The workforce calculator project follows a two-year timeline to produce a workforce calculator for metropolitan, regional, and state forensic crime laboratories or laboratory systems. The calculator permits laboratories to identify the personnel required to support a given level of casework within each area of investigation and the associated investment in capital equipment to support that level of activity. The first year produced an initial working tool (Beta Calculator), based upon a decade of performance of the most efficient laboratories from Project FORESIGHT. The second year of analysis permitted enough time to develop a more sustainable and more detailed econometric analysis as a long-term planning tool.
The December 2019 “Needs Assessment of Forensic Laboratories and Medical Examiner/Coroner Offices,” Report to Congress from the Office of Justice Programs stated that publicly funded forensic crime laboratories require “more than 900 additional full-time employees to efficiently address current caseloads.” The 900-plus staffing gap represents state, metropolitan, county, and other regional laboratories across the United States. While the identification of the needs across the nation illuminates the depth of the shortage for Congress, it does not offer an indication of the specific staffing gaps at the local level. This macro level staffing shortage is translated to individual laboratory needs with a workforce calculator that was developed as a data-driven, independent assessment of laboratory staffing requirements.
The Beta Workforce Calculator
The beta workforce calculator provided a proof of concept, developed from a selection of high performing laboratories from project FORESIGHT. All sample laboratories met a standard of 90% laboratory-wide efficiency using the ASCLD Maximus award criteria . Econometric models estimate the relationship between the full-time equivalent (FTE) workforce and achievement of the 90% efficiency standard for laboratory analysis. The econometric analysis examined laboratory performance in light of the type of jurisdiction (state, metropolitan, or regional), size population served, and state crime rates (violent and property).
 Identification of the highest performing laboratories over the past decade followed the ASCLD maximus criteria. At the 2018 ASCLD Symposium, fifteen FORESIGHT laboratories were recognized with the Maximus Award for a weighted performance across areas of investigation that demonstrated casework processed per dollar budgeted above the 90th percentile across all laboratories. A similar analysis was conducted for each past FORESIGHT collection year to identify the annual high performers.
The Enhanced Workforce Calculator
In the second year, a more sustainable and more detailed econometric analysis produced a long-term planning tool, following practitioners reported experience with the beta calculator. These laboratories reported the beta calculator output along with their current workforce allocation across areas within the laboratory. In some cases, the laboratories indicated that the beta calculator output was consistent with their current allocation. In other cases, the beta calculator confirmed known or suspected understaffing in various areas of the laboratory. These laboratories also offered suggested enhancements to the calculator. Each of these suggestions have been incorporated into the enhanced workforce calculator.
Laboratories are encouraged to test the calculator and report findings to principal investigator Dr. Paul Speaker (firstname.lastname@example.org). Laboratory insights will be considered for future enhancements of the workforce calculator.
Download the Gamma Workforce Calculator by clicking the button below.
Reminder to All Workforce Calculator Users
Cases per FTE is not linear, so a linear comparison should not yield the same results. The calculator is a non-linear econometric model that uses population or the natural logarithm of population, dummy variables for jurisdiction type, crime rates (property and violent), and interaction variables between all of these.
The Forensic Laboratory Workforce Calculator at AAFS
Dr. Paul Speaker gave a presentation on the Workforce Calculator at the American Academy of Forensic Science's (AAFS) 2021 Annual Meeting. You can check out the recording of the presentation here: The Forensic Laboratory Workforce Calculator (Runtime 13:14)
To access the presentation slides, click HERE!
- Workforce Calculator Project
- The Forensic Laboratory Workforce Calculator Presentation
- Speaker, P. J. (2021). An Independent Evaluation of Laboratory Staffing Needs: Launching the Forensic Laboratory Workforce Calculator. Forensic Science International: Synergy, 3(1).
- FORESIGHT Digital Evidence
- Webinar: Project FORESIGHT Overview
- National Institute of Justice and West Virginia University: Revolutionizing Laboratory Efficiency Assessments Through Project FORESIGHT
Hidden Costs of the Opioid Crisis
Just Science Podcast Episodes
- Just Budgets
- Just Motivational Leadership
- Just Opioid Financial Burden on Crime Labs
- Just FORESIGHT on Sexual Assault Kits
Medical Examiner/Coroner Outsourcing Study
ROI from Sexual Assault Kit Testing
- ROI from Sexual Assault Kit Testing Speaker, P. J. (2019). The jurisdictional Return on Investment from Processing the Backlog of Untested Sexual Assault Kits. Forensic Science International: Synergy, 1(1), 18-23.
ROI for DUI: Drugs
Funding for this project was provided by the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence and the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.