Response to: Use of prior odds for missing persons identifications - author's reply Page: 1
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Budowle et al. Investigative Genetics 2012, 3:3
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Response to: Use of prior odds for missing
persons identifications - authors' reply
Bruce Budowle' 2, Jianye Gel 2, Ranajit Chakrabortyi 2 and Harrell Gill-King
Please see related article: http://www.investigativegenetics.com/content/3/1/2
Keywords: Guidelines, human identity, legal proceedings, prior odds, subjectivity
Letter to the Editor
We are concerned that statisticians, such as Biedermann
et al. , advocate the position that data may not be
needed to support assumptions 'as long as probability is
properly considered as an expression of personal belief.
At a time when the National Academy of Sciences 
has urged the need for the forensic science community
to provide reliable results based on 'objective' data,
these authors' position cannot be reconciled. The Report
noted (on its page 8), 'The simple reality is that the
interpretation of forensic evidence is not always based
on scientific studies to determine its validity ... A body
of research is required to establish the limits and mea-
sures of performance and to address the impact of
sources of variability and potential bias. Such research is
sorely needed, but it seems to be lacking in most of the
forensic disciplines that rely on subjective assessments
of matching characteristics. These disciplines need to
develop rigorous protocols to guide these subjective
interpretations and pursue equally rigorous research and
evaluation programs'. It is this approach that distin-
guishes science from other epistemologies. Then the
Report called for research in its Recommendation 3
(page 23), 'Research is needed to address issues of accu-
racy, reliability, and validity in the forensic science disci-
plines ... [and in section c of Recommendation 3] the
development of quantifiable measures of uncertainty in
the conclusions of forensic analyses'.
Foremost, none should abide the inclusion of over-
stated evidence in reports or legal proceedings as it can
* Correspondence: Bruce.Budowle@unthsc.ed u
Institute of Applied Genetics, University of North Texas Health Science
Center, Fort Worth, TX, USA
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
impinge on the presumption of innocence. The tenet of
this presumption should be held dearly by all, and we as
scientists should strive to reduce practices that cannot
be supported. Biedermann et al.  appear to argue
that, because there is 'subjectivity in science', one does
not necessarily have to be held to a standard of justify-
ing assumptions. It is well accepted that there is subjec-
tivity in science. Indeed, Budowle et al.  and others
(see references in ) have discussed the inherent sub-
jectivity that exists. It may never be possible to remove
all subjectivity, and for that reason we should attempt to
develop and agree upon guidelines (or rules) about
methods to minimize faulty generalizations. The asser-
tion of Biedermann et al.  that we do 'not require
new guidelines edited by the forensic DNA community'
is a formula for continued misapplication. Scientists
endeavor to identify the subjectivities and the conse-
quences that might shape or misdirect our conclusions.
Our use of the term objectivity  is clear in context.
Data should support the prior probabilities that are
employed. In this regard, we maintain our position.
Budowle et al.  described the Collins case ,
which held that the courts are concerned about the
assumptions made by scientists being justified with
actual data that support them. Oddly, Biedermann et al.
stated 'it remains questionable whether scientists should
interfere with a topic of which practicing legal decision
makers are already well aware and that, above all, they
are in a better position to appreciate' and cite the case
State of New Jersey versus Spann . Biedermann et al.
have misunderstood the decisions in the Spann and Col-
lins cases. These cases fully support our call for an
empirical basis for assumptions and that untethered use
of personal belief is not acceptable. The court is calling
2012 Budowle et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
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Budowle, Bruce; Ge, Jianye; Chakraborty, Ranajit & Gill-King, Harrell. Response to: Use of prior odds for missing persons identifications - author's reply, article, February 1, 2012; [London, United Kingdom]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc122169/m1/1/: accessed November 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.