Consultation Assessment Framework DNA

In recent months the NRGD has worked together with an expert group to adjust the Assessment Framework of DNA Analysis and Interpretation. The current field of expertise DNA – Source Level has been altered and the subfields of Activity Level and DNA Kinship Analysis have been added to the Assessment Framework. You can respond to the proposed changes until June 10, 2020 at the latest.

The further development of the DNA Assessment Framework was discussed during an expert meeting last October. The meeting provided a lot of useful feedback, which was incorporated in the Assessment Framework DNA (draft).

The number of subfields have been increased from one to three compared to the current Standards:

  1. DNA Source Level (Extended)
  2. DNA Activity Level
  3. DNA Kinship Analysis

Activity Level and Kinship Analysis are completely new subfields of expertise that build on the knowledge of the subfield Source Level. In addition, significant changes have been made for the subfield Source Level.

Broadened requirements DNA Source Level

The requirements to be registered as a Source Level Expert have been broadened compared to the current standards. Consequently more people who work on DNA analysis and the interpretation of DNA profiles can be registered.

The NRGD noticed that many experts are not registered as DNA experts while they perform many DNA analyses and interpretations. To be able to include those people in the register we have changed some of the prerequisites to a somewhat milder version. For example, in the current standards an expert on Source Level should be able to create and perform an examination strategy. For the new Standards the expert is required to have understanding of the chosen strategy and be able to explain it. As a result, they do not require the competences of the tasks but only the knowledge concerning it. Furthermore, we have removed tasks from Source Level that are currently not carried out by all experts, and moved these tasks to Source Level Extended.

Additional tasks and competences

The applicants for the standard source level will be assessed on more general competencies. As a result, experts are not acknowledged for any additional competencies they might possess. Consequently, we have added DNA Source Level Extended containing specific tasks that are not generally performed by all DNA experts. In case an expert performs one of these tasks, they should indicate this and they will be assessed on those tasks as well. When an expert is asked to perform a task he/she is not proficient in, then they should indicate this to the commissioning party in accordance with the NRGD Code of conduct. NRGD registered experts who do not follow the code can be addressed by the NRGD. In order to make it as easy as possible for the users of the register we do not distinguish between normal and extended DNA experts in the register.

The tasks that currently fall under Source level Extended are:

  • Y-chromosomal DNA Analysis
  • Mitochondrial DNA Analysis
  • Formulation and execution of an examination strategy
  • Cell Typing

Frequently asked questions

Why Source Level Extended?
There are many tasks performed by DNA experts which all require specific competences, e.g., YSTR, cell typing, etc. However, DNA-experts usually do not perform all these tasks, but only a few of them. Consequently, if we require experts to be competent in all the tasks then only a few experts could still be registered. On the other hand, if we do not require it, then those experts with specific competences are not assessed on those tasks. Nevertheless these tasks are performed by a majority of experts.

In addition, the NRGD wants to keep the number of DNA fields/specialisations to a minimum, because it would complicate things for the users of the register and during the Expert Meeting the attendees made clear the fields should not be hierarchical. This could imply that Activity level experts would be ‘better’ than source level. This is not the case. The quality of these experts is equal but they perform different tasks and have therefore different competencies.

As a result, the NRGD had to devise a way to assess and register as many experts as possible on as many competences as possible. Therefore, the NRGD created the Extended option.

First of all, the extended option is not a different level, it is not hierarchical and in the public register we will not make a distinction between ‘normal’ and ‘extended’ experts. It is an extension of the basic DNA Source level.

Secondly, the rule is: if you perform specific tasks, then you should report that with your application and be assessed on it.

For example: DNA expert Smith applies for registration. We will require that he is competent in all tasks mentioned under DNA Source Level. But Smith also reports on YSTR’s and creates examination strategies for biological trace recovery. However, Smith does not do any cell typing and is not competent in this task. According to our rule stated above, Smith is obliged to let us know which additional tasks he performs and he will need to supply case reports containing showing these additional competences. He will not be required to supply a report containing cell typing analysis.

Why would any expert apply for the extended version if you don’t see a difference in the register?

Any expert registered by the NRGD should uphold the Code of Conduct. In other words, be truthful and with integrity integer about the claims in your NRGD application as well as you do in court. Accordingly, we require DNA experts to acknowledge to the court, in their report and/or during testimony, that they have been assessed by the NRGD. If an Expert does not uphold the NRGD Code of Conduct then the NRGD can appeal to the expert and if necessary initiate an investigation. In addition, it is also up to the judge and the defence to question the expert about his or her tested competencies.

How will this benefit the experts and the NRGD?
Many more experts will be able to register at the NRGD. This will create a more robust register and more experts will be acknowledged for their competences.

What about the tasks that do not fall within the extended version?
As long as there are not enough assessors that are able to determine the competences of such tasks, the NRGD will not assess them. However, as soon as there are enough assessors these tasks will be allocated under the extended version.

Why don’t we make well defined sub-fields for these different tasks, e.g., DNA source-YSTR and DNA source-Cell Typing?
This would be too complex for the user (judge). Users already have troubles distinguishing between sub-source, source and activity. Consequently, the court usually assigns an institute to answer a specific DNA question. The institute assigns a competent DNA expert who in turn performs the tasks in order to answer the question at hand. Creating sub-fields would require judges to have much more knowledge of DNA analysis than they currently have.

Do activity-level and kinship also fall under the extended version?
No, they do not. These are well defined areas of expertise and experts should apply for those separately. In the Standards, in part VI (assessment procedure) it is explained how an expert can apply for multiple sub-fields at once.