From Crime Scene to Court: How Should Future Research Address the Current Limitations in Forensic Entomology?
Keywords:Insect, Post Mortem Interval, Standard Procedure, Validation, Entomological Evidence
Over the last 50 years there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of research being conducted in forensic entomology. Given the gravity of the consequences associated with court decisions, it is essential to assess how research in forensic entomology is supporting its practical application in criminal investigations and in court. In this study we employed a questionnaire-based approach, gathering information from professionals from across the world involved in the collection and preparation of forensic entomological evidence, as well as those who present and utilise such evidence in court. This was supported by a bibliometric approach that examined patterns of research publication and collaboration. The questionnaire survey indicated that forensic entomology is predominantly utilised to determine minimum post-mortem intervals. Whilst entomologists are generally confident in their ability to collect, preserve, store, identify and interpret entomological evidence, a number of weaknesses in the application and use of forensic entomology were identified. Additionally, the bibliometric study revealed extensive clustering of research within countries, with relatively little cross-country collaboration. This may result in inhibited flow of research findings, which is likely exacerbated by the low number of appropriate open-access journals. The vast array of factors that may affect insect behaviour, development, community structure and dynamics, as well as sampling reliability, make forensic entomology particularly challenging. Therefore, standardisation of procedures, validation of methodologies and accreditation frameworks will be critical for maximising the utility of practical forensic entomology. Research must underpin the future development of forensic entomology, but it will be most effective with greater levels of collaboration between research teams, and between researchers and practitioners. The global research community will need to be much more coordinated and standardised if it is to achieve its potential in supporting practical applications inside and outside of the court, thereby maximising the societal value of forensic entomology.
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