Organization Profile

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American Academy of Forensic Sciences

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Year Created: 1948

Stated Mission: “The American Academy of Forensic Sciences is a multi-disciplinary professional organization that provides leadership to advance science and its application to the legal system. The objectives of the Academy are to promote integrity, competency, education, foster research, improve practice, and encourage collaboration in the forensic sciences.”

Number of Members: 6,000 with members from all 50 United States; Canada; and 61 other countries.

Disciplines Served: Multi-disciplinary, with eleven sections dedicated to
Criminalistics; Digital & Multimedia Sciences; Engineering Sciences; General Jurisprudence; Odontology; Pathology/Biology; Physical Anthropology; Psychiatry/Behavioral Science; Questioned Documents; and Toxicology

Headquarters: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Website: www.aafs.org

To learn more about the AAFS and its current involvement in the forensic-science community, we talked with outgoing AAFS President Joseph P. Bono, who is also an adjunct professor with the Forensic Sciences Program at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. His term concludes February 26, at the end of the 2011 AAFS Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

Does the AAFS offer certifications or accreditations?

The AAFS does not offer direct certifications or accreditations. However, the AAFS was directly responsible for organizing the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB). This board provides a mechanism for accrediting those organizations that certify individual forensic scientists or other forensic specialists.

What meetings, educational seminars,
or other types of membership gatherings does the AAFS offer?

Once a year, the Academy sponsors an annual meeting. In 2011, that meeting will be in Chicago, Illinois (February 21-26). We have more than 500 papers that will be presented during the week, more than 20 workshops, and a number of breakfast and luncheon seminars. We are expecting approximately 3,500 people to attend. There will be many opportunities for forensic scientists to exchange ideas and discuss some of the controversies we face.

How does the AAFS promote research
and innovation in the forensic sciences?

There are two sides to that: First, the Journal of Forensic Sciences publishes scholarly research and relevant case studies. Second, the Annual Meeting provides opportunities to discuss the members’ research activities and issues of interest. In addition to research, and just as important, the Annual Meeting provides a place to discuss some of the controversial issues that are facing forensic science today. For example, we will include a session at the 2011 meeting that will focus on evaluating why errors occur, and what we can do to minimize errors.

How has the AAFS responded to the concerns
that were formally laid out in the 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report,
Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward?

We officially responded to the NAS report two years ago with a position statement. But I believe it is important to note that the NAS report didn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know. From my perspective, our responsibility right now is to recognize and build upon the meaning of that report. We must continue to move forensic science forward, while at the same time acknowledging our shortcomings. Also, as I recently wrote in the January 2011 issue of the AAFS newsletter, Academy News, we need to remind scientists that they are operating in an adversarial environment when they enter the courtroom—and that should not intimidate them. They must learn how to function in that environment. At the same time, lawyers who might be intimidated by the technical side of forensic science must learn and understand the basics of forensic science to function as advocates for their clients. One of my goals this year has been trying to bridge that gap—to educate both scientists and lawyers.

What changes do you foresee for the AAFS organization
(and the forensic science community) in the near future?

I see more and more young people coming into the Academy. They are looking at the world from a different perspective than my colleagues of 35 years ago. And that is a good thing. I believe that the forensic scientists of this generation are thinking about how to improve what we do, as opposed to just doing it. I think young people today are less inclined to criticize and are more inclined to say, “How do we make this better, because I have both a personal and a professional interest in making it better.”

How will the AAFS prepare its membership
for changes in the future?

We are trying to encourage the younger people to become more actively involved by joining committees, making presentations at meetings, and writing scholarly papers. That’s important. I am encouraging tomorrow’s leadership to get off the back bench and get involved in forensic-science leadership now.

 
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