Volume 48, Issue 1 (January 2003)
The Feasibility of External Blind DNA Proficiency Testing. I. Background and Findings
We describe the origins, purposes, and findings of a national study to determine whether a large-scale program of blind proficiency testing in U.S. DNA laboratories is feasible and/or practical. Proficiency testing in clinical laboratories is reviewed, particularly as mandated by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Acts and its role in the regulation of those laboratories. Proficiency testing in forensic urine drug testing labs is also briefly reviewed. Studies involving comparisons between open and blind proficiency testing are discussed. The clinical laboratory proficiency testing and regulation landscape provides the background for the DNA Act of 1994, and the congressional mandate to investigate blind proficiency testing in forensic DNA laboratories. Four models of blind proficiency testing are defined and discussed, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each and estimates of the costs of a large-scale program. The purposes of proficiency testing in a quality-assurance context are likewise discussed and related to the models and the arguments generally proffered for and against blind vs. open proficiency testing.