Insights into the evaluation of the investigative contribution of forensic science

Sonja Bitzer* 1,2 and Olivier Delémont 1

1 School of Criminal Justice, University of Lausanne, Batochime, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
2 National Institute for Criminalistics and Criminology, Brussels, Belgium

*corresponding author:

The effectiveness of forensic science has been challenged by several studies, indicating that it is either scarcely used and thus not relevant or when it is used, its effects on case processing are minor. The majority of the studies focused on an understanding of forensic science as the application of scientific techniques to the matters of court. Consequently, the contribution of forensic science was determined for judicial steps of the criminal justice process, such as suspect arrest, charging or conviction. The proposed remedies for its infrequent use or alleged ineffectiveness focused mainly on technical developments or managerial guidelines.

The objective of our study is to evaluate the use of forensic science in the investigation, as well as the decision leading up to it. Utility of the clue, defined as the added value of information gained by the analysis of the trace, is proposed as a more adequate indicator for the effective and efficient use of forensic science. Similarly is the anticipation of the utility of the clue an appropriate decision factor when choosing which traces to use. Through quantitative and qualitative research methods, robbery cases were studied. Results will be presented, showcasing the contribution of the utility of the clue in the decision-making process when assessing the actual contribution of traces to the investigation, considering the overall information available in the case.


Sonja Bitzer recently finished her PhD thesis in Forensic Science at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland. Her main interests focus on the understanding of forensic science in different countries and the evaluation of the effectiveness of forensic science in the Criminal Justice Process and the general security context. In September, she started a Post-doc at the National Institute of Criminology and Criminalistics, in Brussels, Belgium, to assess the contribution of forensic advisors and the use of forensic science in major crimes.