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What is a forensic entomologist? A sociological study

Magni, P.A., Guercini, S., Antonilli, A. and Dadour, I. (2010) What is a forensic entomologist? A sociological study. In: 8th Meeting European Association for Forensic Entomology (EAFE), 8 - 11 September 2010, Centro Social Universitario, Spain.


Forensic entomology is a sub-discipline of zoology dedicated to the study of insects and other arthropods that interact with legal matters. The official recognition of its value as a forensic science can be dated to the end of the 19th century, but its systematic use in criminal cases aiding law enforcement and pathological investigations has only happened in the last 40 years. Forensic entomology is involved in cases pertaining to urban, stored products, medico-legal, veterinary and livestock crime. Currently, in many countries a forensic entomologist is considered an important addition to an investigation team but most have attained their profession via numerous academic routes and only a few have accreditation. Over the last 24 years since the last survey of forensic entomologists (Lord & Stevenson 1986) many biographical aspects of the discipline have changed. The following study was conducted to update but more importantly, and unlike the previous survey which was more of a directory list, to understand how the science and its participants are represented today. Based on the sociological concept that “in order to obtain information about people the best method is to ‘ask’” (Corposanto 2004), an anonymous questionnaire was submitted to forensic entomologist professionals, biologists, pathologists, other forensic experts and people with a general interest in the topic. The 28 questions were composed in collaboration with specialists in forensic entomology, sociology and criminology. They were designed to consider the training process of a specialist, where such specialists are based eg with private or public organisations, the protocols used and whether specialists are practitioner based only or also conduct research and/or teach in the subject. The questionnaire was presented to participants at the VII EAFE Meeting in Uppsala as well as sent via mail to EAFE, NAFEA (North America Forensic Entomology Association), GIEF (Italian forensic entomology group) and to Forensic Entomology Yahoo Groups mailing list. This study was conducted between June and September 2009. Statistical analyses were performed using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) and contingency tables were calculated to record and analyze the relationship between two or more categorical variables. The information has determined that an average forensic entomologist in 2009 is an English speaking, generally older than 30 male or female with a high level of education, who is employed by a University. This study will hopefully provide a stimulus to reflect upon forensic entomology and the practitioners of this discipline in the future.

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