Following a crucial 2009 report by the National Academies of Science (NAS), doubts about the validity and reliability of forensic practices have been increasingly raised. The NAS Report noted that most forensic disciplines have not been subjected to rigorous scientific study, arising as they have from crime labs, not academia. Further, there was no way to know which aspects of these disciplines were based on a solid scientific footing and which were not. This report examines the bases for fire investigations, and sets forth what we know, what we do not know, and what the gaps are. The study is divided into the two main aspects of fire investigation, the fire scene and the debris analysis. The 25 recommendations in the report constitute a roadmap for further research. Scientists and funding agencies can use this research agenda in setting priorities for further studies, including the involvement of scientists in the natural and social sciences. The report should also help key actors in the criminal justice system–law enforcement, lawyers, and judges–make more informed decisions.
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