The Office of Justice Programs has awarded the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (MNBCA) around one half a million dollars under the grant program Fundamental Research to Improve Understanding of the Accuracy, Reliability, and Measurement Validity of Forensic Science Disciplines. Approximately $400,000 was awarded to fund research to evaluate The Development of Individual Handwriting Characteristics and the Statistical Evaluation of Different Combination Likelihoods of These Individual Characteristics. Though forensic handwriting examinations and testimony have been admissible in United State’s courtrooms since being addressed by Federal Statute Title 28, U.S. Code, Section 1731, requests during recent decades have asked for additional scientific data to support its basic premise of individuality. The handwriting study will gather the requested data and statistically analyze individual handwriting characteristics as they develop and how the combinations of these individual handwriting characteristics are highly unique to a person.
Kentucky State University and the Center for Research Design and Analysis at the University of Nevada, Reno are conducting a national study to investigate the nature of expertise and the reliability and validity of forensic signature identification. Study investigators are Mara Merlino and Tierra Freeman (KSU), Veronica Dahir and Vicky Springer (UNR). Project consultants are Adrian Dyer of Monash University, QDEs Derek Hammond, Bryan Found, and Jan Seaman Kelly. Participants will be asked to respond to a brief ten-minute telephone or online survey, which will gather views about the strengths and weaknesses of education and training in forensic document examination, and some information about participant background and training. Participants will travel to the Kentucky State University campus to participate in signature identification tasks using eye-tracking equipment to gather information about which features of signatures are extracted during signature tasks, and the length of time spent evaluating these features. Following the eye-tracking procedure researchers will discuss with examiners how much evidential value they assigned the signature features, and how they weighed the features in making their decisions.
In 2010 the National Institute of Justice agreed to fund a project titled "Frequency Occurrence in Handwriting and Hand Printing Characteristics" (NIJ 2010-DN-BXK273). This project was the brainchild of Thomas W. Vastrick but is being completed utilizing many forensic document examiners and two staff statisticians. The project is housed at the National Center for Forensic Sciences (ncfs.org) at the University of Central Florida. The project is currently expecting to take at least three years to complete.