Scientific Working Groups, or SWGs for short, are groups of leading professionals from various fields in forensic science who work together for advancement in their area of science. Most SWGs are largely funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) with the purpose of proposing guidelines regarding the use of testing standards, reporting suggestions, and recommended standard practices for both new and traditional technologies. Even though the SWGs cannot enforce the use of these guidelines, they provide suggestions which are reached as the consensus of professionals from various agencies, and can be used by laboratories at federal, state, and local levels.
Each SWG is usually focused on a relatively narrow field of forensics such as DNA (SWGDAM), drugs, (SWGDRUG), materials analysis (SWGMAT), and fingerprints (SWGFAST), among many others. The SWGs are a great way to keep up with current news in a particular field as their websites are free to access online, and several of them have links to documented guidelines for analysis. Since continued education is such an important aspect in forensic science, the SWGs are especially convenient for those who are unable to attend conferences throughout the year. They also provide a convenient venue for scientists to keep up with their field specifically, as general scientific journals publish articles on a very wide scope of forensic science proceedings. For a more complete list of SWGs, visit the NIJ’s devoted SWG page.