U.S. Department of Justice

Office of Justice Programs

National Institute of Justice

National Institute of Justice  

S o l i c i t a t i o n

Jeremy Travis, Director March, 2000

Forensic Friction Ridge (Fingerprint) Examination

Validation Studies



U.S. Department of Justice

Office of Justice Programs

810 Seventh Street N.W.

Washington, DC 20531

Janet Reno

Attorney General

Daniel Marcus

Acting Associate Attorney General

Mary Lou Leary

Acting Assistant Attorney General

Noλl Brennan

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Alexa Verveer

Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Jeremy Travis

Director, National Institute of Justice

For grant and funding information, contact:

Department of Justice Response Center:


Office of Justice Programs

World Wide Web Site:


National Institute of Justice

World Wide Web Site:



S o l i c i t a t i o n


Forensic Friction Ridge (Fingerprint) Examination Validation


I. Introduction

Forensic friction ridge (i.e. fingerprint, palmprint,

footprint) examination (FFRE) has long been

recognized and accepted as the standard for

personal identification worldwide. The National

Institute of Justice (NIJ) publication Forensic

Sciences: Review of Status and Needs (NCJ

173412) has identified the need for validation of

the basis for friction ridge individualization and

standardization of comparison criteria.

Furthermore, all expert testimony must follow the

admissibility rules for scientific evidence set forth

in recent court cases e.g. Daubert v. Merrill Dow

Pharmaceuticals (113 S.Ct. 2786). These rules

require scientists to address the reliability and

validity of the methods used in their analysis.

Therefore, the purpose of this solicitation is to

address the needs identified in the above NIJ

publication and to provide greater scientific

foundation for forensic friction ridge (fingerprint)


II. Background

In 1995, the Federal Bureau of Investigation

(FBI), recognizing the need for standardized

procedures for friction ridge examination, hosted

a meeting of latent print examiners to discuss

development of consensus guidelines, which

would preserve and improve the quality of service

provided by examiners nationwide. This group

evolved into the Scientific Working Group on

Friction Ridge Analysis, Study, and Technology

(SWGFAST). SWGFAST participants include

Fingerprint Identification Committee members

and Latent Print Certification Board members

from the 4,800-member International Association

for Identification. Currently, there are more than

thirty members attending SWGFAST from

Federal, State, and local law enforcement

agencies. SWGFAST already has developed

guidelines for hiring, training, and quality

assurance. In 1997, the American Society of Crime

Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) requested that

NIJ bring together a forensic science team of 44

scientists and administrators to identify the

current status and needs of the forensic sciences.

This resulted in the 1999 NIJ publication Forensic

Sciences: Review of Status and Needs (NCJ

173412). The status and needs publication

includes a section on Latent Print

Examinations. In this publication the forensic

science team identified a number of needs

including the Validation of the Basis for Print

(friction ridge) Individualization as well as

Standardization of Comparison Criteria.

In 1998, NIJ launched a research and

development program to support the

recommendations on needs discussed in the

Forensic Sciences: Review of Status and Needs.

In 1998, NIJ issued a solicitation on Forensic

Document Examination Validation Studies

and funded a study in 1999 on Handwriting

Identification: Research to Study Validity of

Individuality of Handwriting and Develop

Computer-Assisted Procedures for Comparing

Handwriting. In May 1999, NIJ assembled a

Fingerprint Research Advisory Panel (FRAP) to

develop this solicitation to address the latent print


The participants in the NIJ FRAP included

practicing latent print examiners, researchers, and

senior administrators from Federal, State, and

private forensic science laboratories. They

reached a consensus that the field needs:


S o l i c i t a t i o n


C Basic research to determine the scientific

validity of individuality in friction ridge

examination based on measurement of

features, quantification, and statistical


C Procedures for comparing friction ridge

impressions that are standardized and


Basic research into the individuality of friction

ridges requires objective measurement and

statistical analysis. Validation could be performed

in the context of existing systems such as AFIS

(automated fingerprint identification system)

and/or APIS (automated palmprint identification

system) that offer some of the most

comprehensive friction ridge identification

databases in the world. Other related technologies

that may be easily adaptable to the quantification

of fingerprints include: data mining, image and/or

multimedia search engines, intelligent agents,

signal processing, voice identification, automated

vision robotics, data visualization, and pattern


Such procedures must be based, however, on

more than community-based agreement.

Procedures must be tested statistically in order to

demonstrate that following the stated procedures

allows analysts to produce correct results with

acceptable error rates. This has not yet been

done. Methodologies that may be useful here

include: quality control, experimental design,

protocol evaluation, and cognitive and perceptual


III. Areas of Research Required

A. Statistical Validation of Individuality in

Friction Ridge Analysis

The proposed research must address the

question of individuality in friction ridge

analysis. Friction ridge print evidence has

historically been “understood” to hold

individuality based on empirical studies of

millions of prints. However, the theoretical

basis for this individuality has had limited

study and needs additional work to

demonstrate the statistical basis for

identifications. It is expected that proposals

would address the relative importance of

different minutiae to establish individuality,

as well as the statistical significance of

groups of minutiae. The comparative

analysis consists of both a qualitative and

quantitative process. Aspects of friction

ridge individuality that should be addressed

are: pattern type and ridge flow (Level I);

ridge endings, bifurcations and dots (Level

II); and ridge and pore morphology (Level

III). It is required that the proposed

research application include:

• Evaluation of the relationship among the

characteristics and among the levels.

• Data set (representative samples from U.S.


• Measurement Tools (feature selection and

extraction, computer or manual systems).

• Statistical Analysis.

An expected deliverable is a report of publishable

quality in respected nationally distributed peer-reviewed

journals detailing the results of the

analyses on whether and how individual friction

ridge validation can be demonstrated.

B. Qualitative/Quantitative Aspects of Friction

Ridge Comparison

The proposed research must address the

qualitative questions (clarity) of friction

ridge detail.

Practical application has demonstrated that

a reliable identification is based upon both a

qualitative and quantitative analysis of the

friction ridge detail. It is required that the

S o l i c i t a t i o n


proposed research application address both

of these issues.

An expected deliverable is a report of publishable

quality in respected nationally distributed peer-reviewed

journals detailing the results of the

analyses on an objective and scientific approach

for determining the sufficient quality and quantity

of friction ridge details needed to conduct a valid

examination for comparison purposes.

C. Statistical Validation of Standard Operating

Procedures for Friction Ridge (Fingerprint)


The proposed research must address the

question of whether Standard Operating

Procedures are valid and reproducible. It is

required that the proposed research

application include:

• Data set.

• Standard Operating Procedure

(SWGFAST or others).

• Experimental designs.

• Statistical analysis.

An expected deliverable is a report of publishable

quality in respected nationally distributed peer-reviewed

journals detailing the results of the

analyses of a valid Standard Operating Procedure

(a standardized, objective, statistical, reproducible

method) to examine friction ridge minutiae.

IV. Selection Criteria

NIJ is firmly committed to the competitive process

for awarding grants. All proposals are subjected to

an independent, peer-review panel evaluation. The

peer-review panel consists of members with

academic, practitioner, technical, and operational

expertise in the subject areas of the solicitation.

Selection criteria used to evaluate proposals are as


1. Quality and Technical Merit

• Soundness of methodology, analytic, or

technical approach.

• Innovation and creativity.

• Feasibility of proposed project; awareness of


• Awareness of existing research and related


2. Impact of the Project

• Understanding importance of the problem.

• Potential for significant advance in crime

prevention, law enforcement, courts,

corrections, or other practice or policy areas.

• Potential for advancement of scientific

understanding of the problem area.

• Relevance to practice, including

development and demonstration in application

domains (if applicable).

• Affordable end products (if applicable).

3. Capabilities, Demonstrated Productivity, and

Experience of Applicants

• Qualifications and experience of personnel

as related to proposed project.

• Responsiveness to the goals of the


• Demonstrated ability to manage proposed


• Adequacy of proposed resources to

perform effort.

4. Budget Considerations

• Total cost relative to perceived benefit.

• Appropriate budgets and level of effort.

• Use of existing resources to conservecosts.

• Cost-effectiveness of program or product

for application in the criminal justice system

(if applicable).

S o l i c i t a t i o n


After peer-review panelists' consideration,

Institute staff make recommendations to NIJ's

Director based on the results of the independent

reviews. Final decisions are made by the NIJ

Director following consultation with Institute


V. How to Apply

Those interested in submitting proposals in response

to this solicitation must complete the required

application forms and submit related required

documents. (See below for how to obtain

application forms and guides for completing

proposals.) Applicants must include the following

information/forms to quality for consideration:

C Standard Form (SF) 424— application for

Federal assistance

C Assurances

C Certifications Regarding Lobbying, Debarment,

Suspension and Other Responsibility Matters;

and Drug-Free Workplace Requirements (one


C Disclosure of Lobbying Activities

C Budget Detail Worksheet

C Budget Narrative

C Negotiated indirect rate agreement (if


C Names and affiliations of all key persons from

applicant and subcontractor(s), advisors,

consultants, and advisory board members.

Include name of principal investigator, title,

organizational affiliation (if any), department (if

institution of higher education), address, phone,

and fax

• Proposal abstract

C Table of contents

• Program narrative or technical proposal

• Privacy certificate

• References

• Letters of cooperation from organizations

collaborating in the research project

• Rιsumιs

• Appendixes, if any (e.g., list of previous NIJ

awards, their status, and products [in NIJ or

other publications])

Proposal abstract. The proposal abstract, when

read separately from the rest of the application, is

meant to serve as a succinct and accurate description of

the proposed work. Applicants must concisely

describe the research goals and objectives, research

design, and methods for achieving the goals and

objectives. Summaries of past accomplishments are

to be avoided, and proprietary/confidential

information is not to be included. Length is not to

exceed 400 words. Use the following two headers:

Project Goals and Objectives:

Proposed Research Design and Methodology:

Page limit. The number of pages in the “Program

Narrative” part of the proposal must not exceed 30

(double-spaced pages).

Due date. Completed proposals must be

received at the National Institute of Justice by

the close of business on July 28, 2000. Extensions

of this deadline will not be permitted.

Award period. In general, NIJ limits its grants

and cooperative agreements to a maximum period

of 12 or 24 months. However, longer budget

periods may be considered.

Number of awards. NIJ anticipates supporting

one or more grants under this solicitation.

Funds available. Funds totaling $500,000 will be

made available for this NIJ solicitation,

contingent upon NIJ’s budget appropriations.

Applying. Two packets need to be obtained: (1)

application forms (including a sample budget

S o l i c i t a t i o n


worksheet) and (2) guidelines for submitting

proposals (including requirements for proposal

writers and requirements for grant recipients). To

receive them, applicants can:

C Access the Justice Information Center on the



or the NIJ web site:


These web sites offer the NIJ application

forms and guidelines as electronic files that

may be downloaded to a personal computer.

C Request hard copies of the forms and

guidelines by mail from the National Criminal

Justice Reference Service at 800–851–3420

or from the Department of Justice Response

Center at 800–421–6770 (in the Washington,

D.C., area, at 202–307–1480).

C Request copies by fax. Call 800–851–3420

and select option 1, then option 1 again for

NIJ. Code is 1023.

Guidance and information. Applicants who

wish to receive additional guidance and

information may contact the U.S. Department of

Justice Response Center at 800–421–6770.

Center staff can provide assistance or refer

applicants to an appropriate NIJ professional.

Applicants may, for example, wish to discuss

their prospective research topics with the NIJ

professional staff.

Send completed forms to:

Forensic Friction Ridge (Fingerprint)

Examination Validation Studies

National Institute of Justice

Office of Science & Technology

810 Seventh Street N.W.

Washington, DC 20531

[overnight courier ZIP code 20001]

NIJ is streamlining its process to accommodate

the volume of proposals anticipated under this

solicitation. Researchers can help in a significant

way by sending NIJ a nonbinding letter of intent

by June 23, 2000. The Institute will use these

letters to forecast the numbers of peer panels it

needs and to identify conflicts of interest among

potential reviewers. There are two ways to send

these letters. You can reach NIJ by Internet by

sending e-mail to tellnij@ncjrs.org and identifying

the solicitation and section(s) you expect to apply

for. You can write a letter with the same

information to Forensic Friction Ridge

(Fingerprint) Examination Validation Studies,

810 Seventh Street N.W., Washington, DC

20531. Help us help you.

For more information on the National Institute of

Justice, please contact:

National Criminal Justice Reference Service

Box 6000

Rockville, MD 20849–6000


e-mail: askncjrs@ncjrs.org

You can view or obtain an electronic version of

this document from

the NCJRS Justice Information Center web site

(http://www.ncjrs.org) or the NIJ web site