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An Information Gap in DNA Evidence Interpretation

Perlin, M.W. and Sinelnikov, A. An information gap in DNA evidence interpretation. PLoS ONE, 4(12):e8327, 2009.




Forensic DNA evidence often contains mixtures of multiple contributors, or is present in low copy numbers. The resulting data signals may appear to be relatively uninformative when interpreted using qualitative inclusion-based methods. However, these same data can yield greater identification information when interpreted by computer using quantitative data- modeling methods. This study applies both qualitative and quantitative interpretation methods to a well-characterized DNA mixture and dilution data set, and compares the inferred match information. The results show that qualitative interpretation loses identification power at low culprit DNA quantities (below 100 pg), but that quantitative methods produce useful information down into the 10 pg range. Thus there is a ten-fold information gap that separates the qualitative and quantitative DNA mixture interpretation approaches. With low quantities of culprit DNA (10 pg to 100 pg), computer-based quantitative interpretation provides greater match sensitivity.