< Back to H.R. 6106 (112th Congress, 2011–2013)

Text of the Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2012

This bill was introduced on July 12, 2012, in a previous session of Congress, but was not enacted. The text of the bill below is as of Jul 12, 2012 (Introduced).

Source: GPO

I

112th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 6106

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

July 12, 2012

(for herself, Ms. Edwards, and Mr. Lipinski) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILL

To establish scientific standards and protocols across forensic disciplines, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title; table of contents

(a)

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2012.

(b)

Table of contents

The table of contents of this Act is as follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

Sec. 2. Findings.

Sec. 3. Definitions.

Sec. 4. National forensic science research program.

Sec. 5. Forensic science research grants program.

Sec. 6. Forensic science research challenges.

Sec. 7. Forensic science standards.

Sec. 8. Forensic Science Advisory Committee.

Sec. 9. Adoption, accreditation, and certification.

Sec. 10. National Institute of Standards and Technology functions.

2.

Findings

Congress finds that—

(1)

at the direction of Congress, the National Academy of Sciences led a comprehensive review of the state of forensic science and issued its findings in a 2009 report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward;

(2)

the report's findings indicate the need for independent scientific research to support the foundation of forensic disciplines;

(3)

the report stresses the need for standards in methods, data interpretation, and reporting, and the importance of preventing cognitive bias and mitigating human factors; and

(4)

according to the report, forensic science research is not financially well supported, and there is a need for a unified strategy for developing a forensic science research plan across Federal agencies.

3.

Definitions

In this Act:

(1)

Advisory Committee

The term Advisory Committee means the Forensic Science Advisory Committee established under section 8.

(2)

Coordinating Office

The term Coordinating Office means the National Forensic Science Coordinating Office established under section 4.

(3)

Forensic science

(A)

In general

The term forensic science means the basic and applied scientific research applicable to the collection, evaluation, and analysis of physical evidence, including digital evidence, for use in investigations and legal proceedings, including all tests, methods, measurements, and procedures.

(B)

Applied scientific research

In subparagraph (A), the term applied scientific research means a systematic study to gain knowledge or understanding necessary to determine the means by which a recognized and specific need may be met.

(C)

Basic scientific research

In subparagraph (A), the term basic scientific research means a systematic study directed toward fuller knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products.

(4)

Standards development organization

The term standards development organization means a domestic or an international organization that plans, develops, establishes, or coordinates voluntary consensus standards using procedures that incorporate openness, a balance of interests, consensus, due process, and an appeals process.

4.

National forensic science research program

(a)

Establishment

There shall be a national forensic science research program to improve, expand, and coordinate Federal research in the forensic sciences.

(b)

National Academy of Sciences Report on Forensic Science

The Director of the National Science Foundation shall contract with the National Academy of Sciences to develop, not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, a report that—

(1)

identifies the most critical forensic science disciplines, which may include forensic pathology and digital forensics, that require further research to strengthen the scientific foundation in those disciplines; and

(2)

makes recommendations regarding research that will help strengthen the scientific foundation in the forensic science disciplines identified under paragraph (1).

(c)

National forensic science coordinating office

(1)

Establishment

There is established a National Forensic Science Coordinating Office, with a director and full time staff, to be located at the National Science Foundation. The Director of the Coordinating Office shall be responsible for carrying out the provisions of this subsection.

(2)

Unified Federal research strategy

The Coordinating Office established under paragraph (1) shall coordinate among relevant Federal departments, agencies, or offices—

(A)

the development of a unified Federal research strategy that—

(i)

specifies and prioritizes the research necessary to enhance the validity and reliability of the forensic science disciplines; and

(ii)

is consistent with the recommendations in the National Academy of Sciences report on forensic science under subsection (b);

(B)

the development of a 5-year roadmap, updated triennially thereafter, for the unified Federal research strategy under subparagraph (A) that includes a description of—

(i)

which department, agency, or office will carry out each specific element of the unified Federal research strategy;

(ii)

short-term and long-term priorities and objectives; and

(iii)

common metrics and other evaluation criteria that will be used to assess progress toward achieving the priorities and objectives under clause (ii); and

(C)

any necessary programs, policies, and budgets to support the implementation of the roadmap under subparagraph (B).

(3)

Additional duties

The Coordinating Office shall—

(A)

evaluate annually the national forensic science research program to determine whether it is achieving its objectives; and

(B)

report annually to Congress the findings under subparagraph (A).

(4)

Deadlines

The Coordinating Office shall submit to Congress—

(A)

not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the unified Federal research strategy under paragraph (2)(A);

(B)

not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the initial 5-year roadmap under paragraph (2)(B); and

(C)

not later than 1 month after the date it is updated, each updated 5-year roadmap under paragraph (2)(B).

5.

Forensic science research grants program

(a)

Establishment

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the National Science Foundation shall establish a forensic science research grants program to improve the foundation and practice of forensic science in the United States based on the recommendations in the unified Federal research strategy under section 4.

(b)

Merit review

Each grant under this section shall be awarded on a merit-reviewed, competitive basis.

(c)

Publication

The National Science Foundation shall support, as appropriate, the publication of research results under this section in scholarly, peer-reviewed scientific journals.

(d)

Forensic science research centers

(1)

In general

As part of the forensic science research grants program under subsection (a), the Director of the National Science Foundation shall establish 2 forensic science research centers—

(A)

to conduct research consistent with the unified Federal research strategy under section 4;

(B)

to build relationships between forensic science practitioners and members of the research community;

(C)

to encourage and promote the education and training of a diverse group of people to be leaders in the interdisciplinary field of forensic science; and

(D)

to broadly disseminate the results of the research under subparagraph (A).

(2)

Terms of designation

(A)

In general

The Director shall designate each forensic science research center for a 4-year term.

(B)

Revocation

The Director may revoke a designation under subparagraph (A) if the Director determines that the forensic science research center is not demonstrating adequate performance.

(C)

Amount of award

Subject to subsection (f), the Director shall award a grant up to $10,000,000 to each forensic science research center. A grant awarded under this subparagraph shall be for a period of 4 years.

(D)

Limitation on use of funds

No funds authorized under this section may be used to construct or renovate a building or structure.

(3)

Reports

Each forensic science research center shall submit an annual report to the Director, at such time and in such manner as the Director may require, that contains a description of the activities the center carried out with the funds received under this subsection, including a description of how those activities satisfy the requirement under paragraph (2)(D).

(e)

Evaluation

(1)

In general

The Director of the National Science Foundation shall conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the forensic science research grants program every 4 years—

(A)

to determine whether the program is achieving the objectives of improving the foundation and practice of forensic science in the United States; and

(B)

to evaluate the extent to which the program is contributing toward the priorities and objectives described in the roadmap under section 4(c)(2)(B).

(2)

Report to Congress

The Director of the National Science Foundation shall report to Congress the results of each comprehensive evaluation under paragraph (1).

(f)

Authorization of appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated to the National Science Foundation to carry out this section—

(1)

$34,000,000 for fiscal year 2013;

(2)

$37,000,000 for fiscal year 2014;

(3)

$40,000,000 for fiscal year 2015;

(4)

$43,000,000 for fiscal year 2016; and

(5)

$46,000,000 for fiscal year 2017.

6.

Forensic science research challenges

(a)

Prizes and challenges

(1)

In general

A Federal department, agency, or office may assist in satisfying the research needs and priorities identified in the unified Federal research strategy under section 4 by using prizes and challenges under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (124 Stat. 3982) or under any other provision of law, as appropriate.

(2)

Purposes

The purpose of a prize or challenge under this section, among other possible purposes, may be—

(A)

to determine or develop the best data collection practices or analytical methods to evaluate a specific type of forensic data; or

(B)

to determine the accuracy of an analytical method.

(b)

Forensic evidence prizes and challenges

(1)

In general

A Federal department, agency, or office, or multiple Federal departments, agencies, or offices in cooperation, carrying out a prize or challenge under this section—

(A)

may establish a prize advisory board; and

(B)

shall select each member of the prize advisory board with input from relevant Federal departments, agencies, or offices.

(2)

Prize advisory board

The prize advisory board shall—

(A)

identify 1 or more types of forensic evidence for purposes of a prize or challenge;

(B)

using the samples under paragraph (3), recommend how to structure a prize or challenge that requires a competitor to develop a forensic data collection practice, an analytical method, or a relevant approach or technology to be tested relative to a known outcome or other proposed judging methodology; and

(C)

through the Coordinating Office, advise relevant Federal departments, agencies, or offices in designing prizes or challenges that satisfy the research needs and priorities identified in the unified Federal research strategy under section 4.

(3)

Samples

The National Institute of Standards and Technology or the Department of Justice shall provide or contract with a non-Federal party to prepare, for each type of forensic evidence under paragraph (2)(A), a sufficient set of samples, including associated digital data that could be shared without limitation and physical specimens that could be shared with qualified parties, for purposes of a prize or challenge.

(4)

Fingerprint data interoperability

At least 1 prize or challenge under this section shall be focused on achieving nationwide fingerprint data interoperability if the prize advisory board, the Coordinating Office, or a Federal department, agency, or office identifies an area where a prize or challenge will assist in satisfying a strategy related to this issue.

7.

Forensic science standards

(a)

Establishment

(1)

In general

The National Institute of Standards and Technology shall—

(A)

identify or coordinate the development of forensic science standards to enhance the validity and reliability of forensic science activities, including—

(i)

authoritative methods, standards, and technical guidance, including protocols and best practices, for forensic measurements, analysis, and interpretation;

(ii)

technical standards for products and services used by forensic science practitioners;

(iii)

standard content, terminology, and parameters to be used in reporting and testifying on the results and interpretation of forensic science measurements, tests, and procedures; and

(iv)

standards to provide for the interoperability of forensic science-related technology and databases;

(B)

test and validate existing forensics standards, as appropriate; and

(C)

provide independent validation of forensic science measurements and methods.

(2)

Consultation

(A)

In general

In carrying out its responsibilities under paragraph (1), the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall consult with—

(i)

standards development organizations and other stakeholders, including relevant Federal departments, agencies, and offices; and

(ii)

testing laboratories and accreditation bodies to ensure that products and services meet necessary performance levels.

(3)

Prioritization

When prioritizing its responsibilities under paragraph (1), the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall consider—

(A)

the unified Federal research strategy under section 4; and

(B)

the recommendations of any expert working group under subsection (b).

(4)

Report to Congress

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology shall report annually, with the President's budget request, to Congress on the progress in carrying out the National Institute of Standards and Technology's responsibilities under paragraph (1).

(b)

Expert working groups

(1)

In general

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology may establish 1 or more discipline-specific expert working groups to identify gaps, areas of need, and opportunities for standards development with respect to forensic science.

(2)

Members

A member of an expert working group shall—

(A)

be appointed by the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology;

(B)

have significant academic, research, or practical expertise in a discipline of forensic science or in another area relevant to the purpose of the expert working group; and

(C)

balance scientific rigor with practical and regulatory constraints.

(3)

Federal Advisory Committee Act

An expert working group established under this subsection shall not be subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.).

(c)

Authorization of appropriations

There are authorized to be appropriated to the National Institute of Standards and Technology to carry out this section—

(1)

$5,000,000 for fiscal year 2013;

(2)

$12,000,000 for fiscal year 2014;

(3)

$20,000,000 for fiscal year 2015;

(4)

$27,000,000 for fiscal year 2016; and

(5)

$35,000,000 for fiscal year 2017.

8.

Forensic Science Advisory Committee

(a)

Establishment

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General, in collaboration with the Director of the National Science Foundation, shall establish a Forensic Science Advisory Committee.

(b)

Duties

The Advisory Committee shall provide advice to—

(1)

the Federal departments, agencies, and offices implementing the unified Federal research strategy under section 4;

(2)

the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including recommendations regarding the National Institute of Standards and Technology's responsibilities under section 7; and

(3)

the Department of Justice, including recommendations regarding the Department of Justice's responsibilities under section 9.

(c)

Subcommittees

The Advisory Committee may form subcommittees related to specific disciplines in forensic science or as necessary to further its duties under subsection (b). A subcommittee may include an individual who is not a member of the Advisory Committee.

(d)

Chairs

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General, or their designees, shall co-chair the Advisory Committee.

(e)

Membership

The Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Attorney General, in consultation with the Director of the National Science Foundation, shall appoint each member of the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee shall include balanced representation between forensic science disciplines (including academic scientists, statisticians, social scientists, engineers, and representatives of other related scientific disciplines) and relevant forensic science applications (including Federal, State, and local representatives of the forensic science community, the legal community, victim advocate organizations, and law enforcement).

(f)

Administration

The Attorney General shall provide administrative support to the Advisory Committee.

(g)

Federal Advisory Committee Act

The Advisory Committee established under this section shall not be subject to section 14 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.).

9.

Adoption, accreditation, and certification

The Attorney General—

(1)

shall promote the adoption of forensic science standards developed under section 7, including—

(A)

by requiring each Federal forensic laboratory to adopt the forensic science standards;

(B)

by encouraging each non-Federal forensic laboratory to adopt the forensic science standards;

(C)

by promoting accreditation and certification requirements based on the forensic science standards; and

(D)

by promoting any recommendations made by the Advisory Committee for adoption and implementation of forensic science standards; and

(2)

may promote the adoption of the forensic science standards as a condition of Federal funding or for inclusion in national data sets.

10.

National Institute of Standards and Technology functions

Section 2(b) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Act (15 U.S.C. 272(b)) is amended—

(1)

in paragraph (12), by striking and after the semicolon;

(2)

in paragraph (13), by striking the period at the end and inserting ; and; and

(3)

by adding at the end the following:

(14)

to identify and coordinate the development of forensic science standards to enhance the validity and reliability of forensic science activities.

.