Forensic Science in the Time of COVID-19: Continuing Education and Conferences

In the world of forensic science and criminalistics, the sharing of ideas among researchers, professionals, and companies is critical to moving the industry forward. For such a multidisciplinary and novel field, new ideas, new technologies, and new applications are pivotal.

So, with in-person events largely shut down by the pandemic, will progress be slowed? Thankfully, due to technological advancements and the commitment of multiple institutions, there are ways for forensic analysts to continue pursuing professional development.

Attend a conference from the convenience of your office

In the forensic science world, there is immense value in our dozens of yearly conferences, meetings, and symposiums. However, the current public health crisis has put many sponsoring organizations in a bind.

Some have chosen to gamble, rescheduling their annual meetings just a few months later. For example, the Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists will meet November 10-13 in Newport News, Va. But others have chosen to play it safe and cancel their symposiums until next year. This includes the International Association of Forensic Sciences triennial meeting, which will hold off until May 17-21, 2021, to meet in Sydney, Australia.

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Other organizations have opted to move conferences and symposiums entirely online for 2020. This permits registrants to watch presentations and workshops virtually from the comfort of any location with an internet connection. You can participate in online events put on by regional organizations, such as the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists’ Annual Meeting (October 14-17) and the Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists’ Annual Conference (October 5-8). Additionally, Promega’s heralded International Symposium on Human Identification has gone completely virtual this year (September 14-15). InnoGenomics will have a booth at ISHI, so be sure to check in!

It’s undeniable that the ability to interact with presenters, peers, and vendors at professional conferences is limited by a virtual platform. The safety of this format, however, empowers scholarly and professional exchange to continue, regardless of the coronavirus infection rate in coming months.

Get a socially distanced or virtual training session

Forensic professionals must maintain a rigorous training schedule that stretches well past their preliminary months in the lab. With crime labs constantly swamped with new casework, a lot of training gets outsourced to third-party institutions. These vendors are tasked with creating focused programs and workshops for working professionals.

With normal in-person trainings no longer viable, these institutions are adapting their training offerings to ensure that coursework is still accessible to agencies everywhere.

The National Forensic Science Technology Center, for example, runs training and consulting services from its base at Florida International University. And while much of their coursework can be accessed online, they are also providing in-person training sessions that include social distancing. This allows for a more hands-on approach that is critical for certain aspects of forensic training.

Training webinars have also been made available at a multitude of institutions, including the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, Tritech Forensics, and the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law.

Keep Learning. Keep Moving Your Industry Forward.

Continuing education, exposure to new research, and even social opportunities are a major part of the value of events sponsored by forensic science organizations throughout the world. Although conference planners haven’t yet figured out how to fully replace the value of in-person gatherings, there are still opportunities to learn and grow.

As of the date of this blog post's publication, all of these conference dates were accurate. But since pandemic-era plans change everyday, be sure to reference the event site before clearing your schedule.

So, what opportunities are you finding to be most beneficial for peer-to-peer networking and learning during the pandemic? What’s missing from the opportunities your go-to trade associations or training vendors offer? Share your suggestions on LinkedIn or Facebook, and be sure to tag us!

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