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'Sometimes I give up on the report and ring the scientist': Bridging the gap between what forensic scientists write and what police investigators read

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 14:06 authored by Loene HowesLoene Howes
Despite increased use of forensic science in police investigations, relatively few studies have examined how well forensic science is communicated to police investigators. This study explored practitioners’ perceptions of the effectiveness of such communication in Australian jurisdictions. Sixty-five participants, consisting of police (investigators, n = 28; and liaison officers, n = 10) and case-reporting scientists (forensic biologists, n = 16; and trace evidence examiners, n = 11), participated in semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were analysed thematically and the communication process from crime scene to court was examined in light of a conceptual model of forensic science communication. Oneway communication was appropriate throughout the process for most routine cases. However, in other cases, two-way communication was important. Specifically, participants viewed discussion as necessary for police investigators, to facilitate on-the-job learning about forensic science generally, and to clarify aspects of forensic science in particular cases, especially serious cases, or when the science was complex, unfamiliar to investigators, or relied upon to advance the case. In addition, participants considered discussion helpful for forensic scientists in understanding the information needs of police investigators, and essential at the managerial level to ensure that operational priorities relating to forensic science were aligned. The implications include the need for further refinement of written reports and online systems, and more explicit recognition of the value of discussion as one component of effective communication about forensic science, both to enhance professional development, and to prevent information loss.


Publication title

Policing and Society










School of Social Sciences


Taylor and Francis

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© 2015 Taylor & Francis

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Criminal justice

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