Announcing FOROST, A Forensic Osteology Metabase

As you may have noticed, I’ve taken a bit of a blogging hiatus. I have actually taken the time off to write some software in Python that I hope to release soon… a project that you may have seen in previous iterations.

Speaking of some software, I have do have some less cryptic news to share with you. I have been a part of the development team behind FOROST, a forensic osteology metabase, that physical anthropologists and forensic specialists may find useful since it provides images and descriptions of special pathological and taphonomic cases. We’re ready to showcase the site and encourage you to use it and pass it onto others!

This metabase primarily functions to expand one’s access to comparative samples. By providing a portal to well documented images and attribution, we foresee that FORST will help connect investigators to collections that they may have never knew about. We’ve decided to call it a metabase because we’ve decided not to house the images and metadata linked to each specimen. Rather, we curate a subset of the information, which is determined by contributors, and is in turn searchable from the FOROST query builder. Each item in the database is ultimately stored on the participant members’ servers and is branded to their liking. I am hopeful that this unification of forensic data will pool together distributed specimen information while retaining individual attribution. I’m even more hopeful that it will facilitate collaboration and standardization of forensic criteria. It is like one big digital potluck party…

The metabase is queriable now. You can poke around and see how we’ve gone about showing the results from the preliminary institutions that have participated. You’ll find some pretty cool images of blunt force trauma and gunshot wounds. I’ve worked with a close colleague of mine, Dr. Henry Gilbert, who approached me with the idea a while back ago. My role has been primarily a consultant, where I’ve helped with brainstorming the database design, setting up the development environment and PHP coding practices. The senior developer is Raul Castillo. I recently started making a translation of the site into Farsi, as well. I have also had the pleasure to work with researchers and developers from UNAM.

I really am excited about this project and I’d really like to hear your feedback. We’re far from calling it a completed project and understand it may have some quirks here and there. I want to know about your experiences using the metabase. You can shout out your ideas and suggestions for improvements here in the comments thread, or you can send the project manager, Socorro Baez, an email, if you prefer the private route. You should also contact her if you want to participate too.

Oh yeah! FOROST will also be announced at a conference at the Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, at UNAM on the 16th to the 20th of March, 2009. I plan on attending the conference, which will host talks by Carlos Serrano Sánchez and Douglas Ubelaker, as well as others. If you’re interested in how forensic science intersects with anthropology, I recommend you attend. Let me know if you do decide to go, maybe we can have a meetup of Anthropology.netters.

2 thoughts on “Announcing FOROST, A Forensic Osteology Metabase

  1. Great initiative! This is just the kind of project science and research needs to spread information among colleagues. Hopefully you will have the time and funding needed to make something truly lasting.
    Thank you

  2. Thank you ArchAsa, I appreciate the praise. I hope you find it useful. Please pass a link along to your colleagues.


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