USA Digital Forensics Information Intelligence Site (DFII) for the Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science


Digital Forensics

The National Science Foundation has awarded an Industry–University Cooperative Research Centers Program (IUCRC) grant to the University of South Alabama School of Computing for a site that focuses on Digital Forensics Information Intelligence (DFII), as part of a Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science (CARFS). The National Science Foundation (NSF) grant is co-sponsored with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The two-site center functions through the IUCRC Program at NSF.

The IUCRC program enables industrially-relevant, pre-competitive research via multi-member, sustained partnerships between industry, academia, and the government. This 40+ year old program has been highly successful, and it currently has over 70 active centers involving Fortune 500 companies, as well as mid-sized and small businesses, government agencies, foundations, and associations. Industry members pay a membership fee each year (this center: $25,000), with a minimum of 90% of those funds going toward Center research projects. For the site at USA, the NSF and the NIJ support the administrative costs.

Each IUCRC has an Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) made up of a representative from each industry member across all Center research sites. The IAB plays a central role in the direction of the Center, advising the Center Director and individual Site Directors on the projects to be supported by the Center, project modifications, and new projects or research directions. Center industry members have access to all intellectual property (IP) produced across all sites of a Center. Patent rights are held by the university where research was conducted. Members who wish to exercise rights to a royalty-free license pay for the costs of patent application. If only one company seeks a license, it may obtain an exclusive, fee-bearing license. All Center members sign a membership agreement that outlines the key aspects of the program (e.g. IAB, shared IP, licensing rights), and additional logistical and procedural details are outlined in center bylaws.

In addition to access to all intellectual property, there are several other advantages of Center membership, including interaction with students who represent potential future employees, collaboration with research faculty and potential for spin-off projects outside of a Center, and sector networking. Also, there is the potential for novel developments and significant innovation that would not be realized without cross-site project integration and synergy. It is anticipated that the research outcomes of CARFS will in many cases be relevant beyond the forensic science sector.

The two research sites that are the foundation for CARFS include the University of South Alabama and Florida International University. Each site is subsidized by the National Science Foundation through funds provided by the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Justice. This provides a benefit to industry advisory board members in that the majority of the money they provide goes directly to the researchers without the normal rates of overhead and other costs normally associated with research projects. The structure of an IUCRC encourages collaboration between industry advisory board members due to foundational nature of the research being conducted. 

Moreover, additional valuable collaborative opportunities are created because the IUCRC allows other non-NSF funded universities to participate within a research site. While these universities do not have their own research sites within the Center, their researchers are allowed to participate in research opportunities with IAB members under specific circumstances. For example, FIU has allowed Northeastern University to affiliate with their site, and South Alabama enjoys a mutually beneficial affiliate relationship with Texas A&M University.