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TrueAllele® education and the New York State Police

Albany, NY

User training is essential for reliably producing accurate match statistics that hold up in court. Some forensic DNA developers give away free software without user support. But software alone does not ensure criminal justice and conviction integrity. In their smooth transition to probabilistic genotyping, TrueAllele laboratories want comprehensive user training, which Cybergenetics has delivered to hundreds of students.

TrueAllele "Solving Cases" is a self-paced computer laboratory course. Students run TrueAllele on a dozen DNA mixture lessons, learning basic and advanced problem solving. After producing TrueAllele genotype and match results, they write up their findings and answer study questions. As in any science laboratory class, lab output is different for each student, so answers are individualized to their unique data. In a college-like culture of collaboration, science students help one another learn.

The NYSP are investigating alleged cheating on TrueAllele examinations. NYSP Laboratory Director Ray Wickenheiser said at a NYS Forensic Science Commission meeting on April 15, "There is absolutely no issue with any of the validations we have done; absolutely no issue with the technology itself. This is strictly an ethics and integrity matter with respect to exam information which will be dealt with in the executive session. There is nothing we have uncovered that goes to the validity in any way, shape or form of the technology of probabilistic genotyping, nor TrueAllele itself. These are not even competency tests, these are tests that are pre-requisites as people move through their training."

The Albany Times Union newspaper published an update on May 18 on the "alleged cheating scandal." Dr. Mark Perlin of Cybergenetics said it is extremely unlikely 15 State Police scientists would have deliberately cheated. He also said that in many crime labs, scientists learning to use TrueAllele have been encouraged to collaborate. "These exams are not exams for proficiency, they're learning exercises," Perlin said. "If their administration wants them to work together ... that's fine. If a lab would prefer that it were independent, that's fine. We're ecumenical about that. Our concern is that the students learn and when they're all done that they know how to operate the system."

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