External scientific advisory board to advise on NFI innovations

As of this month, the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) has an external scientific advisory board consisting of four leading national and international scientists. The board has been set up to advise the NFI in the field of science and innovation in forensic investigation. ‘This advisory board demonstrates that, as an knowledge and expertise institute, the NFI is consistently committed to scientific knowledge and innovation and is focused on continuous improvement’, says Annemieke de Vries, Chief Scientific and Technology Officer at the NFI.

Four national and international scientists, who will visit the NFI each year, have been appointed to the external scientific advisory board.

The members of the advisory board are Professor Olivier Ribaux, Dr. Sheila Willis, Professor Joost Kok and Professor Gerty Lensvelt-Mulders.

Professor Ribaux is a Professor of Forensic Intelligence and the former director of the Faculty of Law, Criminal Justice and Public administration at the University of Lausanne.

Dr. Willis is the former Director-General of Forensic Science Ireland and the President of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences University College Dublin.

Professor Kok is the Dean of the University of Twente and is a Professor of Computer Science & Applied Data Science.

Professor Lensvelt-Mulders is the director of the WODC and a Professor of Science Theory and Research Methodology.

Annual visit and recommendations

Each year, the scientists will visit different areas and divisions of the NFI. This year they will be visiting the Digital Technology (DT) department as well as the Chemical and Physical Traces division. In addition, the advisory board will be evaluating the central organisation, structure and strategy of the NFI’s research & development processes this year – which must be evaluated every five years.

The board will be looking back on the work that the NFI has done over the past few years, but it will mainly issue recommendations on potential improvements moving forward. ‘I believe it’s essential that the advisory board should include two experienced scientists from the field of forensics, supplemented by scientists who are experts in a different field.

They will have other knowledge that can add value’, de Vries explains in relation to the appointment choices. ‘Joost Kok, for example, is a professor who focuses on data science, rather than specifically on forensics. The NFI is working on applying data science in the more traditional forensic research areas. I would like him to tell us whether we’re doing the right things in that area. The advice and recommendations will help us improve.’


‘It makes me proud that we now also have an external advisory board’, says de Vries. ‘A lot of interesting activities aimed at innovation are taking place at the NFI in order to be able to answer the forensic questions of tomorrow. I believe it is vital that we have an external scientific assessment of those activities, in order to establish whether we are making the right choices, whether our innovations are in line with key external societal and technological developments – and whether we are fully prepared to face the future. Opening our doors to the advisory board and giving them a look at what goes on behind the scenes comes with being a first-class scientific institute. It demonstrates that we are continually making improvements and getting our house in order.’

The advisory board will advise the directors of the NFI in the context of scientific, social and policy developments and its advice may relate to both strategic and practical recommendations. In addition, the board will review previous NFI investigations that have been completed.

Fit for purpose

The four scientists are appointed for a period of three years, which can be extended once to a maximum of six years. ‘It’s rather nerve-racking having four external professionals take a look behind the scenes. However, I have every confidence that we as the NFI are doing great things. I’m happy to let them assess us in order for us to improve even more’, says de Vries.

Recommendations issued by the advisory board are binding on the NFI: ‘Recommendations issued by a board of this nature cannot be ignored: these are good scientists, with a lot of experience.’

The police and the Public Prosecution Service (OM) want the NFI, as a leading institute, to continually keep innovating in the right way, says de Vries: ‘We continually have to align the work we do with current events and developments – to ensure that we are ‘fit for purpose’, as they call it. The advisory board will ensure we take a broader view, which will also benefit the police and the Public Prosecution Service. It will also help the NFI remain a top-class institute in the future.’