Statistics and the Evaluation of Forensic Evidence – CAS

Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS)

February 2014 to September 2015

Target audience

The course is open to practitioners from any forensic discipline – e.g. reporting officers, chief scientists, lawyers – with a University degree (at least BSc) or an equivalent degree of a higher education programme.

Introduction

This on-line Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) is designed to train practitioners in the most up to date approaches to the evaluation and interpretation of scientific evidence. It addresses practical issues of interpretation that 
forensic scientists encounter in their daily activities : interpretation of raw data, sampling issues, communication of findings in both written and oral statements.

The course will 
provide sound theoretical and practical background in probabilistic and statistical reasoning. A probabilistic framework will be established and its use will be illustrated by an extensive set of realistic case studies. The training lasts 18 months with a workload per week of 4 hours on the online platform and 3 to 4 hours of personal work (in total around 470 hours training). Given online, it allows the latest knowledge and expertise to be brought directly to your workplace without consideration of distances, travel expenses or time schedules.

For those wanting a first approach, we also offer two on-line short courses (around 150 hours training each): Essentials of DNA interpretation, Essentials of forensic interpretation and Essentials of Bayesian networks in forensic science.

Objectives

  • To gain specialized and up-to-date knowledge in the field of forensic interpretation and evaluation of evidence
  • To master probabilistic reasoning, Bayesian networks and statistical methods using appropriate tools and software
  • To manage issues of interpretation at a high level from case reception to court
  • To acquire skills in oral and written communication of uncertainty
  • To develop independence and self-confidence in solving practical inferential problems
  • To gain a harmonised view with regard to interpretation across forensic disciplines and laboratories, including the establishment of Standard Operating Procedures
  • To establish a fruitful exchange amongst practitioners taking the course

Program

The cursus of the Certificate of Advanced Studies implies:

  • 6 core modules
  • 2 specialised modules
  • Regular on-line evaluation 
on all modules

Participants will take all core modules and choose one of the two specialised modules. Core modules cover interdisciplinary
 interpretation issues that cross forensic disciplines. Specific evidential topics such as DNA, micro-traces, marks and 
impressions or handwriting will be covered in specialised modules.

Core Module 1: Uncertainty in forensic science

  • Principles of interpretation
  • Statistics and the nature of probability
  • Hierarchy of propositions
  • Statement writing and fallacies
  • Bayesian Networks

Core Module 2: Assessing evidence at source level

  • Assigning a likelihood ratio (LR)
  • The two trace problem
  • Statement writing
  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Bayesian networks

Core Module 3: Assessing evidence at activity level (Core module)

  • Estimation of a proportion
  • Additional factors (transfer, persistence, background)
  • LR development
  • Bayesian networks

Core Module 4: Assessing evidence at offence level (Core module)

  • Relevance
  • Multiple offenders
  • LR development
  • Bayesian networks

Core Module 5: Pre-assessment and management of cases (Core module)

  • Case and evidence pre-assessment
  • Case strategy
  • Bayesian networks

Specialised Module 6a: DNA evidence

  • Population genetics
  • Paternity
  • Missing persons
  • Low template DNA
  • Mixtures analysis
  • MtDNA, Chrom-X/Y

Specialised Module 6b: From glass to fingerprints

  • Fingerprints and face recognition
  • Footwear marks and tool marks
  • Handwriting
  • Sample size determination
  • Multivariate data analysis
  • Glass, fibres, drugs, GSR/FDR

Core Module 7: Evidential matters

  • Combination of evidence
  • Database selection
  • Cross transfer
  • Courtroom presentation
  • Laboratory error

Instructors

  • Professor Franco Taroni (Forensic statistics)
  • Professor Christophe Champod (Identification evidence)
  • Dr Alex Biedermann (Graphical models)
  • Dr Tacha Hicks (Trace evidence)

They will develop and tutor the online course.

Professor Colin Aitken (University of Edinburgh, Scotland) and Dr Ian Evett (United Kingdom) will act as consultants and take an active part in the course.

Romain Voisard (University of Lausanne) acts as pedagogical advisor.

All of them have extensive theoretical and practical experience with evaluation and interpretation from laboratory to courtroom. They have published over the years numerous scholarly papers and textbooks on the subjects of evaluation and statistics in forensic science.

Methodological approach

  • Online training will allow the latest knowledge and expertise to be brought directly to your workplace without consideration of distances, travel expenses or time schedules
  • Specialists from well-established forensic institutions and participants study and discuss case scenarios involving scientific evidence
  • Theoretical online material will be reinforced by formative and evaluative casework exercises
  • Specialised computer programs for evaluation and interpretation will be used (e.g. R, Hugin) and a registered forum will allow the sharing of hypothetical cases
  • Videoconferences will be organised to support specific learning tasks
  • Participants will also have an opportunity to put together a personal portfolio

Organisation

  • Faculty of Law and Criminal Sciences, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Certification

Certificate of Advanced Studies, 20 ECTS credits

Course venue

On-line Course

Registration

Send your complete curriculum vitae, plus the application form duly completed and signed, to Formation Continue UNIL-EPFL.

Registration fee: 12’000.- Swiss Francs for the whole period

Registration deadline: has been extended as requested to January 24th, 2014

Subscriptions for a course will be restricted to a maximum of thirty participants. Preference will be given to forensic scientists with casework and reporting experience.

Alumni testimonials

« Thank you very much for your coaching during this 18 month course. It has been a pleasure to work with you during this time. The course is of an outstanding quality and I learned a lot! » Kris De Wael, National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology, Belgium

« The clarity of the course material, the learning from the exercises and the feedback are excellent. It is stimulating, varied and enjoyable. » Louise McKenna, Forensic Science Laboratory, Ireland

« Many thanks to the whole SEFE team for supporting and guiding me through the course. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt a great deal. » Gareth Philips, Defence Science & Technology Laboratory, UK

« I think you really do a great job in building up this course. I am impressed with how many different kinds of teaching material (powerpoint presentations, videos, exercises, literature, etc.) you used to give us a better understanding of statistics. » Andrea Wächter, Landeskriminalamt, Germany

« It is not easy to develop or present a course like this and you all did a fantastic job with a difficult and challenging topic. I really enjoyed the course and unquestionably learned a great deal. I believe there is still a lot of work to be done in this area but I expect what I’ve learned so far will influence our section’s approach to evidence evaluation and reporting. I personally have no doubt that, in time, all forensic laboratories will be doing the same type of thing. » Brent Ostrum, Canada Border Services Agency, Canada

Contacts

For academic questions: sefe@unil.ch

For administrative questions:

Ms. Mary-Claire André Mollet
mary-claire.andremollet@unil.ch

(Core topic)