Introduction

Foundational Statistics for Forensic Toxicology Webinar Series

Foundational Statistics for Forensic Toxicology Webinar Series

Overview

In the field of Forensic Toxicology, numerical data and statistics abound, appearing in quantitative analyses, quality control, measurement uncertainty, proficiency testing, method validation, experimental design, peer-reviewed journal articles, business analytics, and more. Foundational statistical knowledge is critical to understanding forensic toxicology work, assessing its significance and reliability, and communicating such to stakeholders. This is not a comprehensive statistics course for forensic toxicologists, nor is it a replacement for formal coursework in mathematics, statistics, or applied statistics. This series attempts to connect statistical terms and concepts to the specific applications of statistics in forensic toxicology in a manner accessible to professionals of all levels of experience. The data and statistical terms commonly encountered in forensic toxicology form the focus of this series. 

This six-part series provides a fundamental knowledge base in statistics before advancing into more complex concepts. This series aims to address common questions that arise in forensic toxicology and to increase both the attendees’ confidence of what they know and the awareness of what they have yet to learn. Commonly encountered data types and both descriptive and inferential statistics will be defined and discussed. Practical examples from toxicology applications are presented to help contextualize the terms and concepts.  

The series invites participation and questions from live attendees and begins with an overview of basic terms and definitions in Session 1. Next, Session 2 introduces distributions and ways to characterize distributions and data. Session 3 demystifies statistical tests and hypothesis testing. Session 4 digs into the use of quality controls, covering theory, usage and the various elements of control charts. Session 5 covers a specific and practical application of control data, the calculation of Type A data for the estimation of measurement uncertainty, a common source of statistical knowledge uncertainty. The series concludes with a fireside chat with subject matter experts where specific questions and challenges are addressed. Live attendance and questions are highly encouraged. 

Webinar Series Details

Sessions begin with fundamental and widely used terminology before advancing into more complex concepts and practical applications. Throughout the sessions, practical day-to-day applications within the toxicology laboratory are provided as illustrative examples. This series aims to address common questions that arise in forensic toxicology and to increase both the attendees’ confidence of what they know and the awareness of what they have yet to learn. 

Attendees must view the sessions in chronological order live or as the recorded archive. For example: if Session 1: Series Introduction & Basics has not been viewed, an attendee will not be able to access the live or archived version of Session 2: Distributions & Standard Deviation.

This webinar series content has been reviewed by the ABFT and determined to be acceptable for submission to the ABFT for continuing education credit!

Session Chairs:
Sue Pearring | Quality Manager, San Francisco Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
Aria McCall | Technical Lead, Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office - Toxicology

ABFT Logo 2 BLANK
Session Topics Session Date Session Duration
Session 1 | Intro & Basics Thursday, May 9, 2024 1:00 - 2:00 PM ET
Session 2 | Distributions & Standard Deviation Thursday, May 23, 2024 1:00 - 2:00 PM ET
Session 3 | Statistical Tests and Hypothesis Testing Thursday, May 30, 2024 1:00 - 2:00 PM ET
Session 4 | Use of Controls and Other Control Chart Elements Thursday, June 20, 2024 1:00 - 2:00 PM ET
Session 5 | Calculation of Type A Data from Control Data for Measurement Uncertainty Thursday, July 11, 2024 1:00 - 2:00 PM ET
Session 6 | Let’s Talk About Stats Thursday, July 18, 2024 1:00 - 2:00 PM ET

Session 1 | Intro & Basics

This webinar originally occurred on May 9, 2024
Duration: 1 hour

Overview

This session provides an overview of the fundamental principles of statistics as encountered and applied in forensic toxicology. Various elements of statistics are often utilized or relied upon by scientists to describe produced results and to demonstrate if forensic instruments or processes are “working” or “in-control”. Here we establish the basic terminology for the principles of statistical analysis. Participants will begin to be better equipped to interpret and analyze forensic toxicology data accurately and effectively. 

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will be introduced to the series origin and objective and be provided an overview of the six-part series.
  2. Attendees will have a platform to ask questions freely for professionals with basic to advanced knowledge of statistics.
  3. Attendees will be provided common terms, definitions, and usages in data analysis and statistics in forensic toxicology.

Session 2 | Distributions & Standard Deviation

This webinar originally occurred on May 23, 2024
Duration: 1 hour

Overview

This session explores various distributions commonly encountered in forensic toxicology (normal, rectangular, etc.). Participants will learn about the characteristics of these distributions and how they manifest in toxicological data. Also, this session covers statistical measures that can describe and compare distributions, including variance, standard deviation, and relative standard deviation. Through practical examples, participants will gain insight into how these statistical techniques are applied in forensic toxicology. 

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will be provided definitions and examples of distributions encountered in forensic toxicology. 
  2. Attendees will increase their understanding of the distinctions between various distributions and the implications therein. 
  3. Attendees will be provided terms and definitions of descriptive statistics for distributions and appropriate usage in forensic toxicology. 

Session 3 | Statistical Tests and Hypothesis Testing

This webinar originally occurred on May 30, 2024
Duration: 1 hour

Guest Presenter

Brigitte Desharnais, Ph.D. | Chemist and Scientific Coordinator-Development and Quality Assurance, Université de Montréal School of Public Health 

Overview

This session explores hypothesis testing, a fundamental concept in statistical analysis, and its applications in forensic toxicology. Participants will gain an understanding of the different types of statistical tests, their respective applications, and how they can be utilized to uncover meaningful insights from toxicological data. 

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will understand the basic framework underlying hypothesis tests. 
  2. Attendees will become familiar with common hypothesis tests and their applications.
  3. Attendees will interpret the result of a hypothesis test (p-value) and be able to recognize the limitations inherent to hypothesis tests.

Session 4 | Use of Controls and Other Control Chart Elements

This webinar originally occurred on June 20, 2024
Duration: 1 hour

Overview

In this session, we address common challenges, misconceptions, and questions encountered in day-to-day forensic toxicology laboratory settings related to statistics. Participants will gain insights into the practical application of statistical concepts and terminology in quality control and control charting, including trends and outliers. Furthermore, participants will learn about data interpretation, distinguishing between results that occur due to statistical significance and those that occur due to random variation.  

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will understand practical applications of basic statistical concepts through examples. 
  2. Attendees will understand control data and the information it can and cannot provide.
  3. Attendees will be able to distinguish between systematic and random variation.

Session 5 | Calculation of Type A Data from Control Data for Measurement Uncertainty

This webinar originally occurred on July 11, 2024
Duration: 1 hour

Overview

Session five will incorporate concepts from earlier sessions and focus on the practical application of control data in estimating Measurement Uncertainty (MU). Rather than a discussion about how to calculate the MU, this session provides practical examples to demonstrate the key elements of the statistical process. Participants will learn how to incorporate control data into MU estimation by leveraging statistical techniques aimed at quantifying the uncertainty associated with measurement processes. 

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will understand how control data is used in measurement uncertainty calculations. 
  2. Attendees will be able to critically understand and assess data for the evaluation of measurement uncertainty.
  3. Attendees will be able to avoid misapplication or misunderstanding of measurement uncertainty data and principles.

Session 6 | Let’s Talk About Stats

Thursday, July 18, 2024 | 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Eastern
Duration: 1 hour

Guest Panelist

Brigitte Desharnais, Ph.D. | Chemist and Scientific Coordinator-Development and Quality Assurance, Université de Montréal School of Public Health 

Overview

In this fireside chat, panelists include practitioners and experts in forensic toxicology, and subject matter experts for the application of statistics in forensic toxicology. Join us in a dynamic and engaging session to explore common frustrations and challenges experienced in the laboratory, providing participants with valuable insights and practical solutions. Panelists will share their personal experiences and perspectives, offering tips, strategies, and best practices for overcoming these challenges effectively.  

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will have their questions answered or topics of interest discussed by subject matter experts.
  2. Attendees will appreciate the knowledge obtained and understand the continued learning needed of statistics.
  3. Attendees will increase their foundational understanding of statistical terms and applications in forensic toxicology. 

Related Resources

FTCOE Resources

Additional Resources

While this webinar series provides attendees with relevant data sets to demonstrate principles and teach critical thinking specific to Forensic Toxicology, it should not be used in lieu of academic statistic courses at the undergraduate or graduate level. It does not comprehensively address educational concepts one would learn through a course that covers these and additional statistical concepts in greater detail.

These educational resource programs are intended to be a good-faith overview of statistical training that is available. These are representative programs and not an exhaustive list of training resources. The inclusion of a resource does not represent NIJ’s or FTCOE’s approval, recommendation, endorsement, or assessment of included resources.


Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence event was provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

All Forensic Technology Center of Excellence live webinars are hosted using Zoom Webinar. Live webinars are archived and posted on our website within two weeks of their airing. Archived webinars do not require access to the Zoom platform.

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

Contact us at ForensicCOE@rti.org with any questions and subscribe to our newsletter for notifications.


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