In an effort to expand our goals, and to further the science, AFTE is offering a unique opportunity to allow trainees and college students (upper level undergraduate or graduate level) a Research and Development (R&D) assistantship towards a project, thesis, or dissertation. A trainee is defined as a person currently employed by a law enforcement agency and who is working toward completion of an internal (course of studies as described in the AFTE Training Manual) or external (e.g. National Firearms Examiner Academy (NFEA), California Criminalistics Institute (CCI) Firearms and Toolmarks Examiners Academy) training program in the field of firearm and toolmark examination. Trainees and students are not required to be AFTE members to receive an R&D Assistantship; however, research proposal criteria for trainees and students are the same as the required of the general AFTE membership, as stated below:

AFTE is soliciting proposals regarding science and technology-related research and development (R&D) within the field of firearm and toolmark identification. We are seeking project proposals that will result in the development of or improvements to, investigative methods or techniques that will enhance the quality of our discipline.

AFTE recognizes that in light of recent criticisms to the science of firearms and toolmark identification as exemplified by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report of 2009, the need for future examiners to have an academic foundation grounded in science is imperative. AFTE supports the growth of our science in academic institutions. AFTE also sees such an endeavor as promoting an early relationship between our future examiners and the firearm and toolmark community of which they will become a member.

AFTE was officially formed in 1969 “in recognition of the need for the interchange of information, methods, development of standards, and the furtherance of research.”

By today’s standards this would be called a mission statement.

The AFTE R&D Committee feels that it is time to fulfill another segment of AFTE’s mission statement by supporting R&D through assisted funding of projects. Validation of equipment, new techniques, and fresh approaches to old problems must be tackled from within the discipline. Furthermore, as inspired by our mission statement, information must be collected and disseminated to the membership at conferences, workshops and through the quarterly publications of the AFTE Journal.

The R&D Committee will accept proposals for projects and will award funds based on the merits of the proposals and the compliance to the following conditions of assistantship:

  1. Financial assistance will be limited to one college student per academic institution, per calendar year.
  2. Financial assistance will be limited for trainees based upon uniqueness of proposals and availability of funding through AFTE.
  3. A maximum of $1000 will be available per calendar year for the purposes of trainee and student assistantships.
  4. The student/trainee must have an AFTE member, at any level, and in good standing, serve as a mentor, fulfilling all duties of mentorship.

The R&D Committee hopes to receive a balanced variety of product development, implementation, and evaluation projects regarding science and/or technology.  The research focuses on an approximate one-year development. Before applying, the applicant should keep in mind the cost considerations of the technology products that may result from their research. Many laboratories have limited financial resources to apply toward implementation or acquisition of technology. This has a direct impact on the degree to which the new technology will be accepted by laboratory management.

Keep in mind the following criteria:

  1. How important is the new technology?
  2. What will be its impact?
  3. Is the proposed technique or device more effective or safer than that currently used?
  4. What are the expected scientific advancements?
  5. Is the technology or development cheaper, easier to use, and portable?
  6. How many new items will be needed?
  7. What are the hidden cost? (For example, new computers)
  8. What, if any, are the net savings? (In labor or other costs)
  9. How much training is required to use and maintain the technology?
  10. How will your project benefit the membership?
  11. How will the courts view the technology or scientific advancement?

Proposals may address new developments, new techniques (or adaptation of the existing), methods, materials, and protective/safety equipment. Proposals must demonstrate novelty in technological developments that will result in enhanced performance, improved reliability and/or reduced costs. They must describe how or why the selected project represents the common needs of the membership as well as the new or modified requirements. Describe any new or novel applications for the project and explain the cost effectiveness or health and safety benefits of the improvement. All proposals must include a plan of implementation and address the ease of use, the cost of use, and the expected advancement of the science. It is incumbent on the student applicant to articulate the expected benefits and cost trade-offs over the existing methods or approach. Devices, if any, must be sufficiently described including the principals of operation and a physical description in order to permit an assessment of its expected effectiveness and safety. All aspects of the project’s safety must be considered!

All applications will be reviewed by the R&D Committee, a recommendation will be made to the AFTE Board of Directors. Upon Board approval, the R&D Committee will award the Assistantship.

Selection criteria used to evaluate the proposals are as follows:

A.  Quality and Technical Merit

  1. Soundness of methodology, analytical or technical approach
  2. Innovation and creativity
  3. Feasibility of proposed project
  4. Awareness of pitfalls

B.  Impact of the Project

  1. Understanding the importance of the problem
  2. Potential for significant advancement of the discipline
  3. Relevance of practice
  4. Affordability

C.  Demonstrated Capabilities, Productivity and Experience of Applicants

  1. Member of AFTE, at any level, must be in good standing
  2. Responsiveness to the goals of the committee
  3. Ability to manage the proposed project

D.  Management Plan and Budget Considerations

  1. Task Breakdown listing expenditures or a Line Item Budget
  2. Adequacy of proposed resources to perform project
  3. Total cost relative to perceived benefits
  4. Use of existing resources to conserve costs
  5. Cost effectiveness of application to other laboratories

Student/Trainee applicants must include the following completed information to apply for this assistantship:

A.  Project Proposal Abstract

Successful completion of the Project Proposal Abstract requires the following five headers to be used.  Each category should be addressed thoroughly to provide a complete understanding of the project.

  1. Project Goals and Objectives
  2. Proposed Research Design and Methodology
  3. Implementation Plan
  4. Diagrams of Devices
  5. Applied Scientific Method

Instead of endless philosophical discussion to prove a point, experiment becomes the final arbitrator of truth. The essence of science is the scientific method. The following is a simply stated version of the scientific method:

  1. State the Problem
  2. Form a Hypothesis (an educated guess)
  3. Conduct experiments
  4. Interpret data and draw conclusions (may need to start back at #2)
  5. Formulate a Theory

The proposal abstract, when read separately from the rest of the application, is meant to serve as a succinct and accurate description of the proposed work. Applicants must concisely describe the research goals and objectives, research design, and methods for achieving the goals and objectives. Summaries of past accomplishments are to be avoided.

B.  Signed Rules and Assurance Forms

The Rules and Assurance Form, for both the student/trainee and the mentor must be completed, signed and mailed to the R&D Chair.

Student/Trainee Rules and Assurance Form

Mentor Rules and Assurance Form

C.  Budget Worksheet

The assistance is not for general laboratory operation costs, training, or other non-research costs. All monies will be in US dollars. An itemized list of items needed for the project must be submitted. Funding will be made mainly for consumables and other limited items (i.e. It is not for costly equipment, travel, range fees, etc.).

Consumables: Supplies such as ammunition, chemicals, and items that cannot be provided by the individuals host organization or laboratory. Itemize as to type.

Other Limited Items: Analytical services not provided by individuals host organization and inexpensive accessories subject to approval by the Committee.

D.  List of Reference Material

Applicants need to submit a literature review of the material regarding the proposed topic. This section of the application need not to be lengthy, but will be used by the R&D committee in support of, or validate the need for, the proposed R&D project. Do not hesitate to reference basic material, however, be specific in regard to pages or chapters that are applicable. If the referenced literature, pamphlet, or fliers are not common or easily attainable, you must provide photocopy of the applicable material.

E.  Signed Letter from Professor/Advisor

Student and Trainee applicants must submit a signed letter from their trainer (if the trainer is the mentor then only fill out the mentor section), professor, or advisor overseeing the research or thesis/dissertation project attesting to the proposed research and the student’s ability to conduct such research.

F.  Current Resume or CV

Student and Trainee applicants must submit a current resume or CV for both themselves and their AFTE mentor.

The completed application package should be mailed/emailed* to the R&D Committee Chair:

Michelle Fletcher, R&D Committee Chair
Indiana State Police Crime Laboratory
5811 Ellison Road
Fort Wayne, IN  46804
Contact Michelle Fletcher

*The application can be emailed to the Chair, except for the both Rules and Assurance Forms and the Professor/Advisor Letter, which must be signed and mailed.