OSAC... And something about a ship.

When discussing all of the work currently underway at the federal level to strengthen forensic science in the United States, one figure of speech keeps popping up: the ship metaphor.

During an interview in February, NIST Vice Chair John Butler referred to the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) as a “ship,” and NIST “the tugboat pulling the ship out to sea.” And you, the community at large, he said, are “the crew”.

At the inaugural virtual meeting for the Forensic Science Standards Board in early July, we saw another ship metaphor: A slide presented to the group depicts a bunch of tiny cartoon humans rowing solo in a bunch of tiny cartoon boats—while below them, a sturdy battleship bearing the letters “OSAC” sails across the slide in counterpoint.

The message of the slide graphics is clear: To date, individual scientific working groups (SWGs) typically shared a similar name (SWGFAST, SWGSTAIN, FISWG) and a similar mission (to determine best practices and standards within their respective forensic disciplines). But their resources, structure, language, and methods varied from group to group. They were rowboats on the ocean, facing the growing swells generated by the 2009 NAS Report.

The message from the FSSB meeting in July was that reorganizing the scientific working groups under the new banner of OSAC will provide “improved funding support, enforceable standards, unified effort, and greater influence and impact.”

Application review and appointments to the FSSB, three resource committees, five scientific area committees, and 23 subcommittees have been ongoing this year, and subcommittee meetings are expected to begin in early 2015. All of the progress, including opportunities to get involved, can be followed at www.nist.gov/forensics/osac/. The metaphorical ship appears to be sailing. Now the question is: Will you be on board?

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Evidence Technology Magazine

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