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Extended DNA analyses in forensic use: Possibilities, Challenges, Risks

When Jun 09, 2017 10:00 AM to
Jun 10, 2017 04:00 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, seminar room
Contact Name
Contact Phone +49 (0)761 203-97362
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The extended use of forensic DNA analysis, in particular forensic DNA phenotyping (FDP) and the determination of what is known as “biogeographic ancestry,” is currently being discussed nationwide in Germany. Extremely positive and uncritical media reports, which focus almost exclusively on possibilities and opportunities, have shaped the public perception since November 2016. Rarely discussed, however, are risks, error rates, as well as ethical issues. Reflective or critical opinions have only recently begun to appear in the public debate (see “Media”).

Outside Germany, where these technologies are already in use, however, researchers have been critically assessing the context of these technologies’ uses and the consequences of its use for some time. They have shown that misapplications of these technologies can occur and have occurred and have tried to demonstrate ways to avoid future misuses. This constructive debate has already prompted many improvements in the dialogue among investigators, lawyers, and decision-makers. Furthermore, as members of ethics groups, boards, and committees, they were able to directly participate in existing governing structures and decision-making processes, regarding questions of when and how the technique can be used meaningfully (or when and how they cannot).

In contrast, this field of research is currently still missing in Germany, and we are far from comparable multidisciplinary decision-making-structures and regulatory structures. So far, expertise in this area is exclusively the province of natural scientists, engineers, as well as investigators. As a result, a balanced and constructively critical discussion capable of producing cautious and prudent regulation of these techniques cannot take place.

The goal of this symposium is to make a complementary contribution to the current debate over extended DNA analysis in Germany, with an emphasis on the social scientific and ethical perspectives that have so far been omitted from the debate. We hope that this will contribute to the development of a sustained, comprehensively informed, interdisciplinary, and balanced debate. In addition, the scientific and technical limitations of extended DNA analysis, and of the draft legislation proposed by the state of Baden-Württemberg, have to be openly discussed with the experts in the relevant disciplines. This is the only way to identify and avoid undesirable and unexpected consequences of one-sided legislative initiatives.


Please visit the german webpage for further information regarding the registration. Talks and discussions will be in German.


The programme is available as PDF download here.



Prof. Dr. Anna Lipphardt (Cultural Anthropology), Institute for Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, University Freiburg

Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt (Science and Technology Studies/History of Science), University College Freiburg, University Freiburg