Category Archives: Forensic DNA

Journal articles relating to forensic DNA including disaster victim identification.

Hijacked journals, hijacked web-sites, journal phishing, misleading metrics, and predatory publishing: actual and potential threats to academic integrity and publishing ethics

Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology First Online:24 June 2016

Academic research has always faced challenges associated with assuring its quality and seeking optimal ways of representing results. Conducting a high level of research and selecting a suitable target publisher and journal require careful attention. The choice of publishing venue has been expanded by the open access (OA) movement, spurring additional scientific activity. The benefits of OA, which consist, generally speaking, in making the results of empirical research and/or the results of intellectual work available almost immediately and to a wide audience, have also introduced a number of threats and challenges to the academic world. On one hand, the number of opportunities to publish has increased significantly. On the other hand, the traditional system of peer review that was always perceived to exert a level of control by the academic community with respect to the quality of publications, has become less strict and rigorous, or has shown flaws. Collectively, a researcher faces a number of challenges when wanting to publish in an OA journal. This paper focuses on some of the threats to the integrity of the expanding OA movement, specifically hijacked journals, hijacked web-sites, journal phishing, misleading metrics, and predatory publishing.

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Australia launches its first body farm

APJ: Australian Police Journal – Volume 70, June 2016, Pages 54-59;

In February 2016, the University of Technology, Sydney officially opened Australia’s first ‘body farm’. Until earlier this year, human decomposition facilities (the preferred description for body farms) only existed in the USA. While the data produced by these facilities was invaluable for demonstrating how a body goes through the process of decomposition, it was not directly applicable to the process of decomposition in Australia.

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Evaluation of macroscopic changes and the efficiency of DNA profiling from burnt teeth

Science & Justice Available online 16 June 2016

Identification of human remains subjected to incineration is extremely challenging. Our study evaluates the macroscopic changes and efficiency of DNA profiling in burnt teeth under controlled temperature and time conditions. 28 teeth were exposed to temperatures between 100 and 700 °C for a duration of 1–15 min. Two non-burnt teeth were used as control. Macroscopic changes were evaluated and recorded. DNA was extracted using a silica-based methodology. Efficiency of DNA profiling was assessed through Quantitative PCR for STRs. Burnt teeth reached chalky white appearance at 400 °C 5 min and fractures were observed from 300 °C 10 min. Amplification of STRs was very low from 300 °C and 1 or 5 min. In contrast, the housekeeping gene, GAPDH, was amplified in all combinations of temperatures and times. Although it is possible to amplify the housekeeping gene at high temperature, DNA profiling is difficult to obtain, probably due to small size of these regions making them more prone to degradation.

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Expected net gain data of low-template DNA analyses

Data in Brief  Volume 8, September 2016, Pages 375–386;  doi:10.1016/j.dib.2016.05.059

Low-template DNA analyses are affected by stochastic effects which can produce a configuration of peaks in the electropherogram (EPG) that is different from the genotype of the DNA׳s donor. A probabilistic and decision-theoretic model can quantify the expected net gain (ENG) of performing a DNA analysis by the difference between the expected value of information (EVOI) and the cost of performing the analysis. This article presents data on the ENG of performing DNA analyses of low-template DNA for a single amplification, two replicate amplifications, and for a second replicate amplification given the result of a first analysis. The data were obtained using amplification kits AmpFlSTR Identifiler Plus and Promega׳s PowerPlex 16 HS, an ABI 3130xl genetic sequencer, and Applied Biosystem׳s GeneMapper ID-X software. These data are supplementary to an original research article investigating whether a forensic DNA analyst should perform a single DNA analysis or two replicate analyses from a decision-theoretic point of view, entitled “Low-template DNA: a single DNA analysis or two replicates?” (Gittelson et al., 2016) [1].

Refers To:  Simone Gittelson, Carolyn R. Steffen, Michael D. Coble; Low-template DNA: A single DNA analysis or two replicates? Forensic Science International, Volume 264, July 2016, Pages 139-145

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An evaluation of case completeness for New Zealand Coronial case files held on the Australasian National Coronial Information System (NCIS)

Inj Prev Online First 17 December 2015 doi:10.1136/injuryprev-2015-041837

Large administrative databases provide powerful opportunities for examining the epidemiology of injury. The National Coronial Information System (NCIS) contains Coronial data from Australia and New Zealand (NZ); however, only closed cases are stored for NZ. This paper examines the completeness of NZ data within the NCIS and its impact upon the validity and utility of this database. A retrospective review of the capture of NZ cases of quad-related fatalities held in the NCIS was undertaken by identifying outstanding Coronial cases held on the NZ Coronial Management System (primary source of NZ Coronial data). NZ data held on the NCIS database were incomplete due to the non-capture of closed cases and the unavailability of open cases. Improvements to the information provided on the NCIS about the completeness of NZ data are needed to improve the validity of NCIS-derived findings and the overall utility of the NCIS for research.

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The utility of medico-legal databases for public health research: a systematic review of peer-reviewed publications using the National Coronial Information System

Health Research Policy and Systems 2016 14:28;  DOI: 10.1186/s12961-016-0096-1


Medico-legal death investigations are a recognised data source for public health endeavours and its accessibility has increased following the development of electronic data systems. Despite time and cost savings, the strengths and limitations of this method and impact on research findings remain untested. This study examines this issue using the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).


PubMed, ProQuest and Informit were searched to identify publications where the NCIS was used as a data source for research published during the period 2000–2014. A descriptive analysis was performed to describe the frequency and characteristics of the publications identified. A content analysis was performed to identify the nature and impact of strengths and limitations of the NCIS as reported by researchers.


Of the 106 publications included, 30 reported strengths and limitations, 37 reported limitations only, seven reported strengths only and 32 reported neither. The impact of the reported strengths of the NCIS was described in 14 publications, whilst 46 publications discussed the impacts of limitations. The NCIS was reported to be a reliable source of quality, detailed information with comprehensive coverage of deaths of interest, making it a powerful injury surveillance tool. Despite these strengths, researchers reported that open cases and missing information created the potential for selection and reporting biases and may preclude the identification and control of confounders.


To ensure research results are valid and inform health policy, it is essential to consider and seek to overcome the limitations of data sources that may have an impact on results.

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Development of a Lean Facility Design Roadmap for Design-Bid-Build Forensic Facilities

National Institute of Justice | Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) January 2016;  38 pp

In 2013, NIST published an update to its widely acclaimed Forensic Science Laboratories: Handbook for Facility Planning, Design, Construction and Relocation.  A detailed review revealed that, despite its guidance on integrating the latest scientific developments, efficiency improvements, and sustainability practices in building forensic facilities, it contains few references to Lean  Design.  In an effort to incorporate Lean Design thinking into the planning, construction, and relocation of forensic facilities, the National Institute of Justice’s FTCoE initiated a project to develop guidelines and checklists for Lean Facility Design (LFD). This document reports on the development of these LFD guidelines and checklists and their integration.

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