How useful are databases in environmental and criminal forensics?

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Advances in computational and information technologies have facilitated the acquisition of geospatial information for regional and national soil and geology databases. These have been completed for a range of purposes from geological and soil baseline mapping to economic prospecting and land resource assessment, but have become increasingly used for forensic purposes. On the question of provenance of a questioned sample, the geologist or soil scientist will draw invariably on prior expert knowledge and available digital map and database sources in a ‘pseudo Bayesian’ approach. The context of this paper is the debate on whether existing (digital) geology and soil databases are indeed useful and suitable for forensic inferences. Published and new case studies are used to explore issues of completeness, consistency, compatibility and applicability in relation to the use of digital geology and soil databases in environmental and criminal forensics. One key theme that emerges is that, despite an acknowledgement that databases can be neither exhaustive nor precise enough to portray spatial variability at the scene of crime scale, coupled with expert knowledge, they play an invaluable role in providing background or
reference material in a criminal investigation. Moreover databases can offer an independent control set of samples.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-119
Number of pages11
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
Early online date24 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2013


  • Forensics
  • databases


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