Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

5 weeks of study, 2-5 hours/week

Challenging Forensic Science

How Science should speak to Court?

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

5 weeks of study, 2-5 hours/week

Target Audience

The course is open for professionals in the Judiciary (defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges), forensic scientists, journalists, students and all people interested in the subject.

For now, this course is available in English. A French version should be online early 2019.


The aim of this course is to promote critical thinking with regard to forensic science.

Today, in general, most people are dazzled by the technical possibilities offered by forensic science. They somewhat live in the illusion that forensic evidence is fool proof and brings factual findings with 100% certainty.

This course – given by specialists in the field – goes beyond the conventional image that is promoted through TV series such as CSI. It alerts (without alarming) the public on the limits of the techniques in order to promote a sound administration of forensic science in the criminal justice system. It allows participants to understand the importance of probabilistic reasoning in forensic science, because uncertainty is a constitutive part of forensic science.

The course is constructed as a series of causes célèbres that could or have led to miscarriages of justice. Some of these cases have been part of case reviews carried out at the School of Criminal Justice of the University of Lausanne.

Click on the image below to watch the trailer :


  • Develop a critical judgement towards forensic science
  • Promote a sound administration of forensic results in the criminal justice
  • Realize the importance of probabilities and probabilistic reasoning in forensic science
  • Explain that scientific results are not absolute (even with DNA or fingermarks)
  • Learn lessons from past cases, some of them being miscarriages of justice involving forensic science


The whole course aims at contrasting the practice as observed in notorious cases with the good practice promoted by the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) guidelines. Hence, the course starts by setting out some reporting criteria that are essential to bring reliable evidence in court and explain the principles of interpretation (based on the concept of likelihood ratio) that should govern the production of any forensic evidence. The application of these principles leads to a defined way whereby the forensic scientist is entitled to speak to court.

International cases based on DNA, gunshot residue (GSR) evidence, fingerprints and earprints will be analysed and discussed.

We will illustrate the potentials aspects that one needs to consider when assessing the value of DNA found in large and small quantity. You will learn to contrast these two situations and discover what type of results can be expected and what methods allow a balanced and robust interpretation. This first part of the course will demonstrate that very sensitive techniques require robust interpretation methods.

In the second part of the course, you will understand that with trace quantities, stringent control procedures are needed on the crime scene and in the laboratory. Indeed, pollution (or so-called contamination) is an aspect one needs to take into account. How to take into consideration the possibility of error/contamination when assessing the results will be presented. You will also learn how statistical values ought to be presented in court.


Upon payment, a certificate of attendance could be delivered at the end of the course.


Organising Committee :

  • School of Criminal Justice – ESC, University of Lausanne

Program Directors :

  • Christophe Champod, Full professor
  • Franco Taroni, Full Professor
  • Alex Biedermann, Associate Professor
  • Tacha Hicks, Scientist

Practical information

Schedule :

Ongoing program, 5 weeks of study, 2-5 hours/week

Registration :

No background expertise is required.

Course fee :

This course is free of charge.

Upon payment, a certificate of attendance could be delivered at the end of the course.