As we recently discussed in our series about ISO 17025 “Why is ISO 17025 so important to us in forensic science?“:
While accreditation does not equate to automatic quality in results, it means that a lab adheres to some sort of external Quality Management System (QMS). How worthwhile that QMS is versus what is necessary in the general scientific community to insure true results is debatable. Just determining whether or not a lab is accredited and by whom is the very beginning of assessing quality of the reported and alleged test result. It should be remembered that these standards are minimum expressions of acceptable practices. A laboratory could and should decide to employ greater standards than the minimum to insure quality of the results issued.
Surprising to most people is that a crime lab that provides results does not need to be accredited.
That’s right. They don’t.
In addition stating that a lab is accredited does not mean that all of the testing performed in a lab is accredited.
HOW TO FIND OUT IF YOUR LAB IS ACCREDITED
If you would like to find out if a laboratory (or a laboratory system) is ISO/IEC 17025:2005 (International) accredited, you can look on the ASCLD/LAB website which has recently been updated a few months ago or so.
If you click select the heading in the right side column under “TYPE OF ACCREDITATION” (e.g., “International Calibration” or “International Testing” next to each of the laboratories within a system, a descriptive window will open which contains a link to an accreditation “scope” pdf document (notice “Field of Accreditation Discipline 2.0” and “Categories of Testing 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3”).
Also, for laboratories (or lab systems) that are accredited by Forensic Quality Services-International or “FQS-I”, their website offers a similar “Accredited Labs” search option as well:
An ISO 17025 “forensic examination accreditation program” through A2LA can be found here:
Of course, anyone who has worked for a postmortem forensic toxicology laboratory, is already familiar with the ABFT listing of accredited laboratories.
There is also the National Association of Medical Examiners:
The National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) also maintains a list of NVLAP Laboratory Accreditation Programs (LAPs):
There are several private sector companies in addition to the above that accredit laboratories:
Laboratory Accreditation Bureau (L-A-B) (offers ISO 17205 based accreditation via ISO 17011): http://www.l-a-b.com/content/search-l-a-b-accredited-laboratories
In the clinical arena (as sometimes unfortunately clinical test are admitted into court), there is College of American Pathologists (CAP)
Within CAP, there is their own version of ISO based form of certification entitled “CAP 15189SM Accredited Labs”
There are also laboratories that operate under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA):
Information about COLA Accreditation can be found here:
Information about Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations can be found here:
Your own state may maintain some sort of accreditation or external proficiency testing mechanism as well.
In addition some sub-disciplines maintain their own brand of accreditation through their organizations.