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INTREPID Forensics Report Summary

Project ID: 607930
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 1 - INTREPID FORENSICS (Interdisciplinary Training and Research Programme for Innovative Doctorates in Forensic Science)

The Interdisciplinary Training and Research Programme for Innovative Doctorates in Forensic Science (INTREPID Forensics) provides ten early stage researchers (ESR) with the opportunity to carry out PhD research projects focusing on contemporary challenges in the forensic sciences. Each project is supervised by leading academic researchers from across a variety of disciplines, and is designed to overcome traditional boundaries between the physical and social sciences. Research secondments at associate partner organisations provide the ESRs with access to expertise and technology designed to complement those available at the host institution. In addition, associate partners from the forensic industry and police agencies ensure that the research and training programme are contemporary and designed to address the needs of forensic practitioners in a European context.
The graduates of the INTREPID Forensics programme will be the first European cohort of specially trained doctoral candidates to complete a training programme designed collaboratively by respective European Centres of Excellence and key forensic stakeholders. These researchers will represent the first step in the next generation of forensic science researchers and practitioners, and the technologies that they research and develop during their doctoral studies will be the product of this uniquely European-focused and coordinated training programme in the forensic sciences.

Rationale for the training programme:
The INTREPID Forensics programme includes a training programme supported by ten innovative, multidisciplinary research projects designed to address forensic science issues relevant within a European context, and in parallel with designated European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) Working Groups. These areas include DNA and fingerprint recovery and identification techniques, explosive devices, and the policing of alcohol and illicit drugs.
The four main forensic subject areas covered by these projects are all grounded in well-established scientific disciplines, therefore the purpose of the projects in the INTREPID Forensics programme is to extend these disciplines to new and emerging forensic contexts which are of European relevance. This programme has been designed to provide a multidisciplinary platform for researchers to contribute research and innovation in reliable forensic science disciplines, which will have a measurable impact in European forensic science practice and the detection of crime.

The overall objectives of the INTREPID Forensics programme are:

Training objectives:
i) Equip researchers with the cross sector ability to rise to the challenges that crime poses to European society and the crucial role that forensic science plays in providing evidence-based, scientific, unbiased information to assist police in detecting crime and apprehending offenders.
ii) Ensure that researchers appreciate and understand the legal context of forensic science research, innovation, and practice throughout Europe through a multidisciplinary training programme with input from forensic industry partners.
iii) Advance the current state of knowledge in the areas of human and substance identification by providing cutting edge research and innovation training through projects conducted in collaboration with European academic institutions, police agencies and industry partners.
iv) Enable researchers recruited from around the world to conduct research based at a world class university, with the aim of benefiting other member states through dissemination and outreach activities and the future career contributions of the researchers.

Research objectives:
i) Produce new and reliable innovative methods for successfully recovering and identifying DNA and fingerprint samples from surfaces which have been subjected to extreme environmental conditions.
ii) Improve the ability of expert examiners to search and compare fingerprint patterns in forensic contexts, by constructing new computerised search algorithms and applying signal detection theory to the cognitive process of fingerprint comparisons.
iii) Pioneer the use of 3D technology for the identification, comparison, and classification of human remains.
iv) Produce equipment to enable the novel and rapid detection and identification of illicit drugs and alcohol, including newly emerging (and illegal) novel psychoactive substances.

The INTREPID Forensics programme started in April 2014, and the first 24 months represents half of the total project. The project website has been live since the project began – – and is maintained by the project administrator and coordinator.

Since the beginning of the project, the following activities and main results have been completed:

1. Recruitment of ESRs – the first six months of the project were dedicated to the recruitment of the ten early stage researchers (ESR). The recruitment campaign resulted in a total of 273 applications from 58 different countries, with 57% of applications being submitted by female researchers (50% of recruited fellows are female).

2. Development and delivery of year one forensic skills training programme
i) The first year of forensic skills training ran from Jan-Dec 2015, and included three taught modules: Forensic Skills & Theory 1; Forensic Skills & Theory 2; Ethics in Forensic Research & Practice. These modules included both classroom based lectures and practical sessions (e.g. fire investigation and crime scene examination practicals).
ii) Year two modules are also on schedule for delivery as outlined in Annex I. Media Training was delivered in Feb/Mar 2016 and The Role of the Expert Witness and European Criminal Law and Forensic Science are scheduled for June 2016.
iii) A dedicated Blackboard site (virtual learning environment) has been created, which allows the coordinator and administrator to make all teaching materials available online for the ESRs.

3. Complementary skills training - All of the ESRs have completed and submitted a personalised skills assessment and training plan. These are designed to help the ESRs and their supervisors identify suitable skills training sessions which would be most beneficial to each individual ESR. Since commencing their studies, the ESRs have attended a total of 69 different skills training events. These training sessions include generic research skills training, IT skills, language skills, and subject-specific training events.

4. Forensic science PhD summer school (University of Lausanne) – In August 2015, five of the INTREPID ESRs attended and presented their research at the University of Lausanne’s PhD summer school. In addition, the project coordinator was invited to participate as a keynote speaker and workshop leader. This event was an excellent opportunity for the ESRs to receive feedback on their research presentations, and also to network with other PhD researchers from throughout Europe. In August 2016, the remaining five ESRs will be encouraged to apply to attend the summer school.

5. Individual research project progress – All of the ESRs have made significant progress on their individual research projects, as listed below:
i) Multi-spectral imaging technique for visualising fingerprints on metals subjected to extreme conditions (ESR1 – Physics/Chemistry)
ii) Electrowetting as an aid to conventional fingerprint visualisation techniques (ESR2 – Chemistry/Physics)
iii) Innovative methods of recovering DNA from surfaces subjected to environmental extremes (ESR3 – Genetics/Chemistry)
iv) Developing a holistic mathematical analysis of fingerprint identification (ESR4 - Mathematics/Physics)
v) Examination of the visual search strategies employed by fingerprint examiners, using Signal Detection Theory (ESR5 – Psychology/Criminology)
vi) Investigation of the role of contextual information in the ACE-V fingerprint examination process, and the interaction between bias and motivation (ESR6 – Criminology/Psychology)
vii) Exploring the impact of legislative changes on Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), and their route to market (ESR7 – Criminology/Law)
viii) Development and testing of presumptive tests for NPS using breath analysis (ESR8 – Chemistry/Criminology)
ix) The use of novel 3D comparative techniques to assess skeletal remains (ESR9 – Archaeology/Mathematics)
x) The development of dried blood spot analysis for the detection and quantification of drugs of abuse (ESR10 – Chemistry/Immunity, Infection & Inflammation)

The expected final results and their potential impact and use:

All of the research projects included in the INTREPID Forensics programme have been designed, and where appropriate modified, to address contemporary challenges facing forensic science in Europe and globally. Although the ESRs are still in the early stages of their PhD research, feedback received following the mid-term review meeting highlighted the potential for this research to have technological and social impact.

“Although it is early in the day, some very promising knowledge has been already produced and the bases established to generate knowledge beyond the state-of-the-art in some cases. This will be translated in scientific publications and in some other cases in technical developments. Social impact can be possible if adequate publicity is given to some of the future developments. Given the presence of some stakeholders and industrial partners as associated partners of the consortium there is the potential for commercial use (although it is very early to assess this). This much depends on the outcome of the research undertaken in each individual project.” (Reviewer’s feedback)

We will continue to work closely with our project partners, particularly those linked with the forensic industry, to ensure that research results are disseminated beyond traditional academic publications. Our continuing participation in industry events, such as the Forensics Europe Expo, and our social media and web presence will also provide opportunities to share research progress with the forensic science industry in Europe and beyond.

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United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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