How relevant a question? (a note for forensic scientists)
This communication seeks to draw the attention of researchers and practitioners dealing with forensic DNA profiling analyses to the following question: is a scientist's report, offering support to a hypothesis according to which a particular individual is the source of DNA detected during the analysis of a stain, relevant from the point of view of a Court of Justice? This question relates to skeptical views previously voiced by commentators mainly in the judicial area, but is avoided by a large majority of forensic scientists. Notwithstanding, the pivotal role of this question has recently been evoked during the international conference "The hidden side of DNA profiles. Artifacts, errors and uncertain evidence" held in Rome (April 27th to 28th, 2012). Indeed, despite the fact that this conference brought together some of the world's leading forensic DNA specialists, it appeared clearly that a huge gap still exists between questions lawyers are actually interested in, and the answers that scientists deliver to Courts in written reports or during oral testimony. Participants in the justice system, namely lawyers and jurors on the one hand and forensic geneticists on the other, unfortunately talk considerably different languages. It thus is fundamental to address this issue of communication about results of forensic DNA analyses, and open a dialogue with practicing non-scientists at large who need to make meaningful use of scientific results to approach and help solve judicial cases. This paper intends to emphasize the actuality of this topic and suggest beneficial ways ahead towards a more reasoned use of forensic DNA in criminal proceedings.