Scientists Oppose Crime Lab Shutdown

Alec Jeffreys, the inventor of DNA fingerprinting, is among 33 scientists who signed a letter in The Times yesterday (subs. required) protesting the announced closure of the United Kingdom's Forensic Science Service (FSS). Once a government-run agency but now a privatized company owned by the United Kingdom, FSS maintains labs that aid the British government and local police departments and employs scientists exploring cutting-edge forensic techniques. "The FSS has truly been a leader in European forensic practice as well as research," the letter states.

But FSS now has now to compete with many firms offering DNA testing and other forensic services and the U.K. Home Office recently said that FSS was costing the government £2 million a month. Decrying FSS's closure, Jeffreys and the other signatories plead for the U.K. to maintain its commitment to forensic research:

We urgently appeal for reconsideration of this decision, and, if it is not reversed, for the UK Government to ensure continuous funding for independent forensic research and development, to protect the independent structure of the national DNA database, to maintain the resources for continuing training and education that are urgently needed in our field, and to secure an impartial system for quality assurance to all providers of forensic services.

The planned closure of FSS comes despite the organization's intent to undertake a "radical restructuring" (subs) meant to trim its losses.