The Forensic Science Leadership Series
at Cedar Crest College

2018 Workshops

Contextual Bias in Forensic Science. What is it, how do we detect it, and what can we do about it?

Cedar Crest College, Allentown, Pennsylvania
March 13 – 15, 2018

Course Instructors

Dr. Niki Osborne
Dr. Mark Reynolds

Dr Niki Osborne is a Postdoctoral Scholar based at the University of California Irvine. Originally from New Zealand, Dr Osborne spent four years working alongside forensic scientists at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), the agency solely responsible for providing forensic services to the NZ Police. Dr Osborne’s research is focussed on understanding bias and the role of contextual information in forensic evidence interpretation, and she has over twenty five peerreviewed publications and conference presentations on the topic.

With almost 30 years of law enforcement experience, Dr Mark Reynolds was, until recently, employed by the Western Australia Police as their Forensic Science Consultant and Manager, Quality Assurance. Dr Reynolds holds a MSFS and PhD in forensic science. Coupled with 18 years of practical experience in the use of science to investigate homicides, Dr Reynolds is well placed to understand and link the theoretical concepts and practical implications of bias within forensic science. With Niki’s psychology background and Mark’s casework experience, this team brings together a unique and well-considered perspective on issues regarding bias in forensic science.


The topic of “bias” and its implications for forensic practice has been hotly debated and researched in forensic and academic circles over the last decade. The 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on the state of forensic science in the USA and the 2016 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on forensic science recommend that forensic practitioners address issues relating to bias in forensic science and provide evidence to the fact finder that they have done so.

Course Content

Most recently delivered as a resounding success to forensic science practitioners in Singapore, this workshop uses an engaging and innovative mixture of lectures, case examples, and practical activities to educate participants on the theoretical concepts and practical implications of bias within forensic science. Participants will receive instruction on the various types of bias, how to identify its presence, how to mitigate its influence, methods on how to sequentially unmask data, procedures used to identify task-relevant information, concepts for the appropriate management of case-specific contextual information and how to appropriately document critical decision pathways.

This workshop is primarily aimed at forensic science practitioners both scene or laboratory based, especially those involved in the early identification, collection and interpretation of evidence. It is however designed to benefit anyone who produces, uses or relies upon forensic science for decision making purposes within the justice system, including judges, district attorneys, defence lawyers and detectives.

General Information

All persons with paid registration for the workshop will receive course joining instructions and a comprehensive workbook (PDF Version) covering the content and presentations from the course. Additional note: The workshop will go ahead with a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 40 participants. The workshop will be confirmed by February 15, 2018.

USD $395 per person. Sustenance, transport, and accommodation are not included.