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Standards and Guidelines - Forensic Science Communications - January 2005 13

Standards and Guidelines - Forensic Science Communications - January 2005


January 2005 - Volume 7 - Number 1

Standards and Guidelines

Education and Training

Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG)

October 2003

1. Introduction

The Education and Training document recommends minimum education, training, and experience for analysts practicing in laboratories that conduct seized drug analyses. This document describes the types of activities necessary to continue professional development and reference literature required in laboratories where analysts practice.

Recommendations listed in this document are intended to apply to any analyst who


Independently has access to unsealed evidentiary material in order to remove samples from the evidence for examination.


Examines and analyzes seized drugs or related materials or directs such examinations to be done.

1.3. As a consequence of such examinations, signs reports for court or investigative purposes.

2. Education and Experience

The aim of this recommendation is that all analysts recruited in the future should have at least a bachelor’s degree, while allowing existing analysts without degrees to be retained as analysts. The minimum educational requirements for analysts are one of the following:


A bachelor’s degree (or equivalent, generally a three to four year postsecondary or tertiary degree) in a natural science or in other sciences relevant to the analysis of seized drugs.
The degree program shall include lectures and associated laboratory classes in general, organic, and analytical chemistry.


2.2. By January 1, 2005, a minimum of five years’ practical experience in seized drug analysis and demonstrated competency following the completion of a formal, documented training program and posttraining competency assessment.

3. Continuing Professional Development

All forensic scientists have an ongoing responsibility to remain current in their field. In addition, laboratories should provide support and opportunities for continuing professional development. Minimum continuing professional development requirements for a laboratory analyst are as follows:


Twenty contact hours of training every year. Contact is defined as face-to-face interaction with an instructor or trainer in a classroom or laboratory setting. It does not include self-paced learning or distance education where the instructor has no active interaction with the student.


Training must be relevant to the laboratory’s mission. This statement is purposely broad to embrace the laboratory’s needs such as ancillary duty assignments and supervision and/or management.

3.3. Completed training must be documented.
3.4. Training can be provided from a variety of sources including but not limited to the following:
Chemistry or instrumental courses taught at the postsecondary educational level.
3.4.2. Instrument operation or maintenance courses taught by vendors.
3.4.3. In-service classes conducted by the employer.
3.4.4. In-service training taught by external providers.
3.4.5. Participation in relevant scientific meetings or conferences (e.g., presenting a paper, attending a workshop, providing reports on conferences).

4. Initial Training Requirements


These minimum requirements allow laboratories to structure training programs to meet their needs as related to type of casework encountered, analytical techniques, available instrumentation, and level of preparedness of trainees.


There must be a documented training program, approved by laboratory management, that focuses on the development of theoretical and practical knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to examine seized drug samples and related materials. The training program must include the following:

4.2.1. Documented standards of performance and a plan for assessing theoretical and practical competency against these standards (e.g., written and oral examinations, critical reviews, analysis of unknown samples, and mock casework in specific topic areas).
4.2.2. Training syllabus with descriptions of the required knowledge and skills in specific topic areas in which the analyst is to be trained, milestones of achievement, and methods of testing or evaluating competency.
4.2.3. Period of supervised casework representative of the type the analyst will be required to perform.
4.2.4. Verification document demonstrating that the analyst has achieved the required competence.

Topic areas in the training program will include, as a minimum, the following:

Relevant background information on drugs of abuse (e.g., status of control and chemical and physical characteristics).
Techniques, methodologies, and instrumentation used in the examination of seized drug samples and related materials.
Quality assurance.
Expert and/or court testimony and legal requirements.
4.3.5. Laboratory policy and procedures (e.g., sampling, evidence handling, safety, and security) related to the examination of seized drug samples and related materials.

A person qualified to provide instruction must have demonstrated competence in the subject area and in the delivery of training.

5. References and Documents

The following references and documents must be available and accessible to analysts:

5.1. College- or university-level textbooks for theory and practice in key subject areas (e.g., general, organic, and analytical chemistry).
5.2. Reference literature containing physical, chemical, and analytical data. Such references include the laboratory manuals from the United Nations Drug Control Program, in-house produced spectra, and published standard spectra, (e.g., Merck Index, Clarke’s Analysis of Drugs and Poisons,Mills and Roberson’s Instrumental Data For Drug Analysis, or compendiums from Pfleger or Wiley).
5.3. Operation and maintenance manuals for each analytical instrument.
5.4. Relevant journals (e.g., Analytical Chemistry, Forensic Science International, Microgram, Journal of Forensic Sciences, Journal of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, Journal of the Japanese Association of Science and Technology of Identification).
5.5. Laboratory quality manual, standard operating procedures, and method validation and verification documents.
5.6. Relevant jurisdictional legislation (e.g., statutes and case law relating to controlled substances and health and safety legislation).