A research project aimed at creating the next generation of Australian forensic experts has received a funding boost from the Federal Government.
Featuring Murdoch University and WA Police, the consortium of universities and law enforcement agencies is looking to improve the interpretation of crime scene evidence – which researchers believe could ultimately lead to more reliable courtroom convictions.
The University of Queensland-led project will identify ways of turning novices into experts more quickly, and has received over $1.3 million in cash and in-kind funding from the Australian Research Council, universities, and Australian’s policing and security agencies.
Dr Matthew Thompson, Lecturer in Cognition at Murdoch’s School of Psychology and Exercise Science, has been testing fingerprint examiners for the past eight years, finding that their expertise is characteristically fast and accurate.
“Surprisingly, very little research has been conducted on how well these examiners perform and how best to train them,” Dr Thompson said. “Contrary to popular belief, forensic comparisons such as fingerprint identification are done by humans not computers.”
Dr Thompson said policing agencies were under pressure to develop more rigorous training practices that ventured beyond mere intuition and tradition.
“Our goal is to develop evidence-based training methods by drawing on knowledge from cognitive science, medical education, forensics, and law,” Dr Thompson said. “The research is about maintaining high standards of forensic decision making, which is vital for ensuring that innocent people are not wrongfully convicted, and will help safeguard Australia from terrorism and crime.”
The industry partners include the Australian Federal Police, Queensland Police Service, Victoria Police, NSW Police Force and the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency National Institute of Forensic Science.
University partners are The University of Melbourne, Murdoch University, The University of New South Wales, and The University of British Columbia, Canada.
“This multi-agency collaboration could lead to more reliable courtroom convictions and help to prevent miscarriages of justice,” Dr Thompson said.