DNA in police work. New methods. New challenges?
Webinar 23-25 September, 2020

Dates and time
Wednesday 23 September:    11 am - 1.15 pm (Oslo time): Talks followed by Q&A
Thursday 24 September:        11 am - 1.30 pm (Oslo time): Talks followed by Q&A
Friday 25 September:              11 am - 12.30 pm (Oslo time). Roundtable discussion   
See detailed programme below
Venue: Webinar - access information will be distributed upon registration
Organizers: The Nordic Committee on Bioethics and The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board

The event is open to the public and free of charge 
We encourage you to submit questions to the speakers and to the panel discussions.  Please submit your questions in the Zoom Q&A window, learn how it works how here!

You can watch speaker videos here
And read an article (in Norwegian)

If you are having issues accessing the webinar, contact anna.herou@nordforsk.org

Over three days, speakers from a diversity of areas such as forensic science, crime investigation, law, biochemistry and anthropology, will be discussing ethical issues and developments in the practice and regulation of DNA in police work.

In the mid-1980s, a method for identifying individuals through DNA analysis was invented. Today, DNA fingerprinting is used all over the world in cases involving criminal activity and missing persons.

These tests use part of the DNA, previously known as junk DNA, that don’t code for actual characteristics in people. This has been viewed as a strength of the method in light of privacy considerations.

However, in recent years new methods for using DNA in police work have been developed. We now have the ability to search for a partial match of a DNA profile and identify potential family members, whether in police or private ancestry databases. Another method, known as DNA phenotyping, involves genetic testing that can provide information about what an unknown suspect might look like. This method may be useful when there is no matching DNA profile in the
Both methods have been used to help solve cases. In Europe, however, only a few countries have amended its legislation to allowed new uses of DNA testing. In many countries the legal framework is uncertain.

The use of new DNA methods raises questions relating to technology, legal framework and ethics.

We will focus on the ethics of the subject and have invited people with different backgrounds to discuss topics such as:

  •  Which challenges are known from police work today and which are new?
  • Regulation and practice in the Nordics and in Europe
  • Privacy and genetic integrity
  • Profiling and discrimination: Is this technology neutral or are there embedded biases?
  • The ethics of visual representations: Are visual traits less stigmatising? Or the opposite?
  • Technologisation: A space left for human judgment?
  • Good and bad practice: The ethics of context and communication
Pictures taken from the artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg´s work «Stranger visions» with kind permission from the artist.  In her work «Stranger Visions» the artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg collected hairs, chewed up gum, and cigarette butts from the streets, public bathrooms and waiting rooms of New York City. After extracting DNA from them she made portraits representing what those individuals might look like, based on genomic research. Read more about the project here. An article in norwegian about her work can be read here.

Detailed webinar programme

Wednesday 23, 11 am - 1.15 pm (Oslo time): Talks followed by live panel discussion   

Moderator: Sigurður Kristinsson, NCBIO

  • Welcome
  • Keynote: Matthias Wienroth, VC Senior Fellow, Centre for Crime & Policing, Department of Social Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
    «The Ethical Governance Imperative: Forensics & Surveillance at a Crossroads»
  • Q&A


  • Jari Louhelainen, Biochemistry, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, University of Liverpool: «Who was Jack the Ripper? New opportunities in forensic DNA analysis: from drownings to wolfs»

12.00-13.15 Perspectives from the Nordics

  • Björgvin Sigurðsson, Reykjavik municipal police: «Forensic DNA in Iceland: Past, present and possible future»
  • Andreas Tillmar, University of Linköping, Sweden. «Application of investigative genetic genealogy in Sweden»
  • Turid Haugen Tor, The National Criminal Investigation Service (KRIPOS) Norway: «DNA in police work in Norway»
  • Q&A


Thursday 24, 11 am - 1.30 pm (Oslo time): Talks followed by live panel discussion

Moderator: Madeleine Hayenhjelm, NCBIO

  • Welcome
  • Keynote: Amade M´charek, prof. of Anthropology of science, University of Amsterdam
    “Race Trouble and Forensic Genetics: The Case of Investigative Methods”
  • Q&A


  • Thomas Berg, Centre for forensic science, UiT The Arctic University of Norway: «Forensic DNA Phenotyping: Towards predicting human appearance from crime scene DNA»

12.00-13.30 Ethical perspectives

  • Mareile Kaufman, PRIO and Department of criminology and sociology of law, University of Oslo: «The digitization of DNA evidence – What is at stake?»
  • Gabrielle Samuel, Kings college London: «Ethical and social challenges of ´new´ forensic genetic technologies»


  • Roos Hopman, University of Amsterdam: «Accuracy, commonality, and valuing: the differing logics of forensic DNA phenotyping»
  • Jens Erik Paulsen, The Norwegian Police University College, Oslo: «Trustworthiness, emergent technology and the Dirty Harry Problem»
  • Q&A


Friday 25, 11 am - 12.30 pm: Panel discussion and commentary. Live webinar

Moderator: Truls Petersen, NCBIO / The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board

  • Welcome
  • Comments from invited guests
    • Shoaib Sultan, politician, Norway
    • Heather Dewey-Hagborg, artist, USA
    • Per Arne Kalbakk, ethics editor NRK, Norway
    • Eirik Natås Hanssen,  scientist, Oslo University Hospital, Norway
  • Live roundtable discussion

Submit your questions to the speakers in the Zoom Q&A window - learn how it works how here

Truls Petersen: +47 97088101 / truls.petersen@bioteknologiradet.no
Anna Herou: +47 48063139 / anna.herou@nordforsk.org

Note: Nicolaj Sivan Holst, Faculty of Law, Aarhus, who was scheduled to speak on Wednseday 23 September has unfortunately had to cancel.