Genetics and Forensics: Making the National DNA Database

  • Paul Johnson
  • Paul Martin
  • Robin Williams
Keywords: DNA, databases, forensic sciences.


This paper is based on a current study of the growing police use of the epistemic authority of molecular biology for the identification of criminal suspects in support of crime investigation. It discusses the development of DNA profiling and the establishment and development of the UK National DNA Database (NDNAD) as an instance of the ‘scientification of police work’ (Ericson and Shearing 1986) in which the police uses of science and technology have a recursive effect on their future development. The NDNAD, owned by the Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales, is the first of its kind in the world and currently contains the genetic profiles of more than 2 million people. The paper provides a framework for the examination of this socio-technical innovation, begins to tease out the dense and compact history of the database and accounts for the way in which changes and developments across disparate scientific, governmental and policing contexts, have all contributed to the range of uses to which it is put.


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