European Network of Forensic Science Institutes

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European Network of Forensic Science Institutes

Formed in 1992, The European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI), aims to maintain a high level of forensic science throughout Europe. The initial meeting included eleven members of Western Europe's prominent governmental forensics institutes, who subsequently decided that membership into ENFSI should be open to forensic laboratories throughout Europe. To date, the organization has grown to include members of institutes from 32 European countries and the number continues to grow. Member organizations must fulfill stringent criteria to join and demonstrate high standards of forensic evaluation. Thus, ENFSI has become recognized as an expert group of forensic science institutes and thought leaders from the whole of Europe.

In order to fulfill its vision, "to ensure that the quality of development and delivery of forensic science throughout Europe is at the forefront of the world," ENFSI is structured into Standing Committees and Expert Working Groups. These groups meet on a regular basis and develop activities and guidelines to ensure that the goals of the group are achieved. ENFSI has several standing committees, The Expert Working Group Committee (EWGC), The Quality & Competence Committee (QCC) and The European Academy of Forensic Science (EAFS). The EWGC establishes and maintains the Expert Working Groups which may change in number and title but cover the spectrum of forensic science topics including DNA , forensic speech and audio assessment, and firearms and explosives , just to name a few. The QCC represents ENFSI on quality issues and supports the other committees and groups in terms of quality and international standards. They also develop and maintain laboratory proficiency testing programs for various forensic disciplines. Proficiency tests allow the laboratories to demonstrate the quality of their staff, assays, and organization. In addition, the EAFS establishes activities for the wide forensic community. These include seminars on forensic-related topics as well as annual meetings and other meetings for members of ENFSI. Through the EAFS, relationships are fostered with forensic colleagues worldwide to enable international networking and a true global forensic community.

ENFSI has several meetings a year, some of which are restricted to members only and others that are open to all forensic scientists. During these meetings, the latest forensic technologies are addressed, new standards are considered, and networking is a high priority. In addition to participating in such meetings, the Expert Working Groups meet to develop best practice manuals and guidelines to help to establish and maintain standards of expertise across European forensic laboratories. These documents also provide a framework so that laboratories can utilize common methods and means of considering forensic casework samples. The result is reduction in the complexity of comparing international crime data and samples and a means by which forensic laboratories can demonstrate their proficiency on internationally agreed comparable terms.

ENFSI members also strive to maintain close relationships with other forensic science bodies such as The American Society of Crime Laboratory directors (ASCLD), Senior Managers of Australian and New Zealand Forensic Laboratories (SMANZL), and Academia Iberoamericana de Criminalística y Estudios Forenses (AICEF). Thus, world-wide forensic laboratories have a means of communicating on a truly global and international level. Through these organizations, convergence of standard, common techniques is certain to continue.

One of the main goals of ENFSI is to maintain the highest standards of forensic work across Europe. Forensic laboratories are constantly under scrutiny to demonstrate the quality of their work. However, this is not always straightforward due to the confidentiality under which forensic casework samples must be evaluated. Furthermore, the lack of competition among many countries' government forensic laboratories, since they are commissioned, makes them susceptible to criticism and accusations of inadequate standards of evaluation. ENFSI gives these laboratories additional support by helping them maintain high standards. For example, the best practice manuals and ENFSI-approved guidelines detail the accepted methods and techniques. These materials are available to any laboratory, whether members of ENFSI or not. Utilization of these approved guidelines gives the laboratories additional confidence that they are performing to the standard accepted throughout Europe. ENFSI also helps labs with accreditation and best practices as well as the ongoing development of a system to assure competence for ENFSI laboratories.

As the forensic industry continues to grow and prosper, the ENFSI will continue to unite the forensic community across Europe. Their commitment to foster forensic standards and relationships with world-wide partners ensures that the industry as a whole is constantly assessing itself and improving.

see also CODIS: Combined DNA Index System; DNA; DNA profiling; STR (short tandem repeat) analysis.

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European Network of Forensic Science Institutes

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European Network of Forensic Science Institutes