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Understanding Familial DNA: National Study of Policies, Procedures, and Potential Impact, 2014-2016

Resource Type
Dataset : survey data
  • Debus-Sherrill, Sara
Other Title
  • Version 1 (Subtitle)
Publication Date
Publication Place
Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research
Funding Reference
  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice
Free Keywords
Schema: ICPSR
crime laboratories; criminal investigations; DNA fingerprinting; families; forensic sciences; suspect identification; victim identification
  • Abstract

    These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed. Seeking to measure the usage of Familial DNA Searching (FDS) to aid in criminal investigations, this study utilized a multi-phase, mixed methods approach to obtain data on FDS policies and practices in the United States. This study includes data from the National Survey of CODIS Laboratories, which was compiled after two expert roundtables, a literature and policy scan of practice, cost modeling, and state case studies. The study includes one SPSS data file: FDS_National_Survey_of_CODIS_Labs_Data.sav
  • Abstract

    In recent years, jurisdictions across the United States have expressed a growing interest in the use of familial DNA searching (FDS) to aid criminal investigations. To date, much of the information available regarding FDS stems from anecdotal accounts and scholarly arguments about the various constitutional, ethical, and practical implications of its use posed by various stakeholders, but the field has conducted little rigorous research on the practice (beyond laboratory validation studies). Proponents of FDS have cited its potential to aid the identification and conviction of suspects, prevent crime, resolve cold cases, exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals, and improve public safety; however, the practice has also led to some legal, ethical, and practical concerns. The primary purpose of the National Survey of CODIS Laboratories was to learn about key considerations and varied practices related to FDS and the related practice of partial matching (PM) across the U.S.
  • Methods

    The study utilized a multi-phase, mixed-methods approach. The researcher obtained information from a literature review, the initial expert roundtable, the policy review, and existing lab surveys in order to help inform the development of the National CODIS survey. The survey mode was primarily on-line with hard-copy versions of the survey available upon request. The survey was emailed to lab directors with instructions to complete the survey in coordination with their CODIS administrator, as needed. In cases of multi-laboratory systems, only the overarching laboratory director was asked to complete the survey, as policies are typically consistent across labs within a system. The instrument used branching questions and had 28-54 questions (the exact number was dependent on the branching structure in response to the respondent's earlier questions). All respondents were asked to complete background information, questions about perceptions and opinions of FDS and PM, and indicate their use of FDS and/or PM by selecting one of four available response options: 1) neither FDS nor PM, 2) both FDS and PM, 3) PM only, or 4) FDS only (see pp. 1-7 in survey instrument). Based on their response they were directed to complete corresponding sections of the survey corresponding to their experience with FDS and PM: option 1 (p. 8), option 2 (pp. 9-18), option 3 (pp. 9-12), option 4 (pp. 13-18). All respondents also completed page 19, which asked about any additional comments they wanted to share. The survey was confidential and aggregated to the state level to improve honest reporting, and results were analyzed using descriptive statistics and statistical comparison tests (e.g., chi-square tests, t-tests, ANOVA).
  • Methods

    This study features a single dataset (FDS_National_Survey_of_CODIS_Labs_Data.sav) and is comprised of 256 variables and 103 cases collected from CODIS crime labs that responded to the survey - encompassing 48 states, Washington D.C., one U.S. territory, and two federal labs; the state crime labs in all 48 states of those labs that responded also completed the survey. The variables relate to: Lab/Respondent Background; Legislations and policies; Scope of using Familial DNA Searching (FDS) and/or Partial Matching (PM); Perceptions and opinions of FDS and PM (including benefits and concerns); Specific Practices related to FDS and PM (e.g., eligibility criteria, lineage testing protocols, etc.);
  • Methods

    Presence of Common Scales: A Likert-type scale was used.
  • Methods

    Response Rates: 103 out of the 133 National CODIS Labs responded to the survey - depicting a 77% response rate.
  • Abstract


    • DS1: Dataset
Temporal Coverage
  • Time period: 2014
  • Collection date: 2014--2016
  • 2014 / 2016
Geographic Coverage
  • United States
Sampled Universe
All CODIS crime labs at the local, state, and federal level in the United States, District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Smallest Geographic Unit: State
Surveys were emailed to 133 CODIS Crime Labs operating in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, one U.S. territory, and at the federal level. Of the 133 sampled, 103 CODIS Crime Labs responded to the survey, depicting a 77% response rate. The ICF research team publicized the survey through national professional organizations, industry contacts, and communication outlets; professional Organizations included the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD), the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFTSC), the Scientific Working Group or DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM), and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). ICF offered a dedicated helpline and email account to help with survey questions, a raffled incentive, and a variety of follow-up outreach to non-respondents or partial completers; However, this study was proposed and approved prior to NIJ's new guidelines on incentives which prohibits raffles.
Collection Mode
  • web-based survey
Funding insitution(s): United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2013-R2-CX-0013).
One or more files in this study are not available for download due to special restrictions; consult the study documentation to learn more on how to obtain the data.
Alternative Identifiers
  • 36810 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)

Update Metadata: 2018-03-01 | Issue Number: 2 | Registration Date: 2018-03-01

Debus-Sherrill, Sara (2018): Understanding Familial DNA: National Study of Policies, Procedures, and Potential Impact, 2014-2016. Version 1. Version: v1. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.