The NAS report concluded that “[t]o further our understanding of eyewitness identification, the committee recommends the establishment of a National Research Initiative on Eyewitness Identification.” No such initiative has been funded. Nonetheless, research continues, particularly at the intersection of research findings and translation to policy, although at a slower rate.
Further work can push eyewitness identification procedures in innovative new directions that have the potential to improve accuracy. We have described how improved statistical methods, systematic reviews, and new research in the areas of lineup construction have improved or can improve many aspects of the eyewitness identification process.
Some of the most important innovations have been long established and do not require new investment in research: the need to conduct lineups in a blind fashion, using clear instructions, documenting confidence, and recording procedures. More sustained efforts to adopt those recommendations are needed. Fortunately, the effort put into these problems over the past two decades has resulted in a wave of court decisions, statutes, and model policies that have had a positive impact on police practice. Future work should solidify these gains, through investment in training and further dissemination of these best practices.
Some aspects of law enforcement and judicial practice has been resistant to research recommendations, including videotaping lineups and limiting subsequent identifications and confidence statements in the courtroom. Reform efforts should focus on those challenges.
Finally, we emphasize the value of collaboration in this area which has led to much success: working together, the legal system and the research community have produced workable solutions that have transformed police operations and informed judges, lawyers, and citizens of research in this area. We hope that similar progress is made in other areas in which justice requires science-informed solutions.