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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 203-209

Analysis on applicability evaluation of forensic science standards in China

Institute of Forensic Science, Ministry of Public Security, China

Date of Web Publication11-Jan-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Xiaoyu Zheng
No. 17 Building, Xicheng District, Beijing 100038
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jfsm.jfsm_33_17

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Standard applicability is the ability of a standard to be suitable for the prescriptive purpose under specified conditions. There is no mature applicability-evaluation index system of standards worldwide at present. We aim to construct the index system for evaluating the applicability of forensic science standard. The index system of applicability evaluation is proposed using a statistical analysis on the applicability of forensic science standards in China. We summarize the major problems and reasons in developing and revising the national and industry standards in China. Based on these, we put forward measures to improve standards' applicability, provide policy support for rectifying the standards, and lay the theoretical foundation for the construction, adjustment, and optimization of the forensic science standard system.

Keywords: Applicability evaluation, forensic science, standard, standardization

How to cite this article:
Jiao H, Zheng X, Zhao Y, Hua F, Zheng H. Analysis on applicability evaluation of forensic science standards in China. J Forensic Sci Med 2017;3:203-9

How to cite this URL:
Jiao H, Zheng X, Zhao Y, Hua F, Zheng H. Analysis on applicability evaluation of forensic science standards in China. J Forensic Sci Med [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 May 28];3:203-9. Available from: https://www.jfsmonline.com/text.asp?2017/3/4/203/222890

  Introduction Top

Applicability (fitness for purpose) refers to the capability of a product, process, or service that can meet a prescriptive purpose under specific conditions.[1] According to Juran,[2] product quality is defined as a qualification for use in terms of design, conformance, availability, safety, price, and field use. Standard applicability is the ability of a standard to be suitable for the prescriptive purpose under specified conditions.[3] There are various aspects to understand in the applicability of forensic science standards, such as improving the applicability level, stipulating the application, and so on.[4] The standardization under the current situation focuses on the fundamental purpose of “serving the practice, serving the litigation, and serving the society;” it plays the role of “combating crime according to law, safeguarding judicial justice and resolving social contradictions” in promoting fairness and justice, standardizes law enforcement, and protects national security.

  Construction of the Index Evaluation System of Forensic Science Standard Top


The applicability of the index evaluation system, specially designed for applicability evaluation of standards, consists of a series of correlated indicators configured to reflect the given targets.[5] As the starting point and basis of evaluation, it reflects the interdependence of the various aspects during the process of achieving the goal. Based on the analysis and evaluation of nearly 800 national and industrial standards administered by the National Standardization Technical Committee on Forensic Science and its subcommittees, the creative theoretical research work provides the theoretical and practical foundation for promoting standardization and establishing a standard system. [Figure 1] lists the 13 evaluation indicators in terms of proportionality, advancement, coordination, normativity, suitability, and operability.
Figure 1: The index system for evaluating applicability of standards in forensic science

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Proportionality of standard

  1. The overall layout of the standard in forensic science at all levels is reasonableness and proportionality; these characteristics have played an active and voluntary role in the major standard-setting bodies in specialized areas and reflect the uniformity of standards throughout the country and the professional features
  2. Outputs of technical standards for different specialized subjects are balanced and the distribution of elements in each category is reasonable.

Technical advancement

  1. The technical level is commensurate with the current research level, management level, and service capacity of the forensic science standard in China. According to the study and its analysis, relevant technical standards have attained international advanced levels
  2. Adequate assessment and review are required on all the standards for more than 5 years of implementation. When a review is accurately concluded, there will be a timely emendation or repeal of related standards to avoid delay and out-of-date phenomenon.


  1. Adequate analyses and understanding of laws and regulations ensures that the standards are consistent with relevant laws and regulations
  2. The coordination of standards, including product standards, management standards, environmental standards, basic standards for non-forensic science, and various standardized objects in different specializations, has been fully taken into account. If there is duplication between the evaluated standards and other related standards, the duplication is regarded as an incongruity because the duplication of technical content can be directly quoted rather than copied.


  1. The normatively constructed standards must be in accordance with the requirements of GB/T1.1
  2. The content and the structure of the standards must be normative and coherent
  3. The language of the standards must be accurate, clear, and succinct without ambiguity or misunderstanding.


  1. According to the scope of application, forensic science standards include national standards and industry standards. According to Article 6 of the National Standardization Law, the national standard should be set when there is a need to unify scientific and technological requirements across the country. While there is a need for unifying technological requirements, an industry standard should be set when there is no national standard
  2. According to the binding character of standardized objects, forensic science standards are composed of mandatory standards, recommended standards, and guidance documents. According to international practice and the requirements of relevant laws and regulations, the mandatory standards should be limited to five areas: (1) the technical requirements for national security, (2) fraud prevention, (3) protection of human health and safety, (4) protection of the life and health of animals and plants, and (5) environmental protection. Apart from these, all the technical standards (national or industry standards) in forensic science can be recommended.[6]


  1. The usage of the standards for various specializations should be exercisable, especially the usage in inspection, testing, and national accreditation of the laboratory
  2. The cited state of the standards for various specializations by laws and regulations, and other relevant standards should be exercisable.

  Analysis of Applicability of Forensic Science Standards Top

The national standards and industry standards of forensic science managed by the National Standardization Technical Committee on Forensic Science are statistically analyzed according to the applicability evaluation indicators discussed previously. The national standards and industry standards in forensic science, which totaled 797 by December 2016, cover the specializations of poisoning, physics and chemistry, forensics, fingerprints, traces, photographic evidence, electronic evidence, document examination and identification, criminal information, criminal technology products, scene investigation, intelligent voice technology, psychological testing technology, and so on. These standards promote the construction, management, and application of forensic science in China, facilitate technological progress, improve the quality of criminal investigation outcomes and information construction, and play a positive role in promoting social stability.

With the development of technology and the advancement of human society, the role and status of forensic science standards have become increasingly prominent, and the quantities of technical standards have been increasing.[7] However, their quality and applicability are still not high enough, which restricts the progress and development of standardization to a certain extent.

Proportionality of forensic science standards

  1. In accordance with their scope of applicability, the classified standards are composed of national standards and industry standards; the percentage of each is shown in [Figure 2]. From the perspective of the overall architecture and the level of standards, 92% of the total is constituted of industry standards. By contrast, the national standards account for a proportion of only 8%. This extremely uneven distribution is unable to fully reflect the specialized features of standardization throughout the nation
  2. [Figure 3] shows the distribution ratios of the standards of various specializations in forensic science (including projects under development). From the standpoint of layout and output, the development gap between specialized subjects is fairly large and uneven. One subcommittee has never promulgated any standard since its founding 7 years ago, which also indicates the lack of standards in the field of forensic science. There are urgent needs for theoretical guidance and technical support to solve the practical problems.
Figure 2: Statistics on preparation standards in forensic science

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Figure 3: Statistics on preparation standards (drafting) in various fields of forensic science

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Technical advancement of forensic science standards

  1. [Figure 4] shows the percentages of forensic science standards by applicable objects. Along with the improvement of the technical level of standards, applicable objects will correspondingly transfer or convert from the technology and product to services such as management, information, environment, and basis. The applicable objects in forensic science show a large proportion of the recommended technical and methodological standards. On one hand, the lack of standards in the fields of basis, management, environment, product, and information shows that the level of standards in forensic science does not reach an internationally advanced level or a first-class standard domestically. On the other hand, it also shows that the forensic science standards play an insufficient role in the improvement of products and information construction.
  2. Comparison of the ratios of promulgated standards, and the standards in the projects given in [Figure 5], indicates an implementation rate as low as 26%, and 9% of these are canceled during implementation. The lack of sufficient investigation and overall planning before establishing the projects results in a long standard-preparation cycle, lack of comments, review, or a timely follow-up, and a low utilization rate of promulgated standards.
  3. [Figure 6] exhibits the statistically calculated average cycles for the promulgated and approved technical standards, as defined from the date the project was established to the date the standard was released. It can be seen that the average cycle of the approved projects is 4 years, 35% of the projects have a cycle longer than 5 years, and 14% have a cycle longer than 7 years, indicating a lengthy process. According to the relevant rules, the cycle of the standard is generally 2 years. To ensure the timely approval and release of a project, it is necessary to perform a full investigation before declaration and establishment of the project.
  4. The periods of validity of the promulgated forensic science technical standards with the definition of the period from promulgation to abolishment are also statistically calculated. The results shown in [Figure 7] illustrate that the average period of validity is 6 years for national standards and 9 years for industry standards, which means that 80% of the standards are beyond the expiration date. Moreover, 23% of the standards are more than 15 years old. The number of standards more than 10 years old accounts for 33% of the total, indicating that forensic science standards are seriously delayed.
Figure 4: Distribution of published standards in forensic science

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Figure 5: Comparative analysis on preparation and published standards in forensic science

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Figure 6: Statistics on standards development periods in forensic science

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Figure 7: Statistics on validity periods of forensic science standards

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[Figure 8] and [Figure 9] illustrate the conclusions of the review and associated statistics; they show that 59% of the standards in 2012-2015 continue to be valid. It has become common to instantly review and update these standards. From a practical point of view, the standards have continued to be valid for a period of one to two decades, but they remain relatively backward and obsolete, thus hindering the promotion of new technologies and social progress. To maintain the advancement and effectiveness of the standards, it is necessary to establish a regular review system and timely revision.
Figure 8: Statistics on standards review per year from 2012 to 2015

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Figure 9: Statistics on standards review from 2012 to 2015

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Coordination of forensic science standards

Coordination between forensic science standards, laws, and regulations

Laws and regulations are established differently according to different subjects, the scope of applicability, and the binding and legal effect among standards. The standard itself does not have a direct legal effect. Undertaken on a consensual basis, the standards give full reign to the voluntary character of the implementation and act as the technical support to laws and regulations; thus, the standards need to be consistent with the relevant laws and regulations. That is viewed by the forensic science standards as the guideline at all stages.

Take the drug-related standards as an example. The document titled “The Supreme People's Court in the trial of drug offenses,” in the interpretation of the law applicable to a number of issues, stipulated the name of common drugs. The previous version of the standard is inconsistent with the normative character of this document. In view of this problem, the names of drugs were unified to maintain consistency with the relevant laws and regulations during the development and review of forensic science standards in 2016.

Coordination between forensic science standards and relevant standards

Most of the forensic science standards can track the implementation of the standards and regulations in their own specialized field and maintain coordination with other relevant standards in a timely manner, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, there is an inconsistency between the standards in the same batch in a specialized field. However, the revisions for standards in 2016 and for each year afterward have unified those irregularities.

Normativity of forensic science standards

Normative structure of forensic science standards

Unlike the overall structure of the standards referred in the section “proportionality of forensic science standards”, the normative structure of forensic science standards is concerned with the text of the standards. Forensic science standards are strictly prepared in accordance with requirements and regulations in GB/T1.1-2009.

Normative content of forensic science standards

The normative content of the standards demonstrates that the structural form of various specialized technical standards is in line with the needs of the standards' content.

Normative language of forensic science standards

The standards are accurately, clearly, and succinctly expressed without ambiguity and misunderstanding. Technical content with unpredictable results should provide additional explanations in an appendix.

Suitability of forensic science standards

The scope of application of forensic science standards' suitability

According to the analysis in the section “proportionality of forensic science standards' first point”, as the only standardization organizations in forensic science (in addition to specialized areas in the field of industry), SAC/TC179 should raise strategic awareness of standardization at a higher level, construct a national standards' system, and develop more standards that accurately reflect the specialized features of national standardization in forensic science. For projects where the technology is still in development, appropriate standards documents are needed to guide its development and standardization; in instances where no standards could have been set and no technical documents from the International Organization for Standardization, the International Electrotechnical Commission, or other international organizations (including regional International technical assistance projects) have been adopted yet, technical guidance documents may be developed so as to provide advice or information for standardization. Technical guidance documents in forensic science are all recommended.

Suitability of the binding nature of forensic science standards

Given the binding nature of standardized objects in forensic science, standards can be divided into mandatory and recommended standards. According to the statistical analysis [Figure 10], most standards in forensic science are recommended, and most mandatory standards are related to technology and environmental safety. Some valid but mandatory standards that are experiencing delay should be regularly revised according to practical and rational needs.
Figure 10: Statistics on recommended standards and mandatory standards from 2000 to 2015 in forensic science

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Operability of forensic science standards

[Figure 11] displays the utilization of self-compiled methods confirmed during the inspection, national laboratory accreditation and competency accreditation, and the promulgated forensic science standards. The adoption of national standards is 42%, indicating poor operability and low utilization.
Figure 11: Statistics on standards applicability in forensic science

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The main reasons are as follows. First, it is hard to promulgate the standards in time owing to the lack of general guidelines and effective planning. Second, the incompatibility of the operating principles, management regimes, and the feedback mechanisms of standards hinders improvement of the standards' evaluation after promulgation, and the progress and development of standardization. Third, it is difficult to realize the importance of standardization.

  Responses and Measures Top

Demand-oriented and sufficient research and evaluation of the project

At present, there is no mature applicability-evaluation index system of standards worldwide, but the applicability of standards could be evaluated by the ISO when the projects are established, and reviewed in countries that are advanced in this area. After the adjustment and reformation in the establishment of projects in 2016, which strictly controlled quality and quantity, 47% of the declared projects failed to pass the evaluation owing to inadequate workload, poor availability, and divergent research content.[8] By controlling quality and standardizing the procedure at all stages of standard-setting, introducing an expert assessment mechanism, undertaking the evaluation with a view to uniformity and coordination with policies and laws, and also paying more attention to the transformation of innovation, applicability could be guaranteed.

The basis of forensic science standards is to treat applications of technology as the core, and demand as the orientation. To strengthen standardization in accordance with the principle of “demand-oriented, mature technology, first-aid first,” and to make sufficient preparation for project research, extensive recruiting, planning declarations, expert demonstrations, and technical reviews are necessary to ensure broad applicability.

Establishment of a feedback mechanism for effective control during the review

The establishment, review, promulgation, feedback, application, management, and implementation of standards will become meaningless if operable specific measures of applicability and the objective elements of evaluation are lacking. It is essential to establish a feedback mechanism based on the review and to investigate the extent that standards play in forensic science using the feedback mechanism. It is necessary to review the specialized technical standards from the perspective of scope of application, standard level, applicability, and coordination under the review principle of “focusing on application, optimizing stock, based on long-term and coordinated development.” Moreover, the conclusions of the review will ensure that the level of applicability spirals upward.

Construction of the forensic science standards system as soon as possible

In August 2012, a platform for action of the 12th 5-year plan on the standardization of social management and public services was jointly issued by the standardization administration of China and 25 ministries and commissions; it clearly indicates that standardization will provide important technical support to strengthen and innovate social management and further enhance the level of public services. The main goal is to construct comprehensive and focused social management and a public service standards system from an institutionalized and systematic implementation model, and to coordinate this through a highly efficient working mechanism. Particularly in the planning process of promoting the national public security standardization, the focus is on constructing and perfecting a scientific standardization system, and providing support for strengthening and innovating social management. There is no doubt that what is being proposed are new plans and requirements.

Establishing and constantly perfecting the new forensic science standard system, and giving full play to the basic supporting role of the standards involves building an advanced and coordinated system. The technical standards combined with macro-control management and voluntariness are considered the mainstay; however, it is also important that roles at all levels of standards are clear, responses are coordinated and mutually supportive, all organizations participate actively, the management system is well-structured, scientific, and orderly, and the professional technical system is able to ensure full coverage of processes. Moreover, the technical methods, capacities, and the work standard system must be systematic, coordinated, advanced, applicable, forward looking, and in accordance with the inherent requirements of standardization. In addition, it should be the case that the organization system is expert-led and well developed, the work system is practice oriented and highly efficient, the project system is demand driven and comprehensive, the implementation system is scientifically evaluated and constantly improved, and the well-established normative system is scientifically managed.

Increasing standardization awareness and strengthening understanding of the importance of standardization

With the gradual implementation of international standards, the expansion of standardization, and the promotion of law enforcement in the construction of China's legal system, standardization will receive more and more attention. The requirements of legally enforced standardization, along with the continuous development of judicial system reforms, will further enhance civil legal consciousness and consciousness of evidence, with new and higher requirements being proposed. Only by improving strategic awareness of standardization and critical awareness of the laws enforcing and accelerating standardization, and deepening and strengthening legally enforced standardization can the technical advantages of forensic science be brought into full play to combat criminals, maintain social stability, and safeguard national security.

In addition, raising awareness of standardization, and speeding up the transformation of scientific and technological achievements are the requirements for standardization of practical work. With the acceleration of technological progress and knowledge renewal, the transformation of scientific and technological achievements into practical productive forces is accelerating, and technical standards are the bridge and catalyst to realize this transformation. Scientific and technological achievements, diffused and disseminated rapidly through technical standards, will accelerate development and innovation, improve specialized technical superiority, and thus promote the progress of standardization.

  Prospects Top

This article puts forward an evaluation and index system for forensic science standard applicability by comparing and analyzing national standards and industry standards in forensic science. We believe that the establishment of a more scientific and rational applicability-evaluation method and standard system in forensic science will become the focus of research in the future.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Juran JM. Quality Control Handbook[M]. Shanghai: Shanghai Scientific and Technological Literature Press; 1979.  Back to cited text no. 2
Ren G, Wei H, Liu B, Zhan J. Research on indexes system of standard applicability evaluation. World Stand Qual Manag 2005;3:15-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community, National Research Council. Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward[M]. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 4
Stufflebeam DL. A note on the purposes, development, and applicability of the joint committee evaluation standards. Am J Eval 2004;25:99-102.  Back to cited text no. 5
China National Institute of Standardization. Research on the Establishment of National Standards System. Beijing: Standards Press of China; 2007.  Back to cited text no. 6
Wilson-Wilde LM, Brandi J, Gutowski SJ. The future of forensic science standards. Forensic Sci Int Genet Suppl Ser 2011;3:e333-4.  Back to cited text no. 7
Website of Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China[DB/OL]; 2016. Available from: http://www.sac.gov.cn. [Last accessed on 2017 Nov 16].  Back to cited text no. 8


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8], [Figure 9], [Figure 10], [Figure 11]

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