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Evidentiary Standards for Forensic Anthropology

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As issues of professional standards and error rates continue to be addressed in the courts, forensic anthropologists should be proactive by developing and adhering to professional standards of best practice. There has been recent increased awareness and interest in critically assessing some of the techniques used by forensic anthropologists, but issues such as validation, error rates, and professional standards have seldom been addressed. Here we explore the legal impetus for this trend and identify areas where we can improve regarding these issues. We also discuss the recent formation of a Scientific Working Group for Forensic Anthropology (SWGANTH), which was created with the purposes of encouraging discourse among anthropologists and developing and disseminating consensus guidelines for the practice of forensic anthropology. We believe it is possible and advisable for anthropologists to seek and espouse research and methodological techniques that meet higher standards to ensure quality and consistency in our field.
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Keywords: Daubert; SWGANTH; Scientific Working Group; error rate; forensic anthropology; forensic science; professional standards; validation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Laboratory Division, 2501 Investigation Parkway, Quantico, VA 22135. 2: Office of Chief Medical Examiner, 520 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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