The Technical Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (TWGDAM) was established in November 1988 under FBI Laboratory sponsorship to aid forensic DNA scientists throughout North America. The first meeting consisted of 31 scientists representing 16 forensic laboratories in the United States and Canada and two research institutions. TWGDAM meetings were originally held twice a year at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, usually in January and July. More recently, public meetings have also been held in conjunction with scientific meetings such as the International Symposium on Human Identification, sponsored each fall by the Promega Corporation.
The original TWGDAM chairman was James Kearney of the FBI Laboratory who was followed by Bruce Budowle also of the FBI Laboratory. In 1998 the TWGDAM name was changed to the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods or SWGDAM. In October 2000, the SWGDAM chairman became Richard Guerrieri of the FBI Laboratory's DNA Analysis Unit I, who will serve for a term of six years.
Over the years, several subcommittees have operated to bring recommendations before the SWGDAM group. These subcommittees have included the restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), mitochondrial DNA, short tandem repeat (STR) interpretation, training, validation, Y chromosome, expert systems, and quality assurance working groups. TWGDAM issued guidelines for quality assurance in DNA analysis in 1989, 1991, and 1995. Updated validation guidelines were approved by SWGDAM in July 2003.
Evolving technology and laboratory practices made it necessary to issue revisions in the quality assurance standards for DNA testing. These QA guidelines were originally intended to serve as a guide to laboratory managers in establishing their own QA program. However, the 1995 'Guidelines for a Quality
Assurance Program for DNA Analysis' served as the de facto standards for forensic DNA testing until October 1998, when the ensuing DNA Advisory Board standards went into effect (see Appendix IV).
The DNA Advisory Board (DAB) is a congressionally mandated organization that was created and funded by the United States Congress DNA Identification Act of 1994. The first meeting of the DAB was held on 12 May 1995, and chaired by Nobel laureate Dr. Joshua Lederberg. The DAB consists of 13 voting members that include scientists from state, local, and private forensic laboratories; molecular geneticists and population geneticists not affiliated with a forensic laboratory; a representative from the National Institute of Standards and Technology; the chair of TWGDAM; and a judge. The DAB was created for a five-year period to issue standards for the forensic DNA community. Following conclusion of the DAB's responsibilities in 2000, SWGDAM now operates as the group responsible for offering recommendations to the forensic community within the United States.
The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) and its Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) play an important role in the United States as well as internationally for laboratory accreditation programs. The ASCLD/ LAB motto is 'quality assurance through inspection.' The Crime Laboratory Accreditation Program is a voluntary program in which any crime laboratory may participate to demonstrate that its management, operations, personnel, procedures and instruments meet stringent standards. The goal of accreditation is to improve the overall service of forensic laboratories to the criminal justice system. If a forensic laboratory is interested in becoming accredited, an ASCLD/LAB Accreditation Manual is available from the Executive Secretary for a fee. As of April 2004, a total of 265 crime laboratories are accredited by ASCLD/LAB although not all of them are doing DNA testing. For additional information on ASCLD, visit its web site: www.ascld-lab.org.
The National Forensic Science Training Center (NFSTC) located in Largo, Florida, has an accreditation program and offers to certify laboratories that comply with the SWGDAM/DAB guidelines. NFSTC accreditation is generally sought by contract service laboratories doing DNA database work since ASCLD/LAB accreditation is only available to forensic laboratories performing casework. For additional information on NFSTC, visit its web site: www.nfstc.org.
The American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) sets the national standards for laboratories performing DNA parentage testing. AABB provides accreditation for paternity testing laboratories. As of April 2004, there were 41 accredited paternity testing laboratories in the United States. For more information on AABB, visit their web site: www.aabb.org.
The College of American Pathologists (CAP) offers external proficiency testing to forensic and paternity testing labs as well as clinical laboratories. For further information on CAP, visit their web site: www.cap.org.
Cellmark Diagnostics, now Orchid Cellmark, a forensic DNA testing laboratory, provides a proficiency test to help ensure on-going laboratory quality. Their International Quality Assessment Scheme (IQAS) DNA Proficiency Test Program is designed for all laboratories conducting forensic DNA analysis. The proficiency tests consist of simulated forensic evidence case samples that are distributed four times a year. The Cellmark tests include questioned bloodstain and semen stain evidence along with known samples of blood. For more information on Orchid Cellmark, visit their web site: www.cellmark-labs.com.
Collaborative Testing Services, Inc. (CTS) is an ASCLD/LAB proficiency test provider offering six different tests in its forensic biology program. For more information on CTS, visit their web site: www.cts-interlab.com.
The Human Identity Trade Association (HITA) is a non-profit organization that represents the interests of DNA companies and suppliers within the human identity market. HITA generally meets in conjunction with the International Symposium on Human Identification each Fall. For additional information on HITA, visit the organization's web site: www.hita.org.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) develops standard reference materials (SRMs) that may be used by forensic laboratories to calibrate and verify their analytical procedures. Under the DAB standards, a laboratory is required to check its DNA procedures annually or whenever substantial changes are made to the protocol(s) against an appropriate and available NIST standard reference material or a standard traceable to a NIST standard (DAB standard 9.5, see Appendix IV). The various SRMs available from NIST are described below in the section on DNA standards. For additional information regarding NIST, visit its web site: www.nist.gov.
Quality Forensics, Inc., is an ASCLD/LAB proficiency test provider offering sets of samples to assess DNA casework, DNA database, and mitochondrial DNA proficiency. For additional information regarding Quality Forensics, visit their web site: www.qualityforensics.com.
Serological Research Institute (SERI) is another ASCLD/LAB proficiency test provider with body fluid identification and mock case proficiencies offered to forensic laboratories. For more information on SERI, visit their web site: www.serological.com.
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