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FORESIGHT

Project FORESIGHT is a business-guided self-evaluation of forensic science laboratories across the globe. The participating laboratories represent metro, regional, state, and national agencies. Managers of scientific laboratories often see themselves as scientists first and managers second; consequently, they may tend to devalue the managerial aspects of their jobs. Forensic laboratory managers are no different but the stakes may be much higher given the importance of quality science to the criminal justice system. 

Faculty from the WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics analyze the data from forensic crime laboratories from around the world to identify trends across laboratories and performance of individual laboratories. The project uses standardize definitions for functional areas of the laboratory and produces annual metrics to evaluate work processes, linking data on casework, personnel allocation, and financial information to work tasks and functions. Laboratory managers can then assess resource allocations, efficiencies, and value of services—the mission is to measure, preserve what works, and change what does not. While the Census of Publicly Funded Forensic Crime Laboratories and the International Association for Identification Forensic Service Providers Survey approach the forensic industry broadly, Project FORESIGHT highlights processes, strategies, resources, and allocations at a highly detailed level. 

Participation in FORESIGHT is voluntary. Each participating laboratory receives (at no charge) a detailed analysis of their performance relative to all ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratories in the project. A participating laboratory must submit their data using the project’s Laboratory Reporting and Analysis Tool (LabRAT)), a Microsoft Excel based tool. LabRAT includes worksheets for the minimum data submission (Level I) and optionally, more detailed data in Level II. Level I data includes the number of cases submitted in each area of investigation with the associated allocation of personnel across those areas. The corresponding financial data requests the total salary and benefits in those areas of investigation and the total laboratory expenditures for capital equipment, consumables, and total remaining expenditures. The optional Level II worksheets enable a more detailed report to each laboratory with the submission of greater detail within casework, personnel, and financials.

Laboratory Reporting and Analysis Tool (LabRAT)

The LabRAT data collection tool is a workbook that collects and automatically calculates business measures about caseloads, staffing, budgets, and other important factors. While the LabRAT alone is a useful tool for a laboratory manager, submitting a completed LabRAT form allows WVU to generate a benchmarking report for the laboratory. By submitting a LabRAT form, laboratories can participate in FORESIGHT to better evaluate their efficiencies and effectiveness.

Completing & submitting LabRAT

Common Definitions

One of the key concepts that makes FORESIGHT work is a consistent set of terms by which laboratories can communicate and compare their activities. Many laboratories may have a definition for “turn-around-time,” for example, but unless each laboratory uses the same definition, then communication becomes impossible because everyone is talking about something different. The founding FORESIGHT laboratories created this glossary of terms and periodically we update the terms to ensure consistency across laboratories. Consistent definitions helps guide FORESIGHT participants to entering the correct data for benchmarking comparisons.

Definitions

Investigative areas

Although the structure of forensic laboratories around the globe varies, certain investigative areas are thematically consistent.  The investigative areas used in FORESIGHT try to capture the diversity while retaining the accuracy of laboratory functions. Much like the Glossary, the Investigative Areas are standardized definitions to help laboratories enter data into the LabRAT in a consistent fashion.

FORESIGHT Investigative Area Definitions  

Project Output: Consultant’s Report

Once all submissions are gathered, a consultant’ report is generated for each participating laboratory with the laboratory’s data analyzed for comparison to the pool of participating laboratories. Below are FORESIGHT Example Reports with summaries from prior years.

Publications in the Business of Forensics

The mission of Project FORESIGHT is to measure, preserve what works, and change what does not. The project has resulted in a large number of publications to share this research. Additionally, blogs, podcasts, and webinars share the project’s research.

Preparing and Submitting Data

Begin by downloading the LabRAT data collection tool. The LabRAT data collection workbook separates the minimum data necessary (Level I worksheets) from the maximum data submission (Level II worksheets). At a minimum, complete the following:

  1. “Open Me First” worksheet
  2. “Casework Level I” worksheet, which asks for cases submitted to the laboratory for each investigative area and the full-time equivalent employment in each investigative area for the corresponding fiscal year.
  3. “Expenditures Level I” worksheet, which asks for personnel expenditures (salaries, wages, employer-paid benefits, temporary employee and overtime payments) for each investigative area and laboratory total expenditures for capital, consumables, and the lump sum of any other expenditures.

With this data, we can provide your laboratory with a full report. The “Summary Measures” worksheet will give you immediate feedback with this minimum data reporting.

Optional data may be entered in the Level II worksheets. All of your Level I casework and expenditures data is immediately transferred to the Level II worksheets. Any additional detail on casework (e.g., TAT, backlogs, items, samples, tests, reports) or expenditures will enhance the precision of you report. Partial reporting in the Level II worksheets is acceptable. Only answer those data requests that you are able to easily report.

The target submission date is January 15 of each calendar year for the prior fiscal year data. New participants are encouraged to submit separate LabRAT workbooks across multiple years. To be considered for ASCLD’s Maximus award, submissions must be received at least one month prior to the annual ASCLD Symposium.

Submit your completed LabRAT form to the project Principal Investigator, Paul Speaker at paul.speaker@mail.wvu.edu or foresightsubmissions@gmail.com.

Support for Project FORESIGHT has been provided through the following partners:

NIJ

Forensic Technology

AM Society of Crime Lab Directors

Arnold Ventures