Forensics: The role of social media as a watchdog on abuse of power and and imperfect science

I have significant experience listening (especially at the last AAFS meeting) and reading snide comments from mostly volunteering participants (commonly defensive) in the “forensic science reform” debate demeaning the “blog” aspect of journalistic reporting. My vocal response at the AAFS to the debasement of “bloggishness” (sic) has been to say…

“Well, the public wants to learn about forensic science successes, mishaps, misconceptions, examiner negligence, criminality, stupidity, and worse.”

Try this conviction and recent release for crime lab malfeasance in Massachusetts for example.

Mainstream journalism, which is increasing dependent on the digital “internet newspaper” format, might be confused as “bloggery” or “just” social media by some readers, but I hardly think it is impossible to tell the difference. Let’s take a “traditional look” at forensic science news.

1) Go the meetings and catch-up on the gossip. No way this works anymore.

2) Maybe the Journal of Forensic Sciences? Not so much. There are various “AAFS News” posts on its site but subjects are mostly organizational. It is posting about its consortium aiding in human rights investigations.

In regards to its journal,  it takes two years to get a professional article (it rarely contains replication of previously published “pattern evidence” methods) through peer review process and then into print. It is not a hotbed of forensic-science-law arguments and sometimes even the letters to the JFS editor seem to be a vehicle of professional snark (these two researchers, Mary and Peter Bush have been targeted via the JFS by a pod of bitemark believers). On a positive side, an excellent and notable group-think 2011 law review paper on how forensic science must and can create a “research culture for the forensic sciences” should be required reading for certain members of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

But the forensic sci lit is generally a slow go for “News.”

3) Onto the 21st Century of Forensic Science on the Internet

How about the Crime Lab Report? This subscription blog (somewhat stale at this point) has taken the pompous road by “auditing” the efforts of the Innocence Project and connects readers to “Science 2.0” and “Keeping the Gate” (?) has an unbalanced DA POV but is informative about certain aspects of the Steven Avery “Making a Murder” public uproar.

Here is the framework about what a journalist goes through to inform the public about BOTH sides of news reporting hot topics that deal with criminal justice, policing reform, interacting with our society’s exploding interest in community racial stressors.

Radley Balko at The Watch

Looking at Google and Twitter for Forensic News.


Here’s some compilations of forensic science and related topic blogs (all from a Google search “forensic science blogs”).  Most are from technicians, litigators, non-profit and for-profit forensic orgs, societies, and forensic training resources. It’s sketchy regarding how current these lists really are as some links are stale. “Top 50 Forensic Science Blogs” and “Top 50 Forensic SciencTIST Blogs” and “20 Cool CSI & Forensic Blogs” (I’m in this one). I would recommend that Google be used for specific subject matter searches about forensic news.


This somewhat maligned public media posting application is much better for getting late breaking news about forensics, criminal justice, the interface of crime labs and criminal cases, wrongful convictions and so forth. Mainstreamer news from Science, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Dallas News, The Wall Street Journal, and all news services post to Twitter. There also are some very dedicated tweeters that daily post news links to the forensic news stream. Some are full time journalists, law profs, criminal investigators, defense attorneys, justice reformists, whistleblowers, and forensic examiners. Funny, I can only find a couple of local prosecutors in this universe. There are a few states’ Attorneys General on Twitter. Like California’s @KamalaHarris

It will take some time to develop a list of Twitter accounts to “follow,” but the information is worth it. Just search for “forensic science” and your other related interests. Plus there are some forensic newsletters (NL) in this bunch.

Some of my best Twitter picks:

@alicsesperi @JeSuisTC @Grits4Breakfast (NL) @ishinews @innocenceblog @MaddydeLone @ErinMurphysLaw @CrimBarrister@FunkCSI @CeliaGivens (NL) @theintercept @forensicscience @chronic_jordan @davidakaye @missvebee @latimes @PursuitMag @KentForensics @ForensicMag @SGinvestigation @pdxlawgrrrl @drjudymekinek @csiguy01 @LegalAidNYC @OJPNIJ @maxmhouck @jmookin @BarryAJFisher @WrongConvBlog @ctmccartney @TeeUniCSS @AnthonyFalsetti @brandonlgarrett @LilianaSegura @JennyPAndrews @BayouWho @WPTheWatch @Vidocq_CC @UoDCAHID @forensictoxguy @AustinChronicle @ForensicOdont @TexasTribune @washingtonpost @WSJ @ABACJS @TheCrimeReport @nytimes @DallasDailyNews (NL),




About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in AAFS, criminal justice, CSI, Forensic Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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