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Proficiency testing is a means of evaluating an individual’s or a laboratory’s performance through the analysis of unknown samples provided by an external source.
In the field of questioned documents and forensic handwriting examination, experts should participate regularly in proficiency testing programs for two reasons. First, a handwriting expert is required to demonstrate his competency and ability to perform forensic handwriting analysis with a high degree of accuracy. Providing the results of proficiency testing is one way to achieve this goal. Second, and more importantly, proficiency testing can be used as a learning experience by identifying the areas where improvements and more study is necessary.
Currently, there are three organizations that offer proficiency testing to forensic document examiners:
Collaborative Testing Services (CTS) offers an extensive range of interlaboratory tests designed to evaluating a laboratory’s overall performance. The tests can be used to meet a number of goals:
CTS offer two tests in questioned documents:
Test #521 Questioned Documents Examination
Test samples may encompass any aspect of the questioned documents field, including handwriting comparison. Participants are provided with original documents for their examination.
Test #524 Handwriting Examination
Designed solely for the examination and comparison of handwriting; samples are in the form of digitally-produced photographs. Participants are provided with one or more questioned entries and a series of exemplar writings for examination.
The Forensic Expertise Profiling Laboratory (FEPL) is a unit of the Handwriting Analysis and Research Laboratory. The objective of FEPL is to characterize skill and expertise associated with human perceptual and cognitive processes related to forensic opinion formation.
The FEPL manufactures casework style tests which are used to provide numerical assessments of forensic handwriting specialists' skill and expertise. These profiles can be used by the specialists and their employers to monitor the development of expertise, to detect shortfalls in decision making processes, and can also be used to characterize skill in courts of law. Skill profiling experiments are also extensively used to conduct research into other practical and theoretical issues in forensic decision making processes (from the FELP website).
Currently, the FELP offers a two-part signature / handwriting test.
ST2AR offers skill-based testing for a fee. Initial testing has focused on FDE tasks (e.g., examination and comparison of signatures and non-destructive differentiation of black ink ballpoint pens). Future testing will continue to address these and other tasks (e.g., hand printing, numerals, printing process, etc).
The skill-task assessment (STA) products developed and distributed by ST2AR include blind tests consisting of a series of practical problems based on typical forensic tasks. Initial tests are designed for FDEs and focus on tasks typically encountered by FDEs in normal casework. Participation in this style of testing is strictly voluntary.