Step up funding to halt forensic folly

Forensic science faces challenges in many countries besides the United Kingdom (Nature 500, 5; 2013), particularly in terms of its research funding and culture. If the world's leading economies want science and justice to support each other more effectively and thus allow courts to make informed decisions, forensic science needs to be adequately funded.

Leading funding organizations tend to favour transformational over applied research such as forensic science. Forensic research consequently misses out, even in this age of 'impact' rating.

Genuine breakthroughs in forensic science depend on advances in basic disciplines such as analytical chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry. But limited funds mean that forensic science has all too often had to depend on the transfer of technology from other fields, combined with statistical, anecdotal or case-study-based evidence.

Making inferences from single-event observations is poor scientific practice, building a 'house of cards' that can lead to the wrong verdict in court. This may be how case law is formed, but it is not a route to robust science.

If it is to contribute effectively to criminal proceedings, forensic research must be conducted by well-resourced and properly trained scientists.

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Correspondence to Mark Tibbett.

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Tibbett, M. Step up funding to halt forensic folly. Nature 501, 33 (2013).

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