Error quantification of osteometric data in forensic anthropology

Natalie R. Langley, Lee Meadows Jantz, Shauna McNulty, Heli Maijanen, Stephen D. Ousley, Richard L. Jantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study evaluates the reliability of osteometric data commonly used in forensic case analyses, with specific reference to the measurements in Data Collection Procedures 2.0 (DCP 2.0). Four observers took a set of 99 measurements four times on a sample of 50 skeletons (each measurement was taken 200 times by each observer). Two-way mixed ANOVAs and repeated measures ANOVAs with pairwise comparisons were used to examine interobserver (between-subjects) and intraobserver (within-subjects) variability. Relative technical error of measurement (TEM) was calculated for measurements with significant ANOVA results to examine the error among a single observer repeating a measurement multiple times (e.g. repeatability or intraobserver error), as well as the variability between multiple observers (interobserver error). Two general trends emerged from these analyses: (1) maximum lengths and breadths have the lowest error across the board (TEM < 0.5), and (2) maximum and minimum diameters at midshaft are more reliable than their positionally-dependent counterparts (i.e. sagittal, vertical, transverse, dorso-volar). Therefore, maxima and minima are specified for all midshaft measurements in DCP 2.0. Twenty-two measurements were flagged for excessive variability (either interobserver, intraobserver, or both); 15 of these measurements were part of the standard set of measurements in Data Collection Procedures for Forensic Skeletal Material, 3rd edition. Each measurement was examined carefully to determine the likely source of the error (e.g. data input, instrumentation, observer's method, or measurement definition). For several measurements (e.g. anterior sacral breadth, distal epiphyseal breadth of the tibia) only one observer differed significantly from the remaining observers, indicating a likely problem with the measurement definition as interpreted by that observer; these definitions were clarified in DCP 2.0 to eliminate this confusion. Other measurements were taken from landmarks that are difficult to locate consistently (e.g. pubis length, ischium length); these measurements were omitted from DCP 2.0. This manual is available for free download online (https://fac.utk.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/DCP20_webversion.pdf), along with an accompanying instructional video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtkLFl3vim4).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-189
Number of pages7
JournalForensic Science International
Volume287
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Keywords

  • Analysis of variance
  • Calipers
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Forensic science
  • Observer variation
  • Osteometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Error quantification of osteometric data in forensic anthropology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this