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Taming the Forensic Imaginary: Researching the Effective Use of Forensic Science. PowerPoint Presentation
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Taming the Forensic Imaginary: Researching the Effective Use of Forensic Science.

Taming the Forensic Imaginary: Researching the Effective Use of Forensic Science.

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Taming the Forensic Imaginary: Researching the Effective Use of Forensic Science.

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  1. Taming the Forensic Imaginary: Researching the Effective Use of Forensic Science. Robin Williams School of Applied Social Sciences Durham University SIPR Seminar February 2009

  2. Outline of Presentation • The contemporary Forensic Imaginary: an outline & some instances. • Taming the Imaginary • scientific, and socio-ethical and issues. • understanding ‘effective use’. • An immodest proposal. • Research practice, knowledge transfer & knowledge exchange. SIPR Seminar February 2009

  3. The Contemporary Forensic Imaginary (i) • An (near-contemporary) example: It is a recognised fact that in many cases no witnesses are available and all the evidence is circumstantial. In such cases science may help in a way which is beyond the range of any possible evidence depending upon the personal observation of the police or of other witnesses. In some cases it may supply vital evidence against the guilty party, or in others definite proof of innocence where guilt was suspected. It may give certainty amidst apparently conflicting stories from witnesses, and at the very least it may provide a means of reconstructing the crime and thus savingan immense amount of unnecessary work for the investigating officer, by eliminatinglines of enquiry which would otherwise require attention and pointing to those which are most likely to be fruitful.(Home Office 1949: 3). SIPR Seminar February 2009

  4. The Contemporary Forensic Imaginary (ii) • Why ‘imaginary’? : To emphasise the significance of emotion, desire, symbols, and spectacular images even where empirical science is the focus of interest. Not falsifications, but simplifications/distortions/selections • Reflecting the wider ‘scientification of policing’ (Ericson & Shearing [1986] The Scientification of Police Work). Establishing credibility and giving authority to accounts. Technical agents of scientific rationality rather than instruments of particular social interests. SIPR Seminar February 2009

  5. Modes of Imaging (i) Visual: ‘point of crime’ profiling The crime scene sample The portable DNA test SIPR Seminar February 2009 The rapid arrest Mobile database search

  6. Modes of Imagining (ii) Statistical: Using DNA SIPR Seminar February 2009

  7. Taming the Forensic Imaginary: Science, Policy & Ethics • Challenging Generic Claims to Scientificity: ‘Soon, if we are not exceedingly careful to rein in the public portrayals of the forensic sciences to a more realistic scientific level, the forensic sciences will be found to be wanting in credibility by juries for failing to measure up to public image’ Starrs (2003) ‘Foreword to James & Nordby Forensic Science. • Invoking socio-ethical responsibilities of claims-makers: ‘The protection afforded by Article 8 [ECHR: on right to private life] would be unacceptably weakened if the use of modern scientific techniques in the criminal justice system were allowed at any cost….any State claiming a pioneering role in the development of new technologies bears special responsibility for striking the right balance in this regard.’ ECrtHR S & Marper v. The UK (2008) SIPR Seminar February 2009

  8. Taming the Forensic Imaginary: Interrogating ‘Effective Use’ (i) • Exhortations: Longstanding litany of demands for and criticisms of forensic science support. Most recent in NPIA Forensics 2: • Demands: more detections, reduced re-offending, greater efficiencies by working together, consistency of processes and standards, value for money; • Criticisms: inadequate measures of VFM and of performance variation; significant differences in current performance and timeliness; lack of national standard processes and supporting systems. • Alongside a seeming contradiction: March 1st 2006 Hazel Blears at House of Commons: Information on the number of serious crimes such as murder, manslaughter and rape that have been detected using DNA profiles taken from suspects who had previously been arrested, charged but not convicted of an offence is not collected by the Home Office as detections are achieved through integrated criminal investigation and not by forensic science alone. SIPR Seminar February 2009

  9. Taming the Forensic Imaginary: Interrogating Effective Use (ii) • Approaching Effectiveness: contradiction or organisational schizophrenia? (UFSE v. PSU) • Serious Crime: Maximise forensic provision, recognise forensic expertise, integrate into co-ordinated investigative approach. Emphasis on scope for discretion and innovation. • Volume Crime: Maximise managerial control, establish standard operating procedures, supervise and monitor performance variation. • Underlying differences characterised as: • ‘discretionary model v. ‘procedural model’ (Burrows et al); • or ‘substantive rationality v. ‘formal rationality’ (Tilley & Townsley) • Or ‘forensic science as ‘service’ v. ‘commodity’ (Downham) • or ‘expert integration’ v. ’process integration’ (Williams, after Fraser) SIPR Seminar February 2009

  10. Limitations of Current Work on Effective Use. • Failure to challenge the organisational presuppositions and practices associated with the serious crime/volume crime distinction. • Continued dependence of volume crime research on managerially generated attrition data. • Over-emphasis on attendance and recovery issues; under-emphasis on use of artefacts and intelligence • Persistent use of vague explanatory concepts: ‘Leadership’, ‘Performance Culture’; ‘Motivation’ • Absence of controlled experimental evaluations • But see Roman et.al. (2008) ‘The DNA Field Experiment: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of the Use of DNA in The Investigation of High-Volume Crime’ SIPR Seminar February 2009

  11. An Immodest Proposal • Studying Forensic Investigation as Practical Action: Seeing the missing ‘whatness’ • Direct examination of skills, purposes, instruments, texts, materials, routines and modes of agency that constitute forensic investigations • How outcomes are achieved across a range of cases and places • 2 Basic Aims: • Establishing the grammar of forensic investigations • Uncovering investigative epistemology SIPR Seminar February 2009

  12. An Immodest Proposal • Studying Forensic Investigation as Practical Action: Seeing the missing ‘whatness’ • 2 Basic Aims: • Establishing the grammar of forensic investigations • Uncovering investigative epistemology • And also: • Capable of contributing to improving the effectiveness of current practice SIPR Seminar February 2009

  13. Conclusion: Co-Produced Research, Knowledge Transfer & Exchange • A significant moment for forensic science producers and consumers? Scientific challenges; policy and ethical challenges; new modes of production; new agents and agencies • For Research? • British Academy (2008) ‘Punching Our Weight: The Humanities and Social Sciences in Public Policy Making • ESRC/BBSRC/NERC (2007) Rural Economy & Land Use Programme Common Knowledge: An Exploration of Knowledge Transfer • 4 Models of Knowledge Transfer & Exchange • Linear: Users as passive recipients of technologies/training • Feedback: Users provide feedback on outputs but not on process of knowledge production • Collaborative: users in dialogue with researchers from framing to methods to dissemination • Co-production: dissolution of boundaries between producers & users; recognition of multiple expertise; replacement of one way ‘transfer’ with two way ‘exchange’. SIPR Seminar February 2009

  14. Questions? • Questions? SIPR Seminar February 2009