Law PhD student takes research to Washington, D.C.

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For the first two weeks of June, Amelia Shooter, a second-year PhD student at Birmingham City University’s Centre for Law, Science and Policy, has been carrying out research in Washington D.C., as the Emerging Scholar in Residence at the Law Library of Congress.

Amelia was invited to undertake a residency based on a research proposal hoping to explore how forensic science in the United States can be strengthened through government intervention.

This investigation is linked to her PhD research project, which examines how judges in the United States engage with forensic science through their engagement with six publications of the National Research Council.

The Law Library was the ideal place for Amelia to carry out this work because it houses the largest single collection of legal resources in the world. Being the library designed for the use of Congress, there is a huge amount of information concerning legislation available. Amelia has concentrated her efforts on accessing relevant legislative material, in the hope of contrasting successful pieces of legislation implementing forensic science reform (e.g. DNA Identification Act of 1994, Justice for All Act of 2004) against those that have failed to pass.

This has been instrumental to her understanding of how forensic science can be reformed. She has also collected materials relating to executive departments’ abilities to improve the status of the forensic sciences. She has discovered a wealth of books and articles commenting on the FBI, Department of Justice, and National Institute of Standards and Technology’s roles in researching and improving the status of forensic science, and the difficulties faced by these agencies in instigating reform.

Much of these resources are unavailable elsewhere. In addition, Amelia visited the National Academy of Sciences’ archives to review materials relating to two of the publications that are the focus of her PhD, namely DNA Technology in Forensic Science (1992) and The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence (1996).

Speaking of her experience as the Emerging Scholar in Residence, Amelia said:

During the final week of her residency, Amelia delivered a lecture on her research at the Law Library. Her lecture provided an outline of her research method and provisional findings.

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