A cultural change to enable improved decision-making in forensic science: a six phased approach

Helen Christine Earwaker*, Sherry Nakhaeizadeh, Nadine Smit, Ruth Morgan

*Corresponding author for this work

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There has been an increased engagement by researchers in understanding the decision-making processes that occur within forensic science. There is a rapidly growing evidence base underpinning our understanding of decision-making and human factors and this body of work is the foundation for achieving truly improved decision-making in forensic science. Such an endeavour is necessary to minimise the misinterpretation of scientific evidence and maximize the effectiveness of crime reconstruction approaches and their application within the criminal justice system. This paper proposes and outlines a novel six phased approach for how a broadening and deepening knowledge of decision-making in forensic science can be articulated and incorporated into the spheres of research, practice, education, and policy making within forensic science specifically, and the criminal justice system more generally. Phases 1 and 2 set out the importance of systematic examination of the decisions which play a role throughout forensic reconstruction and legal processes. Phase 3 focuses on how these decisions can, and should, be studied to understand the underlying mechanisms and contribute to reducing the occurrence of misleading decisions. Phase 4 highlights the ways in which the results and implications of this research should be communicated to the forensic community and wider criminal justice system. Lastly, the way in which the forensic science domain can move forwards in managing the challenges of human decision-making and create and embed a culture of acceptance and transparency in research, practice and education (learning and training) are presented in phases 5 and 6. A consideration of all 6 connected phases offers a pathway for a holistic approach to improving the transparency and reproducibility of decision making within forensic science.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)9-19
Number of pages11
JournalScience and Justice
Issue number1
Early online date30 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • RCUK
  • EP/G037264/1


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