Assessment of measurement uncertainty using longitudinal calibration data in the forensic context

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Abstract

publications. In the present investigation, it is assumed that this is the case, and it is shown that it may potentially
lead to issues with results that are being presented to the court. The determination of synthetic cannabinoids at
low concentrations in blood, urine and other matrices is challenging to forensic science. Methods based upon the
separation of the compounds by HPLC and detection by tandem mass spectrometry provides results at ultra-low
concentrations. The uncertainty of measurements has become the key parameter of interest for decision making,
and expert witnesses need to state the correct level of uncertainty. Recent developments in quality assurance
indicate issues with reliability, owing to contradictory statements that originate from different methods of data
management and interpretation of results that eventually may lead to compromising the truth. The levels of
relative uncertainty of measurement that were close to 5% were found to be unrealistically low when synthetic
cannabinoids were analysed at ultra-low concentrations. It was proposed to introduce the principle of pooled
calibrations to obtain correspondence between predicted and observed uncertainty, following standards of scientific
methodology. Ten synthetic cannabinoids were analysed with pooled calibrations, and the results indicated
that the uncertainty of measurement was found at levels much higher than expected, and with two out of
ten synthetic cannabinoids that were impossible to quantify with relative uncertainties reaching levels over 70%.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100317
Number of pages11
JournalForensic Chemistry
Volume23
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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