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11 May 2014

Forensic Forums 2014 - A review

This is something I meant to post for a while. In 2013 and 2014 there was this event, Forensic Forums, that took place in London. It is some sort of forensics seminar lasting three days, and each day focuses on a specific area and forms an independent event. I attended two Forensic Forums 2014 events thanks to a grant by the organising company, EuroSciCon, on the 3rd and 5th March. 

The website of Forensic Forums 2014 initially advertised a 4-day cycle of events, and as this was subsequently reduced to 3 days without any special announcement it caused some confusion, and I don't know how those who had already registered for the four days and paid for them dealt with this sudden change. However, it was an interesting programme overall and the EuroSciCon staff I talked to were polite and efficient, and the events ran smoothly.

  • Day 1: Crime Scene Analysis and Victim Identification Forum, Monday, 03 March 2014, 09:00 - 17:00
  • Day 2: DVI Investigation, Tuesday 04 March 2014, 09:00 - 17:00
  • Day 3:  Forensic Investigations to locate and identify the missing , Wednesday 05 March 2014,  09:00 - 17:00
I enjoyed the first day in particular, finding the speakers very keen and good presenters. Some presentations were a bit too long (30'+), so I would prefer slightly shorter presentations (20') and more presenters - more variety.

The O2 was a good venue choice in terms of accessibility, and with very polite staff, but probably very expensive! Another problem is that the events are not well advertised. I didn't see any related advertising, not even on BAHID website, despite the fact that its members were offered a discount. Also, during the events there was material only from one or two sponsors. Attendance numbers were low: on the first day there were around 19 delegates in the morning, and on the third day around 38. I found that a bit strange considering that forensic events have a large target audience (Police officers, SOCOs/CSIs, Company scientists, Academics and students) and that CPD accreditation was offered. Considering the large number of academics presenting papers and the proportionally low number of students, I wonder how effectively they advertised the events within their Universities. The events would be of use to students from various backgrounds: biology, anthropology, archaeology, medicine, chemistry, physics, engineering, computer science. 

If EuroSciCon wants the events to have the character of an established seminar with as many delegates as possible, then probably more intensive marketing is needed. I noticed that the Forensic Forums 2014 website has already expired, and, together with the Forensic Forums 2013 website , have been taken over by some Japanese advertising company. This makes it impossible for those who hear of the events to find some permanent information, reports and photographs of past events online. 

Another factor that may explain low attendance numbers is the high cost. I have attended many international conferences, seminars, and talks, and I have participated in the organisation of conferences and sessions as well, and usually the registration fees are around 100-200 pounds, depending on the venue, for 3 or 4 days. Registration to the Forensic Forums events cost around £250 per day if registered early, and then rocketed to almost £500 per day!  Even the reduced £250 fee for one day only is too much for academics, students and freelancers. I have noticed that forensic events tend to be very expensive, probably following corporate mentality. However, in the UK many forensic companies are still small, following the closure of the Forensic Science Service in 2010, and a lot of research comes from university departments, as it was evident from the presentations. Most scientists get underpaid jobs or struggle to find a job in the current global financial climate, and even high rank University academics with good salaries often need to participate in many international conferences every year, but their departments won't provide funding for all of them. I also talked to police officers and they told me that it is getting increasingly difficult nowadays to get the Job pay for their participation in externally organised events. They thought that £250 for a 3-day event might be affordable, but not for one day only. Finally, in April this year there was the Forensics Europe Expo at Olympia, which received a lot of media coverage and sponsorship, and very likely interested individuals wouldn't be able to afford to spend money or take time off for two forensic events so close together.

In conclusion, the Forensic Forums events are very interesting and professionals from many different sectors could benefit from attending them. However, is it viable for a private company to organise them? More advertising to attract sponsors and to increase attendance, a more cost-effective venue and lower registration fees would make them accessible to more people. Events run by Universities, Museums or Societies, are equally well-organised but registration fees are a lot more affordable, because they don't look to make a profit and they use their own venues and accommodation.