EUnetSSF Launch Programme


European Network for the Social Studies of Forensics (EUnetSSF)

November 22 – 23 2013, Amsterdam, the Netherlands



Nov, 22nd Allard Pierson Museum (Amsterdam)

Nov, 23rd University Library Singel (Amsterdam)

Rational for the event

In the past 20 years forensic DNA has proved its merits as a powerful technology in criminal justice systems. Meanwhile this technology has evolved and diversified in various ways. Next to innovations that have made it possible to produce trustworthy DNA profiles based on little amount of biological material, forensic DNA has also changed from being solely a tool of identification into an investigative tool. This latter implies that DNA research is not only conducted to establish a link between a biological trace and a known suspect, but also to provide leads about an unknown suspect. Databases-searches, familial searching, DNA-phenotyping are such more or less novel approaches.

This development in technology has also affected the governance of forensic DNA across different countries in Europe.  Although there seems to be a ‘logic of convergence’ towards a homogenization of legal arrangements at play within Europe, there are still major differences in legislation. For example whereas the Netherlands has enacted a law regulating the use of DNA-phenotyping, in many other European countries this use is illegal. In addition, the specific division of labor and of ‘jurisdiction’ among the different actors involved in the criminal investigation and the legal process differs as well.

What are the differences and similarities between European countries in governance and practice of forensic DNA? Do these differences generate different kinds of normative and moral problems and questions? And what are these? Are the different systems across Europe in a flux? And if so, in which directions are they moving? How do legal, political concerns relate to developments in technology? How does the future of forensic genetics and its use in the criminal justice systems look alike? What can we learn from other fields of expertise, such as craniofacial reconstruction? Is there a conversion going on between the different fields in forensics? How can a network of social science scholars afford a better grasp of the trends in forensics in Europe as to anticipate relevant/important sociopolitical and scholarly questions. 

The aim of his event is to launch a European Network for the Social Studies of Forensics (EUnetSSF) through which we can combine strength and expertise, learn from the similarities and differences across Europe and study forensics as an interdisciplinary practice.

Launch Programme

Friday (10:00 – 12:30)                             Network meeting  (closed)
Friday (13:00 – 17:30)                             Network launch with the symposium “Futures of Forensics in Europe (public)

Saturday (10:00 – 17:00)                        Network meeting (closed)

Friday, November 22, 10:00 – 17:30

Allard Pierson Museum, Nina van Leerzaal

10:00 – 12:30     

Closed network meeting chaired by Dr. Amade M’charek

Symposium “Futures of Forensics in Europe”

13:00 – 13:15     

Opening by Dr. Amade M’charek

13:15 – 17:30     

Five guest speakers will give a public address on current developments in the field of forensics, law and governance of forensic data. Each talk will last approximately 30 min, followed by a discussion of say, 15 min.

Chair of the event: Willem Halffman, Radboud University Nijmegen

13:15 – 14:00


Title: Forensic DNA Phenotyping: appearance and ancestry information for investigative intelligence

Abstract: Emerging progress in genetic understanding of (some) human appearance traits and longer lasting accumulative understanding of geographic distribution of genetic variation has led to the idea of using for investigative purposes information on externally visible characteristics and bio-geographic origin obtained directly from crime scene evidence material by molecular analyses (i.e. Forensic DNA Phenotyping or DNA intelligence). This is relevant in those forensic and missing person cases were conventional DNA profiling or any other means of investigation remain uninformative to identify a perpetrator, victim or missing person. This presentation will provide a brief overview about current knowledge on genes that determine human appearance, available markers to predict appearance traits from DNA, and available DNA test systems for appearance prediction, as well as a brief summary about the geographic distributions of human genetic diversity and the scientific prerequisites for DNA inference of bio-geographic origin. I will highlight current availabilities but also limitations and touch on future expectations in this recently emerging field, which reflects an interplay between fundamental human genetics and applied forensic genetics but can also have relevance in medical genetics and community genetics.

Bio: Manfred Keyser is currently a Professor of Forensic Molecular Biology at the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam. Furthermore he is the founding Head of the Department of Forensic Molecular Biology at Erasmus MC. The mission of his department is to provide solutions to currently unsolvable questions in forensics by carrying out fundamental and applied research in human molecular biology and genetics and delivering tools for forensic use. For instance he identified genes involved in eye color, demonstrated that a few genetic markers are sufficient to accurately estimate eye color, developed a DNA test system for eye color prediction and forensically validated it, which now is available for routine forensic applications. Active research lines include molecular inference of appearance traits and bio-geographic origin, molecular age estimation, molecular tissue identification, and molecular trace time estimation. More information can be found at

14:00 – 14:45


Title: Limits and possibilities of morphological identification in forensics

Abstract: The human face and body show a great variety of characteristics that can be described and measured and be identified as being individual or unique. People can, therefore, be recognized and distinguished as individuals by the number of individual characteristics that can be identified. The main problem is how well and in which detail these characteristics can be seen, both in real life or on a photograph. Forensic anthropologists usually have to deal with pictures from crime scenes, or from criminal settings that show people who can hardly be recognized at all. In addition, there may also be artifacts that complicate the visibility of identifying characteristics. Another problem is the lack of published databases from which to take the distribution frequencies of facial and body characteristics in human populations. Selected cases will be shown to demonstrate the possibilities of photogrammetry, image superimposition and direct image matching to solve the problem of how to identify a suspect as being the perpetrator.

Bio: Dr. Kerstin Kreutz studied Biology with a main focus on Anthropology, at the Georg-August-University, Göttingen, Germany. She finished her dissertation at the Zentrum Anatomie, Göttingen, Germany and the Justus-Liebig-University, Gießen, Germany. Dr. Kreutz started working as a Forensic Anthropology expert in 1996. Since 2003 she is part of the Institute for Forensic Anthropology, Wettenberg, Germany.

14:45 – 15:30


Title: The perceived fears for false positive Prüm DNA matches

Abstract: This presentation discusses the basics of the Prüm DNA Exchange process and its matching rules and then explains how one can easily detect and hence prevent false positive matches.

Bio: Dr. Ir. C. P. (Kees) van der Beek MBA was hired by the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) as a project manager in 1999 to help the NFI to expand the capacity of the DNA department and also to develop a DNA-based process for the Dutch Immigration Authorities to verify family relationships. Later on he was asked to become the deputy head of the DNA-department. Presently he is the custodian of the Dutch DNA database and the national contact point for the exchange of DNA-profiles based on the EU-Prüm-Council-Decisions. He is the leading scientist for DNA of the EU-Prum implementation working group. In this role he assists the semi-annually changing chair of this group and the European Commission. He also directs the annual update of the ENFSI DNA Working Group document on DNA-database management and the semi-annual ENFSI overview of the contents and the results of DNA-databases in Europe.

15:30 – 16:00      Coffee break

16:00 – 16:45


Title: Forensic Evidence and Translation Work

Abstract: Producing and using forensic evidence involves a number of different professions – crime scene technicians, forensic scientists, police investigators, prosecutors, judges – with different foci and different expertise. If the judicial system is made up of so disparate professional or epistemic cultures, how does forensic evidence travel between these epistemic cultures without losing its meaning? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Swedish judicial system, I will talk about this travel and the translation work that makes it possible.

Bio: Corinna Kruse graduated in Social and Cultural Anthropology in 2000 from Hamburg University and completed her PhD in Technology and Social Change in 2006 from Linköping University. Since 2013 she is a lecturer at the Department of Technology and Social Change in Linköping University. A theme that she has been interested in is analyzing technoscience in terms of cultural processes. Her PhD thesis examines how notions of humanness and machineness in the laboratory shape scientific practices of making valid data. Currently, Kruse is working on the project “Crime scene investigators as a boundary profession: Organizing the judicial system’s disparate epistemic cultures for cooperation”.

16:45 – 17:00      Closing discussion

17:00 – 17:30     Toast

19:00                 Dinner  

Saturday, November 23, 10:15 – 17:00

University Library Singel, Potgieterzaal


10:00 – 12:30

Identifying similarities and differences between forensic practices, governance and legislation in the different countries. For this purpose, each participant is asked to prepare a 5 to 10-minute presentation on the salient developments in forensics within their field and country.

12:30 – 14:30  Lunch break

14:30 – 17:00

Recap of the previous session.

Discussion about the future development of the network. What could be a good form for the network? How will we organize following meetings? What opportunities for joint research are present? What are possible sources of funding, both for future workshops and joint research? What kind of outcome do we expect?