The Forensic Innovation Centre (FIC) is the result of our unique partnership with Hampshire Constabulary, through which students and academics from the University of Portsmouth work alongside practitioners in all areas of forensic investigative practice and the surrounding areas. The first of its kind, the Forensic Innovation Centre merges day-to-day forensic activity with research and education on a university campus.
We've designed the FIC to provide the ideal environment for research, practice and education in forensic investigation. The course content taught at the FIC, whether at undergraduate or Master's level, is informed through our research and partnerships with professional bodies. Study at the FIC gives students an invaluable opportunity to learn from expert specialist practitioners on internships and placements.
The FIC has a two-way relationship with Police experts. While using their position as honorary lecturers to mentor and educate students, they also receive mentor training from us. This vocational mentorship provides students with the networking, knowledge and experience that they need to succeed in this field. Study at the FIC is informed by actual police work, ensuring that students can confidently apply what they learn directly to their policing careers.
Our ongoing investment in the FIC means we have access to the latest technologies, equipment and facilities, including:
Fingerprint Development Research Hub
In collaboration with Hampshire Constabulary, our work to improve fingerprint development methods and trial new techniques has led to the creation of our finger mark development research facility. Work at the Fingerprint Development Research Hub has been used in completed projects – including as a case example in the Home Office Forensic Science Special Interest Group (Earwaker, Charlton and Bleay, 2015) – and in on-going finger mark development work with other collaborators including the Saxony Police Service, Germany.
Digital Forensic Group
Based on the University campus, the Digital Forensic Group (DFG) is where our academics and placement students work with police on all aspects of digital investigations. Resources are shared and practitioners, academics and student have access to a working digital forensics laboratory – in which expertise can be effectively shared, and students can gain first-hand experience of forensic imaging, significantly increasing employability.
Our lead researchers in cybercrime are leading the creation of a cybercrime awareness clinic that brings together stakeholders from the local community to generate collaborative solutions to the cybercrime challenges faced by the different communities and businesses across Hampshire.
The project is building educational/prevention programmes to shape reactive strategies and enhance awareness and resilience to cybercrime problems locally. It's also generating research that's identifying the most efficient and effective way for permanently operating such clinics, both locally and nationally.
Developing DNA Recovery Methods
This multidisciplinary team of researchers, practitioners and investigators are working together to improve DNA recovery, contamination avoidance procedures and the operational use of DNA for sexual offences. The aim of this research group is to improve the use of DNA, but most importantly provide a more consistent journey for victims of sexual assault and rape.
Recent projects have evaluated swabbing of glove marks for the presence of DNA, reviewed the decontamination procedures in the Sexual Offences Referral Centres, improved the contamination reduction protocols in custody centres and undertaken an in-depth review of DNA evidence recovery from crime scene to court, using human factors and ergonomic methods.
Firearms And Firearms Discharge Residue
Our researchers are working with practitioners in policing and forensic science to develop methods to detect Gunshot Residue (GSR) and evaluate the risk from background contamination.
Students, academics and practitioners are currently working on a 2-year project to review background contamination in police buildings, vehicles, and on kit carried by police personnel. This work also involves collaboration with other academic institutions and the Defence School of Policing and Guarding.
The FIC has close links with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Investigation Teams, with students already engaged in work experience internships and sandwich placements as we develop our collaborative research projects in fire investigation.
Our researchers have developed up-to-date methods for crime scene investigators to assist in the recovery of entomological evidence. These methods influenced the update of Hampshire CSI’s protocols and informed the development of a new evidence collection kit. The FIC has enabled the exchange of advice and training in this important area.
Working with partners in the Portsmouth Business School, we coordinate and lead a broad range of work relating to the investigation of wildlife crime. The FIC is working with other associated stakeholders to research new methods of forensic detection with the intention of informing intelligence networks to enhance the proactive investigation of associated offences.
Human Factors Research Hub
We're using established methods in human factors and ergonomics to look at human cognition and performance in forensic and investigative practice, reviewing systems and associated technology to establish the effectiveness and efficiency of processes. We're also reviewing solvability factors and how they can be influenced by changes to relevant variables, to improve investigative outcomes.
In other areas of work, we're using contextual inquiry to review investigative behaviours and improved how new and developing technologies are incorporated. This is evidenced in the field of Body Worn Video, where the presence of devices and associated software is becoming ubiquitous in investigative practice. Our research is defining good practice and honing the use of the systems to improve evidence and incident capture to address some areas of ambiguity surrounding its utilisation in operations – and in its use by the court.
Our members share an agenda for the advancement of research and development within police forensic science, underpinned by academic evaluation and rigour. Our research is ongoing in all aspects of forensic science - including digital crime, cybercrime, DNA, and finger mark development - and is already yielding operational benefits, with research findings to be published in academic and professional journals. Some preliminary outcomes have already been presented at the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences Body Fluids Forum.
We place a strong emphasis on cross faculty work and have good links with our colleagues within the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and across the University's departments. Our operational and academic environment is now well established and ideally placed to build opportunities for innovative and practical forensic research, such as our existing relationship with Key Forensic Services which will make use of their high-speed DNA profiling equipment.
Where to find us
University of Portsmouth,
Winner, Times Higher Education Awards 2015
As a result of building the FIC in partnership with Hampshire Constabulary, we were awarded the Outstanding Employer Engagement Initiative category of the Times Higher Education Awards 2015.
“This is identifiably a new initiative which delivers clear benefits to both sides,” the judges said. “The way the police are embedded in the course delivery” and the way students gain “highly relevant practical experience”, seem to be “the right kind of employer engagement”.
- THE award programme