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Teesside academics express concern about the future of UK forensics

06 August 2013 @TeesUniNews

 

Universities could hold the key to the future of forensic science research, academics from Teesside University have told a parliamentary inquiry.

The Centre for Forensic Investigation at Teesside University recently submitted evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Report on the closure of the Government-owned Forensic Science Service (FSS).

In their submissions, academics at the Centre for Forensic Investigation expressed concerns about the impact the closure will have on the future independence and integrity of forensic investigation and suggested that there now needs to be a coordinated approach to research and development with universities at the heart.

The evidence submitted by Teesside University has been quoted twice in the final report which was published by the committee recently.

In 2010, citing losses of £2million a month, the Government announced the FSS would be closed, with its work being carried out by the private sector and individual police forces.

Prior to its closure in 2012, the FSS carried out the bulk of forensics work for police forces and government agencies in the UK.

The select committee report into the impact of the closure has criticised the decision saying it did not sufficiently demonstrate value for money.

The report also expresses concern about whether police forces have sufficient levels of accreditation to carry out detailed forensic work.

The report adds: 'Perceptions of police impartiality are also important; Teesside University questioned whether the public would 'be confident that their forensic provision will remain independent with the highest integrity' as work moves into police forces.'

Another key area of concern highlighted in the report is the future of forensic science research following the demise of the FSS.

Teesside University is quoted in the report saying that there now needs to be a ‘coordinated approach’ to research and development in the UK.

It adds: 'The days when there could be one physical central research establishment may have passed but the strategic leadership and central coordination is still needed.

'Universities are keen to collaborate with practitioners in police forces and with companies but this still needs national and regional coordination.

'It is without doubt a good thing for police forces and companies to work with Universities… It is quite possible to keep things confidential and the research findings can feed into the bigger picture and guide future good practice.

'Universities can and would be willing to work confidentially with police forces and companies and only publish their data with permission especially when the findings could have much wider relevance and impact.'

Teesside University is working behind the scenes to help ensure there is a future for forensic science research in this country.

Brian Rankin, the Head of the Centre for Forensic Investigation, chaired a Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education board which set a benchmark statement for forensic science education.

In addition, Brian also worked with the Technology Strategy Board to create a special interest group for forensic science research and development and innovation.

Finally, Teesside University is also part of a working group to propose that forensic science should, in its own right, be part of the Research Excellence Framework.

Brian added: 'It continues to be clear that the decision to close the FSS was flawed and not based on solid financial foundations.

'The key position once held for UK R&D and innovation is seriously threatened as it is unclear if the remaining forensic providers or the police will provide significant investment for the future.

'However, there may be some green shoots. Praise was given to the police forces in the North East and how they procure forensic science as a group of forces.

'Equally, here at Teesside University we are working to ensure that we not only set national standards in education but we play a significant role in supporting the national picture for forensic and crime scene science.'


In the News

Fear for future of crime scene science
Evening Gazette, 13/08/2013, p.9
The Centre for Forensic Investigation at Teesside University submitted evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Report on the closure of the loss-making Government-owned Foren


Teesside academics express forensics concern
B Daily (Web), 06/08/2013
Universities could hold the key to the future of forensic science research, academics from Teesside University have told a parliamentary inquiry. The Centre for Forensic Investigation at Teesside Univ