Published online 25 February 2009 | Nature 457, 1071 (2009) | doi:10.1038/4571071b

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Forensic science badly lacking in the United States

Television shows such as CSI give juries unrealistic expectations of forensic evidence.Television shows such as CSI give juries unrealistic expectations of forensic evidence.CBS/J. BRUCKHEIMER TELEVISION/TOUCHSTONE TELEVISION/RONALD GRANT ARCHIVE

The US forensic-science system is fragmented, underfunded and poorly supported by research, according to a report issued by the US National Research Council on 18 February.

The judiciary system relies on forensic science to link evidence to a suspect, but only nuclear-DNA analysis has been shown to make such connections reliably, the report says. The government should create a federal agency to support research on forensic methods and establish ways to quantify uncertainty, says the council. Forensic-science practitioners should undergo mandatory certification, and laboratories should be separated from law-enforcement and prosecutors' offices.

The US Senate judiciary committee will review the report and decide on the necessary hearings and legislation, a statement from chairman Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont) says. Senator and ranking Republican of the committee Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) says it is "incumbent on Congress to pursue the report's findings". 

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