Towards the Development of Pan-European Databases in Forensic Science (TDPEDFS)
Forensic science relies heavily on information collections and databases. Many such databases have been developed in individual European forensic laboratories and the sharing of such information has been actively supported by ENFSI over many years. Moreover, in some specific areas (e.g. DNA, fingerprints) the sharing of forensic databases across EU Member States has made very significant progress. Nevertheless, many forensic databases are held locally and are not readily available to other forensic institutes, neither nationally nor internationally.
The Europe wide sharing of forensic databases is highly desirable to avoid duplication of effort and also to provide the basis for better understanding the relevance of laboratory results to strengthen their evidential value. Furthermore, the linking of databases provides the opportunity to implement new, advanced methods of data analysis and statistical interpretation. In the wider European context, all this will provide better support to police forces in the investigation of crime and to the courts in the administration of justice.
The TDPEDFS project has a very ambitious scope. It starts with a long-term vision of the European forensic community moving towards shared forensic databases through a ‘single access point’. The project will explore the broad technical, organisational, legal and financial challenges to this vision (a pan-European infrastructure and a shared data model with an overarching database as the framework in which other databases can be integrated). It will be a feasibility study that includes the implementation of a proof of concept portal (demonstrator) with some initial databases integrated. Furthermore, it will use Big Data Analytics to explore how the data stored in the accumulated databases might provide enhanced information for future investigations.
Alongside the overarching work on integrated European forensic databases, the TDPEDFS project will also develop and share some new or improved databases in specific forensic areas. These have been selected as areas of high potential impact on European forensic science. Furthermore, they represent very diverse scientific areas such that the shared learning between the activity teams can help inform and support the overarching TDPEDFS work.
Thus, the project has 5 different work activities:
N1) Towards Big Forensic Data (TBFD) – Feasibility Study & Proof of Concept. [This is the overarching work looking at the feasibility of European database sharing and building the demonstrator.]
N2) Geographical distribution of firearms and gunshot residue throughout Europe: databases that help experts to report beyond the source level. [This activity will build a series of inter-related databases to assist in the interpretation of forensic casework involving the discharge of firearms.]
N3) European Smoke and Ink Staining System Plus (EuSISS+) [This activity will further develop and share an existing local database for tracing the indelible security inks and taggants loaded into the security boxes used for cash transport.]
N4) Forensic Substance Database on Explosives (FoSDE) [This activity will establish a European database with information about the chemicals found in different brands of military and commercial explosives to help to identify specific brands in forensic casework.]
N5) Data platform for the combination of various existing databases and research-projects in the field of forensic document examination. [This activity will bring together existing diverse European data collections in the field of document examination e.g. writing inks, document security features, printer identification methods (inks, toners, dot patterns etc).]
The TDPEDFS project will run over a period of 24 months and will involve 41 participating organisations (mainly forensic institutes from across Europe) based in 25 different countries.