Conference: Risky profiles: Societal dimensions of forensic uses of DNA analysis

Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, 2-3 July 2010

Registration is free, but places are limited; please contact Barbara Prainsack at by 15 June 2010 at the latest.

Forensic uses of DNA technologies have become crucial elements of national systems of criminal justice. In addition, as a result of growing transnational mobility and the global use of information and communication technologies crime and crime prevention issues are increasingly addressed by agencies and policy actors beyond the national state. In the European context, the so-called Prüm regime obliges law enforcement authorities in all EU countries to render their forensic DNA databases searchable for other member states by 2011 (at a match/no match basis). This also means that countries which do not yet have centralized forensic DNA databases need to establish them by that date. In sum, the importance of forensic DNA databasing will continue to increase in the political and public arenas across Europe.

While the legal and criminological implications of forensic and police uses of DNA analysis and databasing have received ample attention in the last decade, their societal dimensions have not been systematically explored. Social science projects in this field are relatively scarce, and there is virtually no comparative social science research on this topic across countries. Our workshop aims to fill this gap: Social scientists who pioneer(ed) work in this field will present their research projects and engage in a dialogue with an eminent molecular biologist in Portugal, António Amorim. A concluding round table discussion will be dedicated to explicating current challenges faced by social science research in the field of forensic DNA profiling and datatabasing.


2 July:

  • 14.00 Welcome and introduction by workshop organisers (Thomas Lemke and Barbara Prainsack)
  • 14.30 Robin Williams, Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science, UK: Forensic DNA Profiling: Policy, Evidence and Practice
  • 15.30 Corinna Kruse, University of Linköping, Sweden: In the Absence of an Absolute Truth – Forensic Evidence in Swedish Criminal Justice
  • 16.30 Coffee break
  • 17.00 Victor Toom, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Truth for Sale?
  • 18.00 Evening lecture (+ discussion): António Amorim, Institute of Pathology and Molecular Immunology (IPATIMUP), and Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto, Portugal: Forensic geneticists and sociologists: Can we talk?

3 July:

  • 9.00 Johanne Yttri Dahl, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway: DNA – the Nor-way: black boxing the evidence and monopolizing the key
  • 10.00 Helena Machado, Institute of Sociology, University of Minho, Portugal: Prisoners’ views on forensic DNA technologies
  • 11.00 Coffee Break
  • 11.30 Round table: Challenges to social science research in the field forensic DNA profiling and databasing (chair: Thomas Lemke and Barbara Prainsack, participants: invited speakers, and Reinhard Kreissl, Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology, Vienna, Austria)
  • 12.30 Lunch and end of workshop

The workshop is organised by Thomas Lemke (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main) and Barbara Prainsack (King’s College London). It will take place at the Campus Westend of the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, 2-3 July 2010. The workshop is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service.

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