engage bursary funded by the Wellcome Trust.
At the ‘DRAW’ event artist Alice Shirley created pieces of art live at the event and discussed the techniques and skills artists use and need. Becky Chamberlain had people drawing images upside down to see whether the technique improved or impaired their accuracy, and if so, can science tell us why…? Ravi Das and Tom Freeman looked at the effects of different drugs on the brain. They tested creativity and the ability to perform various tasks after having consumed alcohol or coffee. With Matteo Farinella, a neuroscientist and sketcher, the audience drew through a microscope and discussed questions such as “What is creativity?” A week later, at the ‘CRIME’ event… a battle between the forces of good and evil took place! A crime had occurred, the scene taped off ready for investigation…forensic scientists of all kinds were armed and ready as the superheroes of the evening. On the other side of the room, the supervillain psychologists were ready to weave their web of deception over members of the public…. In the Superhero corner…David Pugh (UCL SECReT) did an excellent job of manning the crime scene throughout the evening. He helped members of the public sketch the scene, identify potential evidence items (which included many suspicious objects!), package the evidence and fill in the evidence log. Helen Earwaker and Kelly Cheshire (UCL SECReT) were fingerprinting all night. With so many different types of evidence items it was up to
them to help people figure out which materials would be better to lift the prints. They also gave the audience an opportunity to take away a souvenir of the night in the form of a personalised fingerprint keyring.
The public were tasked with determining the murder weapon…with the help of Dagmar Heinrich (UCL SECReT), they compared the images of knife wounds on skeletal remains found at one of our crime scenes. The images were compared to knives found in the possession of our suspects… Nadia Abdul-Karim (UCL SECReT) was analysing suspect powders found in the crime scene and those found in the homes of the suspects. The audience compared the spectroscopy data from each of the powders to known samples in order to determine whether the material was sugar, flour, cocaine or something slightly more explosive… Georgia McCulloch (UCL SECReT) was getting down and dirty with soil samples recovered from the outdoor crime scene. Using soil analysis techniques she was able to show how the samples could be differentiated, and demonstrate some of the colourful patterns the analysis produced. In the SuperVillain corner….Chris Street (UCL) was making people lie, watching them, and recording their behaviour. The results were being sent to Nick Duran (University of California) in California via a video link; Nick analysed them throughout the evening and reported back at the end of the night with results on how best to spot a liar and the best methods to lie. Rob Teszka (Goldsmiths College) re-
searches awareness and misdirection. He was playing with people’s minds all night and making them think things they wouldn’t usually. Alongside Rob, Jens Madsen (UCL) was ‘opinion boxing’ with the audience. Jens discussed how we can persuade others and be persuaded ourselves to believe or think things we might not have otherwise.
Throughout the night the public had the opportunity to post comments on our feedback wall which was covered in controversial statements relating to science, art and the relationship between the two. This provided the hosts a chance to get an idea about public opinion on these topics and the research they are conducting. And finally at the end of each evening we finished off with a Q&A session where everyone got together to answer any questions from the audience. We also discussed how close we are to having the super abilities of good and evil…and the latest techniques and technologies we have to track down the bad guy… Overall, the SuperLAB event was a great success with a brilliant turn out from the public. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the help and involvement of a group of enthusiastic MRes, PhD, and Post-doctoral students. Special thanks to Amy Thornton (UCL SECReT) for being a great forensic photographer all evening; and to the Wellcome Trust and the UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences for their support.
Article by Nadia Abdul-Karim (UCL SECReT)
In search of a forensic scientist!
Events round-up The spring & summer terms have been busy with seminars and conferences, both within the Centre and externally: Brian Rankin (Head of the Centre for Forensic Investigation at Teesside University) visited the Centre earlier this year and ran a seminar with our MSc, MRes and PhD students. He posed several topics for the students, including the Home Office review of forensic science, the new College of Policing and the interpretation and evaluation of forensic evidence. These were used as springboards for discussion and debate of the issues surrounding forensic science in the UK. Those who attended found it a valuable experience and we were really pleased that Brian was able to take the time to visit the Centre! Dr Itiel Dror (Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Centre) gave the Sir Michael Davies Lecture in June at the Expert Witness Institute (EWI) entitled: “Experts: The myth of impartiality” - exploring how cognitive science can help identify lack of objectivity in expert evidence, and suggest practical ways to mitigate these problems. Dr Dror was introduced at the event by Lord Justice Leveson.
The Forensic Europe Expo - a twoday conference and exhibition held in London in April - was attended by several of our PhD and MRes students. The conference programme included sessions on the reliability of fingerprint evidence, innovation in forensic provision and innovative technology & research. As well as SuperLAB, students and staff have taken part in other outreach and engagement events such as a careers fair at Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in Amersham, Buckinghamshire - where David Pugh (UCL SECReT) talked to GCSE and A-level students about forensic science and how they can apply their scientific knowledge in a range of careers. News and upcoming events In early July, David Pugh and Helen Earwaker took some of their SuperLAB activities to the Big Bang Fair London - this was a two-day event for schoolchildren and their teachers, where they can find out about a range of STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) disciplines and careers. Visitors to our Centre for the Forensic Sciences stand dusted for fingerprints, compared the prints and created a keyring with their own fingerprint on it to take away. It was hugely popular with all the attendees!
Dryden Goodwin, British Contemporary artist and filmmaker, is seeking a forensic scientist who works gathering evidence from crime scenes, to be featured in his new artist’s film.
The film will focus on four individuals, each with a distinct relationship to looking: a forensic scientist, a surgeon, a clairvoyant and an astronomer. Dryden Goodwin has gained national and international acclaim for his drawing, film, photography, sound and animation art works that investigate and expand on forms of portraiture. He has substantial experience of working in highly sensitive environments. He hopes to shadow, film and create drawn portraits of a practising forensic scientist, willing to open up about their working practices and unique life of looking, with all its challenges and motivations. If you would be interested to find out more please contact: email@example.com www.drydengoodwin.com
CFS Bulletin June 2013 Editor: Kirstie Hampson Contributors: Helen Earwaker Nadia Abdul-Karim Next issue November 2013