Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Socio-technical disagreements as ethical fora. Parabon NanoLab’s forensic DNA SnapshotTM service at the intersection of discourses around robust science, technology validation, and commerce

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matthias WienrothORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


DNA profiling and databasing technologies have become integral to criminal justice practices in many countries, and their reliability is now rarely challenged. However, a new set of forensic genetics technologies has emerged, one of which is Forensic DNA Phenotyping (FDP). FDP aims to infer a person's visible traits from DNA, and to predict biogeographical ancestry, in order to provide intelligence for difficult investigations. Debates around FDP have been largely academic and legal, but in some countries they have become of public interest. Here, many scientists and practitioners tend to avoid publically articulating disagreement about the limitations of such technologies. This paper attends to a rare public disagreement about technoscientific practices in the wider forensic genetics community about a commercial forensic service called SnapshotTM which utilises FDP. Its analysis of scientists' ethical reasoning about the development and use of this set of technologies contributes to understanding the political economy of forensic genetics, at the intersection of scientific ethics, forensic practice, and commercial resources that make visible and enable further scientific research in the field. More widely, this paper proposes that attending to public ethical debates such as this offers much-needed insight into the various intersecting stakes that co-constitute emerging technologies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wienroth M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BioSocieties

Year: 2020

Volume: 15

Issue: 1

Pages: 28-45

Online publication date: 09/11/2018

Acceptance date: 20/10/2018

Date deposited: 22/10/2018

ISSN (print): 1745-8552

ISSN (electronic): 1745-8560

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan


DOI: 10.1057/s41292-018-0138-8


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric