Paul C. Giannelli, Case Western Reserve School of Law, has published Forensic Science: Why No Research? at 38 Fordham Urban Law Journal 503 (2010). Here is the abstract.
The National Academy of Sciences ground-breaking report on forensic science – Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward – raised numerous issues. One dominant theme that runs throughout the Report is the failure of some forensic science disciplines to comport with fundamental scientific principles – in particular, to support claims with empirical research. The Report observed that “some forensic science disciplines are supported by little rigorous systematic research to validate the discipline’s basic premises and techniques. There is no evident reason why such research cannot be conducted.”
The Report went on to identify fingerprint examinations, firearms (ballistics) and toolmark identifications, questioned document comparisons, hair analysis, and bite mark examinations as disciplines lacking such empirical research. This essay attempts to answer the “why” question: Why was there a lack of research across so many forensic disciplines?
Professor Giannelli answers the "why" question this way.
Several factors may explain the lack of empirical research in the early part of the last century--most significantly, crime laboratories staffed by police officers with inadequate budgets and a lack of scientific training. Moreover, a good part of the failures can be attributed to inadequacies in the legal system--the lack of counsel, the failure to provide defense experts, and insufficient discovery. In recent years, however, the reason for the lack of empirical research was simply a stubborn refusal to reconsider beliefs in light of credible challenges. This is the antithesis of the scientific method. As the NAS Report noted, “openness to new ideas, including criticism and refutation” is a fundamental principle of the scientific method. Download the essay from SSRN at the link.