Sharing Knowledge in practice
The Dutch proposals, made by the NFI, are designed to bring nuclear science and forensic science together by promoting the sharing of knowledge. The initial three areas of focus are terminology, best practices and training.
1. Establishing clearly defined and agreed terminology – The Nuclear Forensics Lexicon
Whenever groups of experts from different backgrounds start working together, terminology inevitably becomes an issue. It is important enough that, under normal circumstances, time and energy are not wasted through misunderstanding. But it is all the more imperative when people are working under extreme pressure of time and urgency.
To avoid any misunderstanding, therefore, the NFI proposes that, as an initial step, the international nuclear forensics community compiles a Nuclear Forensics Lexicon. This will contain agreed clear-cut definitions of key terms, developed through discussion by the experts on a restricted-access online forum. The experts will be nominated by their national authorities.
2. Collecting, refining and applying agreed best practices
To ensure that the most efficient and effective practices are deployed as widely as possible within the global nuclear forensic community, the NFI proposes that, in line with the principle of ‘sharing knowledge’, a survey be made of best practices and procedures currently in use or under development. These can then be refined, adjusted and added to over time. Again, discussion via the online forum is suggested as the most appropriate form of interaction, supplemented by periodical meetings.
The best practices identified in this way can also form the basis of verifiable investigative procedures and properly documented connections that courts can accept as yielding admissible evidence. In addition, this process of defining best practices can include the identification of reliable reference materials, benchmarks and databases.
3. Raising awareness of practical issues through education and training
Each group of participants in an incident – nuclear scientists, forensic scientists and first responders (police, paramedics, fire services) – has its own priorities. It is important that everyone involved is aware not only of their own priorities but also of those of others, taking them into account wherever possible. For example, forensic experts need to have access to the site to collect relevant material quickly, as its usability may rapidly decline. Nuclear scientists, however, need to be able to establish levels of contamination and the presence of any further threats, while responders need to combat immediate dangers to the population, such as the effects of injury, fire, or general panic.
A separate, but related matter is the need of courts of law to be satisfied that those testifying before them or whose work is being offered in evidence have been appropriately educated and trained. To this end, the international nuclear forensics community may wish to establish appropriate certifications.