Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing
In the fast-moving field of forensic DNA, there is always the danger that a textbook will become quickly out of date. It is a tribute to John’s remarkable tenacity and attention to detail that his work has never been endangered in this way.
In his latest book, John explains how and why the organization of his texts has evolved into this latest iteration. Not wishing to write an encyclopedia, he explains that his solution has necessitated splitting the original format of Forensic DNA Typing into two volumes. The first volume is entitled Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing . There is a forthcoming companion volume entitled Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing .
Forensic science attracts a very broad audience from a wide diversity of backgrounds. Devising a framework that is able to appeal to such an audience is perhaps the biggest challenge. The scientist, the lawyer, the law enforcement officer, and the student will all expect a different emphasis from a book that deals with all aspects of DNA profiling.
Dividing Forensic DNA Typing into two volumes is a masterful stroke. The first volume, Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing , is written from a more general perspective. It is subdivided into 18 chapters ordered into a logical sequence. Thus we begin with an extensive overview and history in Chapter 1 and end with Chapter 18 on future trends. In between, chapters progress through sample collection, DNA extraction, PCR, and interpretation. There is a brand new section on DNA databases that describes the growth of this ‘ industry ’ since the first U.K. use in 1995. Ethical concerns are discussed in relation to the retention of DNA profi les, and the proposed expansion of databases to allow for close relatives to be searched for (so-called familial searching). Chapter 13 provides an expanded section on quality assurance. What is meant by validation? What procedures are in place that maintain public confidence? How can we learn from mistakes that have been made in the past?
Although slightly shorter than Forensic DNA Typing , skillful arrangement of chapters and extensive use of cross-referencing enhance the reading experience. It can easily be read from cover to cover. The specialist reader requiring more information is directed to the companion volume, Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing . In addition, there are extensive references to material that is freely available on the Internet (the NIST Web site is itself a tremendous resource). Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing admirably succeeds in its goal of reaching a diverse audience. It does this by acting as a portal — if a specific piece of information isn’t explicitly written down, it will tell you where to find it. Consequently, it fulfills the same function as an encyclopedia but in a very user-friendly way.
Peter Gill, PhD FIBiol
Strathclyde , UK
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