We all need a little help sometimes, but knowing where to find that help isn't always easy. On this page we aim to link forensic practitioners to the resources they need. Use the categories below to get started and find the resources you are looking for.
Feeling isolated and detached from the field at large? Wondering what is going on out there? We've got ways for you to be able to stay connected.
Authoring or updating procedures manuals? Wondering where to find current industry recommendations? We've got you covered.
Looking to get accredited or certified, but not sure where to begin? We can show you where to start.
Looking for training but unsure where to go? We can point you in the right direction.
Getting into the field of forensics can be difficult, especially finding open positions. We can direct you to sources.
Some valuable, online resources just can't be categorized. Find them here.
Do you feel isolated in your individual laboratory or agency, detached from the field at large? Do you ever wonder how other examiners are doing things, or what new research and development tools are being released? Luckily there are numerous ways for forensic service providers, examiners, vendors, and researchers to stay connected to one another. Below is a list of recommended options to consider, broken into categories.
The benefits of joining a professional organization of forensic examiners include access to valuable training conferences & seminars, access to publications and journals put out by the organization, and networking opportunities with other examiners in your field for times when you have questions or need assistance. Professional organizations also provide free access to upcoming trainings and job postings, as each organization lists these announcements on their websites. Here are a few organizations to consider –
1) The International Association for Identification (IAI): Established in 1915, the IAI at any given time is typically the largest organization of professional forensic examiners in the United States and even the world. Membership grants you access to conferences and journal publications. Their website also posts training and job announcements, available to anyone. Visit them here: https://theiai.org
2) Divisions of the IAI: There are 41 regionalized divisions of the IAI. Each have the benefit of more localized training conferences, as well as connections to other examiners near your district. Furthermore, each division website may contain different job and training postings from one another, and even different from the parent IAI site. Find the division websites here: https://www.theiai.org/divisions.php
3) American Academy of Forensic Sciences: Established in 1948, also one of the largest organization of forensic professionals. At this time the friction ridge examination discipline is not included in the various types of membership categories, but other forensic disciplines are. Membership grants you access to conferences and journal publications. Visit them here: https://www.aafs.org
4) The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC): OSAC was created in 2014 in response to the NAS report finding of a lack of discipline-specific standards. Operating under NIST and made up of over 550 forensic practitioners, researchers & academics, members of the private sector, and members of professional organizations, the goal of OSAC is to facilitate consensus, science-based standards for 22 forensic disciplines. They do this by –
- Identifying community needs for research & development.
- Locating appropriate standards and best practice recommendations (BPRs) documents for the OSAC Registry, and authoring such documents in times when they do not yet exist. In the latter case, the documents are considered proposed standards and sent to a standards developing organization (SDO) for further development and publication.
- Maintaining a list of technically sound documents for Forensic Service Providers to refer to for standards and best practice recommendations, called the OSAC Registry. The OSAC Registry contains two types of documents – those published by an SDO and those proposed by OSAC that are awaiting publication by an SDO. Both types of documents are valuable resources to anyone looking to create standards and BPRs for their unit. If you would like to be involved in OSAC, you can apply for membership here: https://www.nist.gov/osac/apply-join-osac
5) Academy Standards Board (ASB): ASB is an ANSI-accredited standards developing organization (SDO) whose purpose is to provide accessible, high quality, science-based consensus forensic standards. Created in 2015 and operating under the AAFS, ASB frequently works with OSAC and its subcommittees to further develop standards and best practice recommendations for the forensic science community. Membership to ASB means you get to be a part of the discussion and development of standards and best practices for your forensic discipline. Contact the ASB at email@example.com to inquire about membership.
Newsletters are a highly recommended tool for staying connected with the field at large. Ever wonder what new research is coming out? Or where to find funding and grant money? Want to know what the standards organizations are up to and what new recommendations are coming out? All of this and more can be achieved by subscribing to receive newsletters from a variety of sources. Pro tip – not everything is found in a newsletter! Don’t forget to occasionally browse around these websites for full access to everything these organizations have to offer. Here are a few recommendations:
1) OSAC newsletters and standards bulletins: Subscribing to newsletters, and also checking the OSAC websites for news, can keep you informed on the activities of the various subcommittees. Receive notifications on the progress of documents and when documents open for public comment. Subscribe here: https://www.nist.gov/osac/news-communications and find prior newsletters here: https://www.nist.gov/magazine/osac-newsletter If you don’t want to wait for a newsletter, you can always find out what OSAC is up to on their activities tracker here: https://www.nist.gov/osac/osac-registry-implementation
2) ASB newsletters: Like OSAC, ASB newsletters can keep you informed on the progress of standards and best practice recommendation documents. Subscribe to ASB newsletters here: https://www.asbstandardsboard.org/ (scroll to bottom of page and click “ASB newsletter”) and view prior newsletters here: https://news.aafs.org/asb-news/ In between newsletters you can find out what activities the ASB is up to here: https://www.asbstandardsboard.org/asb-standards/
3) National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) newsletters: A fantastic way to stay in touch with national trends in forensic science, news, training, and research, NIST forensic science newsletters can be subscribed to by going here: https://www.nist.gov/forensic-science and enrolling at the bottom of the page.
4) National Institute of Justice (NIJ) newsletters: As with NIST, NIJ newsletters can keep you abreast with news and research going on at a national level. When you enroll you can choose from topics such as general forensic sciences, events and trainings, grants and funding news, and more. An automatic pop-up box for enrollment will appear when you visit this page: https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/forensics If you miss the pop up, click the link at the top of the page that says “subscribe.”
5) Consortium of Forensic Sciences Organization (CFSO) newsletter: Created in 2001 and made up of members from six professional forensic organizations, the Consortium acts as one voice to represent the needs of the forensic science practitioners to the members of Congress. Together they work with Congress to influence policies and legislation that impact the forensic science community. If you are curious as to what work is being done on this level, visit their newsletter page here: https://thecfso.org/newsletter Also take a look at their grant page if you are looking for funding.
6) The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE): CSAFE serves as a rigorous research center committed to applying proven statistical and scientific methods to improve the accuracy of the analysis and interpretation of forensic evidence. Learn more about their findings, publications, and training opportunities here: https://forensicstats.org/ and subscribe to their newsletters here: https://forensicstats.org/news-events/monthly-csafe-newsletters/ Don’t forget they also have a YouTube channel.
7) Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE): The FTCoE, led by RTI and working with NIJ, is a team of professionals that facilitate the advancement of forensics through research and development, and connecting practitioners to reliable technological practices. Stay up to date with their podcasts, webinars, and news by going here: https://forensiccoe.org and by following them on social media.
8) FIGS newsletters: Started by Charlie Parker in 2007 as an e-mail list for interesting fingerprint images, taken over by Sandy Siegel in 2011 and now Rebecca Coutant as of 2021 – the FIGS newsletter has grown to be an excellent resource for a wide variety of friction ridge topics. These monthly e-mails contain links to pertinent articles and research related to friction ridge examination, training announcements, discussions and forums, and more. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe.
9) In the Loop: Run out of Australia this website is a fantastic resource for news, research, and events in the friction ridge and crime scene disciplines. Subscribe to their newsletter here: https://www.in-the-loop.net.au
Want access to recent studies and commentaries? Want to stay informed of recent events or issues you may be asked about in court? How about enjoying an interesting case synopsis? Subscribing to journals and magazines is a great way to achieve this. Here are a few recommendations:
1) Journal of Forensic Identification: Published by the IAI this journal is free for members and a valuable resource for recent research projects and commentary pieces. If you are looking for research on a specific topic - numerous prior issues are available online for searching at various university websites (do a Google search), as well as here: https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library
2) Journal of Forensic Sciences: Published by the AAFS this journal is also free for members and a valuable resource for recent research. Online issues are available for searching here: https://www.astm.org/DIGITAL_LIBRARY/JOURNALS/FORENSIC/index.html and https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com
3) Forensic Science International Journal: Published by Elsevier this journal is an invaluable resource for case reports, commentaries, research, review articles, and technical notes. Especially beneficial for those looking to keep up with what is coming out of areas outside of the United States. View and subscribe to the journal here: https://www.journals.Elsevier.com/forensic-science-international/
4) Forensic Magazine: Good resource for news and interesting cases. Also offers training webinars on various forensic topics. Subscribe here: https://www.forensicmag.com
5) Evidence Technology Magazine: Also a good source of news, articles, and recent cases. Access their home page here: https://www.evidencemagazine.com/index.php and click “subscribe” if interested.
Podcasts are the perfect way to hear experts in your field discuss hot topics, current events, research and general events related to your field. Listening to these conversations can often provide you with a more in-depth understanding of an issue, and also enable you to better answer questions in court.
1) Double Loop Podcast: Led by Glenn Langenburg and Eric Ray this podcast discusses a wide range of topics pertinent to friction ridge examination. These two and their interviewees discuss everything from testimony challenges to research papers, famous cases and examination issues. Find all their episodes on podcast apps or on their website here: https://www.doublelooppodcast.com and don’t forget to follow them on social media.
2) Just Science Podcast: Put out by the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence this podcast covers a broad range of forensic topics such as impression evidence, toxicology, forensic anthropology, and more. Find their episodes on their website here: https://forensiccoe.org/just- science-podcast/
We all run into moments of having questions about what we do. Has anyone tried this new technique? What is the best equipment for this task? Does anyone know of research on this topic my agency is dealing with? How are other people handling this particular situation when it arises? Community forums are an invaluable resource when these moments occur. With a single post or e-mail to a handful of forums you can reach hundreds of examiners for insight and advice. Or browse prior posts for similar topics. You can also read through discussions on larger events and notorious topics, to better formulate responses to court questions about them. Here are a few valuable community forums to bookmark:
1) CLPEX: One of the original online forums for friction ridge examiners, CLPEX has over 2,000 message board topics to browse through. Or post your own and someone will respond. You can access the forum here: https://www.clpex.com/phpBB/
2) The FIGS newsletter: Contained within the FIGS newsletter (mentioned above in “Newsletters and Publications”) is a section for community messages. Send your friction ridge questions to the moderator at email@example.com and it will be posted on your behalf. Include an e-mail address for people to send responses to.
3) California Friction Ridge Study Group: More information on the benefits of this group is listed below under training. Any question you have relating to the topic of friction ridge examination can be sent to moderators firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com Include an e-mail address for people to send responses to.
Are you writing procedures manuals and wondering what to include? Is your agency looking for industry recommendations on best practices? Below is a list of resources for scientific, consensus-based standards and best practice documents.
1) OSAC (see above description under “Professional Organizations to Consider Joining”): There are a few areas of the OSAC website where you can locate industry standards and best practice recommendations.
- The OSAC Registry, located here: https://www.nist.gov/osac/osac-registry The Registry contains both documents published by an SDO and documents proposed by OSAC.
- Individual subcommittee pages. The subcommittee pages house drafts of documents that have been sent to an SDO for development, as well as documents created by the SWGs (see below). These documents can be downloaded and used as valuable references while waiting for the SDOs to complete their development process. The subcommittee pages also show you what documents OSAC is currently working on for proposal.
2) ASB (see above description under “Professional Organizations to Consider Joining”): Documents developed and published by the ASB can be found here: https://www.asbstandardsboard.org/published-documents/
3) The Scientific Working Groups (SWGs): The SWGs were developed in the early 1990s in an attempt to improve forensic practices by building consensus standards. Although most are no longer operating, deferring to and becoming a supportive role to the OSACs, the documents they produced are still valuable resources for standards and best practice recommendations while waiting for OSAC and ASB documents to be created. Archived SWG docs can be found on the webpages of the applicable OSAC subcommittees.
4) ISO: Not an acronym for “International Standards Organization,” this organization’s name of “ISO” is derived from the Greek word “isos” meaning equal. Founded in 1947 the group is an international standard-setting body for a wide array of topics. ISO standards 17020 and 17025 are the most applicable to the field of forensics and are often used as a foundation for accreditation. You can purchase copies of those standards by going here: https://www.iso.org/home.html and using the search tool to find the most-recent drafts of 17020 and 17025.
Accreditation can help instill faith in the quality of work being performed by a forensic service provider. At present there are two types of accreditation most often recommended for forensic units – ISO 17020 and ISO 17025. Both ISO 17020 and ISO 17025 are equal in their level of difficulty to achieve, however they have slightly different requirements to accommodate the different types of forensic disciplines. Below are bodies that offer accreditation to forensic service providers.
1) The ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB): ANAB is a non-governmental organization that provides accreditation services and training. ANAB offers both ISO 17020 and 17025 accreditations to forensic service providers. Learn more about the accreditation process here: https://anab.ansi.org/en/forensic-accreditation
2) A2LA: A2LA is an independent, non-profit, internationally recognized accreditation body. A2LA offers both ISO 17020 and 17025 accreditations to forensic service providers. Learn more about the accreditation process here: https://www.a2la.org/accreditation
Certification is a great way for a forensic examiner to demonstrate to FSP clients and to members of the court that they have reached a certain level of knowledge and training expected of examiners practicing in the field. Here is where to go to obtain certification from a reputable source -
1) The IAI (see above description under “Professional Organizations to Consider Joining"): The IAI offers certification in bloodstain pattern analysis, crime scene, footwear, forensic art, forensic photography & imaging, forensic video, latent print, and tenprint fingerprint. Go here https://www.theiai.org/certifications.php and click on the certification board of the applicable discipline for further details.
2) The American Board of Forensic Document Examiners: Obtain certification in document examination from the ABFDE here https://abfde.org/certification/
3) The American Board of Forensic Odontology: Obtain certification in forensic odontology from the ABFO here https://abfo.org/application-documents
4) The American Board of Forensic Toxicology: Obtain certification in forensic toxicology from the ABFT here https://abft.org/certification
5) American Board of Criminalistics (ABC): The ABC offers certification in comprehensive criminalistics, drug analysis, molecular biology, fire debris analysis, hair and fiber, and paint & polymer. Go here https://criminalistics.com/certification.html and click on the applicable discipline.
6) The Association of Firearms and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE): The AFTE offers certification in firearms evidence identification and examination, toolmark evidence examination and identification, and gunshot residue evidence and examination. Go here: https://afte.org/afte-certification to find out more.
Finding valuable training courses can seem a daunting task. How do you know the content is accurate and reliable? How can you be assured of the instructor’s ability to teach effectively? Here are some recommendations to address these questions while trying to find an appropriate training course, as well as links to training announcements:
- Check the curriculum vitae (CV) of the instructor. Every instructor should be able to supply you with a CV or similar documentation of their education and experience. Check to ensure their background is appropriate for providing the instruction they are offering. CVs are often available on the training websites. If not, ask for one via e-mail.
- When in doubt, trust your peers. Look around the website of the training provider to see if any reviews of the course and of the instructor are available. Also ask around of colleagues in the field.
- Check to see if the course is approved by the IAI to count for certification credit. You may not always need a course that qualifies for certification credit. However, knowing that the IAI has approved the course can demonstrate a measure of reliability in the course content.
There are many companies who offer reliable, full training courses that range from an average of 16 to 40 hours in length. A few companies also offer full forensic academies that are meant to offer the totality of training for an examiner in one place. All of these courses charge a registration fee and offer a certificate of completion at the end. Try the following suggestions to find upcoming training courses -
1) Check websites of companies designed specifically for the purposes of providing training to forensic professionals. All upcoming courses will be posted.
2) Check websites of vendors who sell supplies and equipment to forensic practitioners. Vendors will often offer training courses on valuable topics when trying to demonstrate a new piece of equipment. For example, training on using different wavelengths of light to visualize friction ridge detail while demonstrating a new light source.
3) Check the IAI website AND the IAI division pages for postings of upcoming training courses. Training companies and vendors pay to post flyers on websites such as these, and they often may post on a few divisional pages but not the IAI page itself. Consequently, every division may have a different list of training courses. You can find training flyers on the parent body IAI website here: https://www.theiai.org/training.php Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Vendor/supplier and Private Training” for a full list. Division pages can be found here: https://www.theiai.org/divisions.php
Training at all levels is extremely valuable, and regional or discipline-specific study groups can provide access to training on a more frequent basis than larger conferences can. Here are just a few of the study groups out there at your disposal:
1) California Friction Ridge Study Group: If you are a friction ridge examiner there is no better source for regular training than the California Friction Ridge Study Group. Available to ALL examiners who work for law enforcement, this group hosts monthly training webinars on a variety of friction ridge topics. Imagine watching IAI-level speakers and presentations once a month from the comfort of your office. Membership is FREE. The only requirement is to work for a law enforcement agency. To join, e-mail moderators firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
2) Northern California Forensic Study Group: For forensic practitioners who live in Northern California, this study group is a valuable resource for regular in-person presentations on a variety of forensic topics. Meetings are typically held on one day every quarter and hosted by a different local agency. Members must work for a law enforcement agency. Go here to join: https://ckhullforensics.com/join-training-team/
Below is a list of places to find shorter, online training videos related to forensic topics -
1) FTCoE: You can find information about upcoming webinars from The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence here: https://forensiccoe.org/allresources/all-webinars/
2) CSAFE: Their online educational lectures can be found here: https://forensicstats.org/forensic-scientist-education-center/ or on their YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC66H0WDuXrdZKrkKTMvS70w
3) Forensic Magazine: Access webinars hosted by Forensic Magazine here: https://www.forensicmag.com/3468-Forensic-Webinars/.
4) FBI's Postmortem Printing Series: This is a fantastic series of videos on various techniques to recover friction ridge detail from decedents for the purposes of identification. Find the entire series here: https://www.fbibiospecs.cjis.gov/Home/TrainingPostmortem
A library of reference books is a useful tool for training new hires, and for referring back to when questions arise. Here are just some recommendations of books to consider:
1) IAI recommended reading materials: IAI certification boards often maintain a list of recommended reading materials for certification. Referring to these recommendations is a great place to start when building a library. Find the applicable certification board here: https://www.theiai.org/certifications.php and visit the board’s page to find if recommended reading materials are listed.
2) The Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences, 2ndEdition, Academic Press, 2012: Including over 300 articles by an international collection of contributing authors, this is a comprehensive text that includes core theories, methods, and techniques employed by forensic scientists of multiple disciplines.
3) UK Fingerprint Sourcebook: This is reference book for a variety of latent processing techniques and how to apply them. The book may be accessed for free here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/700212/fingerprint-source-book-v2-second-edition.pdf
4) Fundamentals of Fingerprint Analysis, Second Edition, by Hillary Moses Daluz: An excellent resource for those looking for a proper textbook for college courses or for training new examiners. This book comes complete with lesson plans, quizzes, and lectures. Designed for a classroom environment it can also be used during initial training of a newly-hired employee. This book can be found at a variety of online resources, including Amazon.
Looking for a position in forensic science? The best course of action is always to check for all relevant job postings on the websites of the government entities or private companies you are interested in working for, and do so regularly. However some employers will post job listings on pages such as the following:
1) The IAI page here: https://www.theiai.org/job_listings.php
2) The divisional pages of the IAI: Each one of these may have different listings from each other, and even from the parent body. Access the full list of divisional pages here: https://www.theiai.org/divisions.php and go to each.
3) The AAFS here: https://webdata.aafs.org/public/jobs/postings.aspx
4) The Government Jobs site here: This page has listings from a variety of levels of government entities across the United States. Access the page here: https://www.governmentjobs.com and search key words such as "forensic," "criminalist," "crime scene," "latent print," or other phrases related to the position you are looking for.
5) The USA Jobs site here: This page has job postings from multiple federal government agencies. Access the page here: https://www.usajobs.gov and search for key words and phrases related to the position you are looking for.
1) Michele Triplett’s Fingerprint Dictionary: Not just a dictionary for definitions of terminology, this resource also provides information about historic figures and events in the friction ridge discipline. Available in print and also online here: http://fprints.nwlean.net
2) Interactive chemical reagent program for latent print processing: Maintained by the Chesapeake Bay Division of the IAI, this online resource provides detailed information on a variety of latent development techniques. Here you can find recommendations on recipes, application methods, viewing techniques, sequences, and more: - https://www.cbdiai.org/interactive-chemical-reagent-program.html
3) Onin: The Onin website contains numerous links to friction ridge resources, as well as copies of conference lectures and links to articles. You can find the website here: https://onin.com/fp/index.htm
4) FBI Certified Products List: This is a searchable list of electronic products certified by the FBI for use during the courses of friction ridge collection and examination. Important to note is the fact that vendors must apply for consideration of inclusion on this list. Consequently this list is not meant to be comprehensive, as there are other devices that meet minimum friction ridge standards. That being said, it is important to know if your device(s) are on this list in case the question comes up in court. You can find the list here: https://www.fbibiospecs.cjis.gov/certifications