Rational of the Network

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.