Accepted Paper:

Forensic DNA Phenotyping: making human appearance predictable.  


Marianna Fotiadou (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Forensic DNA Phenotyping is an emerging technique which aims to trace suspects in suspect-less criminal cases. This paper examines how forensic scientists argue for the value of the technique by relating to promises about neutrality and accuracy.

Paper long abstract:

Much forensic research has been devoted to the prediction of facial traits as the face is considered to constitute the ultimate individual characteristic. Forensic DNA Phenotyping refers to a newly developed DNA-based forensic technology which predicts external (facial) characteristics by analyzing genetic material found at the crime scene. Forensic geneticists claim that this technique will contribute to criminal investigations, particularly in cases without suspects or eyewitnesses, as well as in cases where conventional DNA matching fails to identify possible perpetrators.

The value of this technique is based on claims regarding the genetic neutrality of individual-specific predictions of visible traits. Thus, DNA accuracy is presented as a tool against possibly prejudiced eyewitness descriptions. Forensic scientists circulate promises about the accuracy and validity of this technique, thus hoping to ensure extra funding for the purposes of further research carried out independently of other associated sciences. Furthermore, they illustrate the legal and social value of this technology, by emphasizing its contribution towards the reduction of racism/ racist phenomena and the obtainment of unmediated and accurate predictions. Nonetheless, the genetic basis of human appearance traits remains largely unexplained. In addition, the varying legal frameworks in European countries restrain the application of the technique as an investigative tool.

Panel T094
Emerging science and technology : questioning the regime of promising