Proficiency tests to estimate error rates in the forensic sciences

Jonathan J. Koehler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The reliability and probative value of forensic science evidence is inextricably linked to the rates at which examiners make errors. Jurors and others cannot rationally assess the significance of a reported forensic science match without having some information about the rate at which false positive errors occur. This article calls for the implementation of proficiency tests that are designed and administered for the express purpose of providing factfinders with reasonable first pass estimates of error rates across forensic disciplines and techniques. The composition of the test designers and administrators, the features of tests and reference samples, the composition and selection of test participants, the use of blind test protocols and the coding of test responses are critical elements in this endeavour. A proficiency testing plan that addresses each of these issues is identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-98
Number of pages10
JournalLaw, Probability and Risk
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Base rates
  • Blind testing
  • Error rates
  • Forensic science
  • Proficiency tests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
  • Law


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