In crime labs across the United States, scientists and technicians are being armed with increasingly sophisticated technologies that they can use to help bring criminals to justice and prevent the innocent from going to prison. Innovations from forensic science research and development (R&D) are bringing new techniques to crime solving and increasing the reliability and efficiency of forensic testing. Just as medical research is crucial for advancing public health, sustained progress in the research underlying forensic science is critical for advancing public safety and the administration of justice. Strengthening science to improve justice is a key goal of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Toward that goal, NIJ funds both basic and applied forensic research.
In addition, NIJ maintains partnerships with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to promote innovation in forensic science. In 2014, NIJ and NSF jointly initiated an Industry/ University Cooperative Research Center to advance university and industry collaboration in forensic science R&D and in education. One of several NIJ-NIST working groups has developed best practices for the handling and preservation of DNA and other biological evidence. Other working groups in the partnership are addressing the interoperability of regional and national automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS); developing procedures to limit investigator bias in examining fingerprints; and creating examination standards for a variety of evidence types in criminal cases.