Human Factors in Forensic Science Practice Sourcebook

Human Factors in Forensic Science Practice Sourcebook


Forensic Science International: Synergy, March 2022


  • Heidi Eldridge, PhD | RTI International
  • Barbara A. Spellman, JD, PhD | University of Virginia School of Law
  • Thomas Busey, PhD | Indiana University, Psychological and Brain Sciences

Working Group Members

Paul Bieber Jonathan McGrath, PhD Barbara A. Spellman, JD, PhD
Thomas Busey, PhD Janet Metcalfe, PhD Jon Stimac
Laura Carlson, PhD Linton Mohammed Laura Sudkamp
John Collins, MA John Morgan, PhD Melissa Taylor
Heidi Eldridge, PhD Luther Schaeffer, MSc John Vanderkolk
Alison Hutchens Donia Slack, MSc Alice White
 Jarrah Kennedy Randall Spain Kimberly Zeller


The five articles in this special issue of FSI: Synergy were created to advance the understanding and adoption of insights from cognitive psychology into forensic practice. Together these articles form the “Human Factors in Forensic Science Practice Sourcebook,” which the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) directed RTI International's Forensic Technology Center of Excellence to develop. Each article in this issue represents a “chapter” of this reference and is intended to address a specific field of knowledge within the cognitive psychology literature and how it may apply to and strengthen forensic science.

This sourcebook is designed to serve a wide range of forensic science stakeholders in three primary ways:

  • Describe the state of knowledge of human factors as applied to forensic practice.
  • Guide forensic laboratories to take into account how human factors considerations can improve the practice of forensic science.
  • Inform researchers and funders about research gaps that could be addressed in the application of cognitive psychology to forensic practice.

The sourcebook was developed by a collaborative team of forensic science practitioners and cognitive psychologists, who met in person three times over two years to examine issues related to human factors in forensic science. Each article team was led by a psychologist who had expertise in the cognitive area under review, assisted by multiple forensic science practitioners who provided context and operational insights into forensic science needs and practices.


  1. Overview of special issue: Human factors in forensic science practice sourcebook
  2. The need for research-based tools for personnel selection and assessment in the forensic sciences
  3. The benefits of errors during training
  4. Challenges to reasoning in forensic science decisions
  5. Stressors in forensic organizations: Risks and solutions
  6. Describing communication during a forensic investigation using the Pebbles on a Scale metaphor

This work was supported, in part, by the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (Award 2016-MU-BX-K110), awarded by the National Institute of JusticeOffice of Justice ProgramsU.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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