FSS chief questions the intake on forensic science courses
Bea Perks/ London, UK
A leading forensic scientist has joined the growing group of experts questioning the wisdom of increasing forensic science student numbers in the UK. The views of Dave Werrett, chief executive of the forensic science service (FSS), were presented to the government’s science and technology committee as it launched an inquiry into the decision to develop the FSS as a public private partnership (PPP).
Werrett’s concerns echo those made in a forensic science report published at the end of 2004 by Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies. ’There is a disparity between the supply and demand of forensic science graduates into the labour market,’ concluded the report. ’Increasing student demand is the prime driver for these courses, which universities are keen to provide.’
TV dramas are held partially responsible for the demand and are rumoured to have prompted popstar Britney Spears to consider a career change.
Werrett is concerned by the number of UK forensic science courses on offer. ’I am not quite sure where all these people are going to work,’ he told committee members. At the FSS, he adds, there is limited scope for career progression. ’What we need to work on are incentives and remuneration packages that retain those people once we have trained them, and those are somewhat limited sometimes within the public sector,’ he said, hinting that a PPP may offer the solution.
The committee’s inquiry is set to continue, with a report due at the end of the year. ’Forensic science is rapidly taking over from pure science in universities,’ said select committee member Brian Iddon MP, a former reader in organic chemistry at Salford University, UK. ’Chemistry departments are closing; forensic science departments are opening. I am not sure that is a good thing but we can debate that.’