CSAFE receives prestigious award from the American Statistical Association

By Paula Van Brocklin, Office of the Vice President for Research

If the world of statistics had Academy Awards, then the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE), based at Iowa State University, would have just earned an Oscar.

CSAFE received the prestigious Statistical Partnerships Among Academe, Industry and Government (SPAIG) Award on July 30 at a special presentation in Vancouver, British Columbia. The award, sponsored by the SPAIG Committee of the American Statistical Association (ASA), recognizes outstanding collaborations between organizations as well as key individual contributors. This year, the SPAIG Committee unanimously selected CSAFE and its three-year partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a physical science laboratory that is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, for their significant successes in building a statistically-sound and scientifically-solid foundation for the analysis and interpretation of forensic evidence, and for contributing to the statistical training of forensic practitioners and legal professionals. Alicia Carriquiry, director of CSAFE, and Heike Hofmann, professor of statistics at Iowa State, were honored as key contributors.

“Establishing a close partnership with NIST is a main focus of CSAFE,” Carriquiry said. “The funding that CSAFE receives is in the form of a cooperative agreement with NIST, which means that we are successful if the partnership is successful. Getting this award was a nice affirmation of the fact that we are meeting this goal.”

The award specifically recognized these collaborative achievements:

  • New automated algorithms for bullet, shoeprint and glass comparisons that improve the accuracy of forensic analysis
  • Creation of databases, acquisition systems and phone apps for forensic evidence collection and quality assessment
  • Successful training of forensic practitioners to improve their quantitative literacy

“CSAFE represents the best of what we do here at Iowa State – integrating research excellence, training for our next generation workforce, and engagement with community stakeholders to generate meaningful and forward-looking impacts for the criminal justice system,” said Sarah Nusser, vice president for research.

Established in 2015, CSAFE is a partnership of more than 60 researchers from Iowa State University (lead university), Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Virginia and the University of California – Irvine. The consortium conducts research in statistical and probabilistic foundations of pattern and digital evidence that can be applied to the forensics field. CSAFE also educates and trains forensic practitioners, legal professionals and others on how use, interpret and communicate these new methods.