An Update from the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science

Robyn Ragsdale, Chair of OSAC’s Biology Scientific Area Committee and Beth Ordeman, Chair of OSAC’s Human Forensic Biology Subcommittee

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NIST & AAFS Cooperative Agreement: Helping to Put Standards Implementation into Action

The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science’s Human Forensic Biology Subcommittee drafts standards and guidelines related to training, method development and validation, data analysis, interpretation, statistical analysis, and reporting and testimony for human forensic serological and DNA testing.

OSAC, which is administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), facilitates the development of, reviews, and posts high-quality forensic science standards to the OSAC Registry. Inclusion on the OSAC Registry indicates that a standard is technically sound and that laboratories should consider adopting them. The OSAC Registry currently contains 13 DNA standards (11 published by a standards developing organization (SDO) and two OSAC Proposed), related to validation, training, interpretation, and quality assurance.

In late 2021, NIST entered into a cooperative agreement with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) to develop tools, training, and resources to assist with standards implementation efforts. One of these resources, Standard Factsheets, provide a clear, concise, and easy way to understand the purpose of a specific standard, why it is needed, and the benefits of adoption. These factsheets can be used by forensic scientists when interfacing with non-scientific stakeholders, such as attorneys and law enforcement. Factsheets are currently available for these three DNA standards on the OSAC Registry:

  • ANSI/ASB Standard 018, Standard for Validation of Probabilistic Genotyping Systems, First Edition, 2020.
  • ANSI/ASB Standard 020, Standard for Validation Studies of DNA Mixtures, and Development and Verification of a Laboratory’s Mixture Interpretation Protocol, First Edition, 2018.
  • ANSI/ASB Standard 040, Standard for Forensic DNA Interpretation and Comparison Protocols, First Edition, 2019.

As another part of this cooperative agreement, AAFS will be developing checklists that forensic science service providers can use to track progress towards implementation, identify gaps, and provide objective evidence of implementation or compliance. The first six checklists, including one for ANSI/ASB Standard 040, are currently being finalized and will be revealed at the upcoming Association of Forensic Quality Assurance Managers (AFQAM) Training Conference this October. In addition to the AAFS checklist, OSAC’s Human Forensic Biology Subcommittee has also developed an assessment guide and worksheet that laboratories can use to help evaluate whether they have met the requirements listed in section 4 of ANSI/ASB Standard 040. This assessment guide and worksheet are available on the subcommittee’s webpage.

We want to know how your laboratory is using the standards on the OSAC Registry and how we can help you put implementation into action! Each year, OSAC assesses the state of Registry implementation through a survey. The 2022 OSAC Registry Implementation Survey, which provides an assessment of 95 standards posted on the Registry, is open now and will close late August. There’s still time to participate and join more than 90 other forensic science service providers who have already submitted responses! For more information about the survey and to share your feedback, visit the OSAC website.

To learn about OSAC’s activities or to join, visit or contact