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The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE), funded by the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST) and codirected by Chancellor’s Professor of Statistics Hal Stern, was recently recognized by the American Statistical Association. At the ASA Awards Celebration and Editor Appreciation Event, held on July 29, CSAFE and NIST won the award for Statistical Partnerships Among Academe, Industry and Government. Established in 2002, the SPAIG Award recognizes outstanding partnerships between academe, industry and government organizations, resulting in significant contributions to the statistical field with applications to real-world problems.

Hal Stern and his colleagues receiving the SPAIG Award: (from left) Lisa LaVange, ASA President; Hal Stern, co-director of CSAFE, UCI; Will Guthrie, NIST; Karen Kafadar, co-director of CSAFE, University of Virginia; Bill Eddy, co-director of CSAFE, Carnegie Mellon University; and Alicia Carriquiry, director of CSAFE, Iowa State University. (Photo courtesy of the American Statistical Association)

CSAFE is an interdisciplinary team of more than 60 researchers from four universities (UCI, Carnegie Mellon, Iowa State University and the University of Virginia). Its mission is to “build a statistically sound and scientifically solid foundation for the analysis and interpretation of forensic evidence to grow competence in the forensic sciences and legal communities, and bring together forensic practitioners and other stakeholders through educational and training opportunities.”

Several CSAFE projects are in the works with researchers here at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). Stern’s current CSAFE project involves working with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on a study of the complexity of handwritten signatures. The goal is to help the LAPD determine the veracity of the assumption that complex signatures are more difficult to forge.

Computer Science Professor Charless Fowlkes, along with Ph.D. students, has analyzed whether investigators can determine what type of shoe left an impression found at a crime scene, while Chancellor’s Professor of Computer Science Padhraic Smyth and Statistics Ph.D. student Chris Galbraith are developing new statistical techniques to support the rapidly emerging area of digital forensics.

“The CSAFE team is excited to receive the award with our NIST partners,” says Stern, “because it reinforces the importance of collaboration among academic and government researchers to make progress on important issues like forensic science.”


— Shani Murray