What is the difference between ISO/IEC 17025 and ISO/IEC 17020 for forensic agencies?
ISO/IEC 17025 is the standard for testing and calibration (metrology) laboratories and ISO/IEC 17020 is the standard for inspection bodies. Both standards have equal weight as an ISO standard and one is not better than the other. Each is designed to meet certain conditions and depending upon the situation, one may be more appropriate than the other. ISO/IEC 17025 is appropriate for analytical chemistry testing laboratories using analytical instruments. ISO/IEC 17020 is designed for the inspection process where conclusions are made based on professional judgment.
In the ISO world, inspection overlaps with that of testing. Inspection often involves examination, measurements, testing, and/or comparison of materials or items. An important difference between the two is that many types of inspections involve professional judgment to determine acceptability against requirements and there is no analytical data generated by analytical instrumentation. Both standards have similar management requirements based on ISO 9001 (Section 4 in ISO/IEC 17025 and Clause 8 in ISO/IEC 17020). ISO/IEC 17025 is heavy in measurement uncertainty, traceability, and analytical validation. In the ISO/IEC 17020 standard for forensic agencies, the term Inspection applies to crime scene investigations and/or examination of forensic evidence. The term Inspector then applies to an examiner or analyst who uses professional judgment to examine or inspect evidence with the aim to determine if the comparison between items meets certain criteria. The term Inspector also applies to an investigator who uses professional judgment to examine a crime scene with the aim to contribute to determining what, where, when, how, and why something happened and who was involved.
Contact ANAB to learn more about our forensic programs with either of these standards: