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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Completed Projects

The Future of Forensic Bioinformation

A research project of the Department of Sociology.

Background

The project critically examines current patterns of forensic bioinformation utilisation within the justice system, and assess the recent trajectory of forensic science policy, using the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report on forensic bioinformation as the stimulus for further research and expert deliberation. There is a lack of robust evidence and critical assessment of the benefits and costs of rapidly increasing expenditure in this area, preventing informed decision-making and the prioritising of investment in forensic bioinformation within the legal system domestically and trans-nationally.

Aims

The aim of the project is to produce concrete proposals informed by operational and policy viewpoints, resulting in a ‘handbook of internationally valid good practice’ for use by policy makers, legislators, forensic scientists, police staff and prosecutors.

Methods

The project focus is the preparation and facilitation of expert meetings to examine forensic bioinformation processes within (or relevant to) the justice system, and the operation and governance of forensic bioinformation databases. Document and data collection, and provisional summaries by the investigators support the meetings of law enforcement professionals, practitioners, government representatives, academics and other key stakeholders. A series of four targeted meetings are being held, with a couple of invited speakers to inform the debate at each, with the remainder of the day dedicated to open (directed) discussion and debate. The meetings are organised to encourage deliberation and negotiation over current practice as well as proposals for change and development. The investigators will collate the ideas from meetings and disseminate a report which can be used by stakeholders to make informed changes in both the short and longer term. Finally, the international symposium (July 2009) will be an opportunity to test and further refine these ideas (before the report is finalised) with European and international counterparts. Other international contributors will bring to the debate new perspectives and information which may well further shape UK reform proposals.

Staff

From the Department of Sociology

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