CSFS Position paper on the Logical Approach

I recently published an editorial in the Journal of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science.  Two versions were published almost simultaneously (the original written in English and a translation in French) entitled, respectively, “CSFS Document Section Position on the Logical Approach to Evidence Evaluation and Corresponding Wording of Conclusions” and “La position de la Section des documents de la SCSJ sur l’approche logique de l’évaluation de la preuve et le libellé des conclusions”.

I wrote these in my capacity as the sitting chairman of the Documents section of the CSFS, on behalf of the members of that section.  The impetus for writing them was to introduce the “logical approach” and related topics to the Canadian forensic community in a ‘formal’ way (hopefully resulting in ongoing discussion) and to provide the public and the courts with the perspective of forensic practitioners who have reviewed the literature and studied this issue in depth. To that end, the document references many initiatives relating to the topic. I will note that it’s not a perfect document but it covers the main points reasonably well.

Please note that this position paper was first written a few years ago.  There was considerable delay in publication relating to the production of an acceptable French-language translation of the document. I must thank Julie Binette who was invaluable in that process. The delay, however, means the references provided in the paper are not fully up-to-date with the very latest developments in this area.

Nonetheless, that shortcoming doesn’t detract from the position expressed.  Today there is even more support and justification than is outlined in the paper. 

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David H. Kaye’s “Forensic Science, Statistics & the Law” Blog

David H. Kaye (DHK) is one of my favourite writers. He is truly prolific and always manages to provide great insights for the reader. His grasp of statistics, logic, and the law is second-to-none, and his ability to communicate those very challenging topics to his audience is equally impressive.

As a mini introduction, David “…is Distinguished Professor, and Weiss Family Scholar in the School of Law, a graduate faculty member of Penn State’s Forensic Science Program, and a Regents’ Professor Emeritus, ASU.” If you would like to see a list of his publications check out http://personal.psu.edu/dhk3/cv/cv_pubs.html 

Yes, DHK has written many things on many topics.1  But I would like to focus on his less formal writings from his blog  Forensic Science, Statistics & the Law.

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Interesting and Useful Stuff

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Forensic Document Examination is a complex area involving many different topics and abilities.  I am always looking for useful resources that can help me do this work and some of that information can be found online.

In time I would like to provide a more fulsome list of online resources pertaining to the different facets of this work but that is going to take a while to compile and it will be an ongoing project.  Still there are already a few websites I consider to be particularly interesting and useful.  I’ve compiled them into a list to serve as a starting point for a more complete and general list.

Some of these relate to Forensic Document Examination, some to logic and reasoning, and some pertain to programming and statistics (i.e., my main areas of interest). They are not listed in any particular order.  Other categories, and more sites, may be added from time to time.  In the meantime, I hope that you find them as interesting and useful as I have.  If you know of other sites that you think might be included here, please let me know via the contact page.  Enjoy!!

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Prior odds — their meaning and significance

The concepts of ‘prior odds’, a.k.a., prior probabilities or simply priors, and ‘posterior odds’ come up in most discussions about the evaluation of evidence.  The significance and meaning of both terms becomes clear when viewed in the context of a “Bayesian approach”, or the logical approach, to evidence evaluation.  That approach has been discussed at length elsewhere and relates to the updating of one’s belief about events based upon new information.  A key aspect is that some existing belief, encapsulated as the ‘prior odds’ of two competing possibilities or events, will be updated on the basis of new information, encapsulated in the ‘likelihood-ratio’1 (another term you will undoubtedly have seen), to produce some new belief, encapsulated as ‘posterior odds’ about those same competing possibilities.

But what precisely do these terms, ‘prior odds’ and ‘posterior odds’, mean and how do they relate to the work of a forensic examiner?
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