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Interoperator Test for Anatomical Annotation of Earprints

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As part of the Forensic Ear Identification (FearID) research project, which aims to obtain estimators for the strength of evidence of earmarks found on crime scenes, a large database of earprints (over 1200 donors) has been collected. Starting from a knowledge-based approach where experts add anatomical annotations of minutiae and landmarks present in prints, comparison of pairs of prints is done using the method of Vector Template Matching (VTM). As the annotation process is subjective, a validation experiment was performed to study its stability. Comparing prints on the basis of VTM, it appears that there are interoperator effects, individual operators yielding significantly more consistent results when annotating prints than different operators. The operators being well trained and educated, the observed variation on both clicking frequency and choice of annotation points suggests that implementation of the above is not the best way to go about objectifying earprint comparison. Processes like the above are relevant for any forensic science dealing with identification (e.g., of glass, tool marks, fibers, faces, fingers, handwriting, speakers) where manual (nonautomated) processes play a role. In these cases, results may be operator dependent and the dependencies need to be studied.
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Keywords: anatomical annotation; classification; earprint identification; forensic science; interoperator effects; template matching

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Digital Technology, Netherlands Forensic Institute, PO Box 24044, 2490 AA, Den Haag, The Netherlands. 2: Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH, U.K.

Publication date: 2006-11-01

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