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Transformational, interdisciplinary science that addresses foundational innovation is needed. Traditionally, innovations such as presumptive testing for blood or generating a DNA profile have often been applied to justice-related issues without considering the specific context of a crime reconstruction, or the requirements of a particular justice system. However, for science research and innovation to be relevant and implementable, it needs to be tailored to the distinctive requirements of a system. One current trend has been the promotion of interdisciplinary science approaches designed to address the entirety of a justice system’s specific challenges. This approach addresses methods, tools and theory, and incorporates considerations of both material evidence (physical and digital) and human actors (in terms of experience, expertise and decision making). To date, the focus of research and innovation has been to support the delivery of science services to investigators with the short-term deployment of detection capabilities, such as the rapid detection of DNA and fingerprints, or portable ‘lab-on-a-chip’ devices to analyse traces. According to a study published in the United Kingdom, 70% of the total government funding made available for forensic science research in that country (by monetary value) is dedicated to technology innovation intended to produce tools primarily deployed by the police and security services. It is increasingly recognized that there has been a dearth of research addressing the evidence base for the practice of science across justice systems more broadly. A report published by the US National Research Council in 2009 highlighted this as a serious challenge, which was a view reiterated by the UK House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee in 2019. There is still a lot of work to be done on the theoretical foundations of the newly-emerging, interdisciplinary sciences that will underpin innovation. Both technological innovation and foundational research will be needed, in order to create output implementable within the distinctive environment of a justice system. This means that methods and research output need to incorporate an awareness of the critical questions that arise during crime reconstructions, and also be deployable within the resource and time limitations of a typical justice system. Funding for this type of research is often scarce. For example, in the UK it received less than 0.03% of the national budget for research between 2009 and 2018. The scarcity of funding needs to be addressed, if science is to meet the changing needs of justice systems.

Science and Innovation in Justice

KEY TRENDS

Demands for Justice