Exploring Educational Needs beyond Technical Competency Laboratory Management, Court Testimony, and Vicarious Trauma

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Jennifer C. Love
Natalie R. Langley


Since the landmark Supreme Court decisions that comprise the  Daubert trilogy and the release of the 2009 National Academy of Science report, Strengthening Forensic Sciences in the United States: A Path Forward, forensic anthropology has improved technical competencies and promoted certification of practitioners. However, the field would benefit from developing and employing education and continuing professional development curricula that address areas beyond technical competencies, such as laboratory management, court testimony, and vicarious trauma. Laboratory management and accreditation following international standards is the gold standard, but the language and requirements of international standards are not intuitive; students and trainees would benefit from training in this arena. Furthermore, several Supreme Court decisions have stipulated that forensic analysts must be available to testify when analytical results are admitted into evidence. Therefore, students must be versed in relevant Supreme Court rulings and understand courtroom proceedings and etiquette before taking the stand as an expert witness. Finally, forensic anthropologists are playing a larger role in medicolegal death investigations with increased exposure to victim suffering and vicarious trauma. Trainees, professionals, and organizations must be trauma-informed,
self-aware, and knowledgeable about appropriate coping mechanisms. Developing these competencies requires dedicated education and training to ensure that students are prepared to enter the workforce and professionals receive continuing education to meet the demands of the dynamic medicolegal environment. This article reviews these non-technical competencies and their relevance to forensic anthropology practice.

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