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Professor Sue Black
University of Dundee
Leverhulme Research Centre
2018

The Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science: an introduction

The Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science is designed to disrupt positively the forensic science ecosystem. Our aims are broad and wide, striving to restore, revise and recharge the validity and credibility of the science in our court rooms. 

Forensic science is the application of science within the forum of the court, however there has been a growing concern that the science underpinning some of the forensic evidence lacks a robust foundation.   The work undertaken by LRCFS aims to highlight and address the scientific deficiencies where they exist, and to develop new knowledge and innovative solutions to the challenges forensic science and the Criminal Justice system is facing into the future.
 

   

We are fundamentality, a transformative research centre and have created an exciting, interdisciplinary bright spot, both within the University of Dundee and across our ecosystem, where thinking differently is positively encouraged.  We have left conventional research structures at the door and dare to do things in a different way, to speak plainly about the challenges faced, amongst friends and colleagues whose only motivation is to make a positive difference. We are not afraid  to try new solutions, to learn from failures and to developing new ways of engaging and communicating science in the service of justice to the global community.

We have brought together an interdisciplinary team of scientists and non-scientists to develop innovative ways of looking at the challenges facing forensic evidence as it is currently used within our courts. The team is agile in its approach, bringing their skills to the challenges in a unique way. 

We work directly with the Lord Chief Justices of England and Wales and of Northern Ireland and the Lord President of Scotland as well as forensic scientists, legal practitioners, industrial experts, innovators, entrepreneurs, writers, academic researchers and science communicators from across the globe. We bring interdisciplinary teams together to generate research road maps through bespoke ‘strategic conversations’ hosted at LRCFS where jargon is minimised and everyone’s perspective is valued.  This co-creates solutions collectively that are further researched by the LRCFS team or our collaborative partners in deep dive initiatives. When specific further external forensic science, law enforcement or legal input is required, this is brought into the project through secondment of world leaders in the field through LRCFS fellowships. 

  • The current areas of focus are around:
  • The resolution of complex DNA samples
  • The development of new approaches to DNA analysis
  • The transfer, persistence and background abundance of trace evidence through citizen science and novel experimental approaches
  • The evolution of crime scene examination in the digital dimension
  • The development of novel detectors and sensors for drugs, explosives and body fluids
  • The understanding of fluid dynamics related to blood
  • The understanding of expertise within the legal framework
  • Developing statistical solutions to evidence evaluation
  • Exploring bias in forensic and criminal justice process

Core to all our activities is the facilitation of data driven solutions and the clear communication of science to the public highlighting its strengths and limitations in simple terms so that everyone can understand.

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