Three research teams from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) will receive a grant through the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research’s (NWO) Forensic Science programme
Three research teams from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) will receive a grant through the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research’s (NWO) Forensic Science programme. The NWO will be awarding grants to nine research projects, making available a total of €3.5 million.
Forensic science is aimed at gathering and analysing scientifically sound evidence for the purpose of identifying the perpetrators of a (potential) crime. Forensic science plays an increasingly important role in investigative research, the persecution of (potential) perpetrators and criminal trials. The level of public interest in forensic science has increased dramatically over the past few years. The NWO’s Forensic Science subsidy programme brings together scientists from various disciplines and bridges the gap between scientific research and the forensic practice, involving those who will potentially apply the results in practice in the actual research process. Forensic Science is the Netherlands’ first broadly-oriented multidisciplinary scientific research programme in this area.
The NWO received 49 preliminary applications for the research programme. A total of 28 proposals were further elaborated following recommendations from an international committee, which assessed the proposals in terms of innovation, scientific quality and forensic relevance. Grants were awarded to the following three research proposals from the UvA.
Semantic Search in E-Discovery – Professor Maarten de Rijke (Informatics Institute)
Digital data is becoming an increasingly essential factor in incident investigations. An example would be the recent investigation into the massive financial fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff or the investigation of real estate bid rigging in the Netherlands. E-discovery is applied to mine digital data for specific information. The analysis of unstructured data, such as text files and e-mails, plays an important role in this process. Until now, traditional search techniques have mostly been used. In this project, De Rijke will be applying semantic search methods to automatically identify entities, attributes and relationships, allowing forensic researchers to determine the chain of events in a shorter space of time.
Professor Peter Schoenmakers (Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences): COMFOR: The use of comprehensive two-dimensional chromatographic methods for chemical profiling of complex natural materials
The COMFOR project centres on the chemical profiling of natural evidence materials using two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC). Combustion catalysts are a key example of such evidence materials. However, many narcotics and inks also contain natural ingredients, resulting in a complex organic composition. Detailed profiling can offer major added value to forensics research, provided that the evidence value of a profile comparison can be quantified and validated. Schoenmakers will be working to achieve this by means of population studies, chemometrics and forensic statistics. The statistical methods used in the study will be generalised, so that they can be applied to other types of evidence material and analysis methods. The project will be conducted by a team of chemists and mathematicians.
Professor Marjan Sjerps (Korteweg-De Vries Institute for Mathematics): Combining evidence in legal (forensic) casework
Sjerps’ project aims to improve the standard of evidence evaluation by forensic scientists and criminal defence lawyers. This can be achieved by regarding the various forms of evidence and information as parts of a whole rather than individually assessing each element, and by applying a logical approach rooted in probability theory.