5. Symposium

Extended DNA analyses in forensic use: Possibilities, Challenges, Risks

June 9-10 2017

The extended use of forensic DNA analysis, in particular forensic DNA phenotyping (FDP) and the determination of what is known as “biogeographic ancestry,” is currently being discussed nationwide in Germany. Extremely positive and uncritical media reports, which focus almost exclusively on possibilities and opportunities, have shaped the public perception since November 2016. Rarely discussed, however, are risks, error rates, as well as ethical issues. Reflective or critical opinions have only recently begun to appear in the public debate (see “Media”).

Outside Germany, where these technologies are already in use, however, researchers have been critically assessing the context of these technologies’ uses and the consequences of its use for some time. They have shown that misapplications of these technologies can occur and have occurred and have tried to demonstrate ways to avoid future misuses. This constructive debate has already prompted many improvements in the dialogue among investigators, lawyers, and decision-makers. Furthermore, as members of ethics groups, boards, and committees, they were able to directly participate in existing governing structures and decision-making processes, regarding questions of when and how the technique can be used meaningfully (or when and how they cannot).

In contrast, this field of research is currently still missing in Germany, and we are far from comparable multidisciplinary decision-making-structures and regulatory structures. So far, expertise in this area is exclusively the province of natural scientists, engineers, as well as investigators. As a result, a balanced and constructively critical discussion capable of producing cautious and prudent regulation of these techniques cannot take place.

The goal of this symposium is to make a complementary contribution to the current debate over extended DNA analysis in Germany, with an emphasis on the social scientific and ethical perspectives that have so far been omitted from the debate. We hope that this will contribute to the development of a sustained, comprehensively informed, interdisciplinary, and balanced debate. In addition, the scientific and technical limitations of extended DNA analysis, and of the draft legislation proposed by the state of Baden-Württemberg, have to be openly discussed with the experts in the relevant disciplines. This is the only way to identify and avoid undesirable and unexpected consequences of one-sided legislative initiatives.


The symposium will take place at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS). Talks and discussions will be in German.

Further details to the program can be found here soon.


  • Prof. Dr. Anna Lipphardt (Cultural Anthropology), Institute for Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, University Freiburg
  • Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt (Science and Technology Studies/History of Science), University College Freiburg, University Freiburg

Current list of speakers:

  • Sven Adam (Attorney, specializing in Social Law), Law firm of Adam, Göttingen
  • Thomas Bliwier (Attorney, specializing in Social Law), BDK Attorneys, Hamburg
  • Dr. Nicholas Buchanan (Science and Technology Studies/History of Science), University College Freiburg (University Freiburg)
  • Prof. Dr. Joachim Burger (Population Genetics), Institute for Anthropology, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz
  • Prof. Dr. Torsten Heinemann (Sociology and Science Studies), Institute for Sociology, University Hamburg
  • Dr. Daniela Hunold (Criminologist), German Police University, Münster
  • Manfred Klumpp, Regional Chairman of the Federation of German Criminal Investigators, Baden-Württemberg, Böblingen
  • Prof. Dr. Amade M’charek (Social Anthropology), Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam
  • Prof. Dr. Carsten Momsen (Law), Department of Criminal Law, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Dr. Tino Plümecke (Sociology), Institute for Sociology, University Basel
  • Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Lutz Roewer (Forensic Medicine and Genetics), Institute for Forensic Science, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • Dr. Susanne Schultz (Political Science), Gen-ethisches Netzwerk (Genetic Ethics Network) e.V. (GeN), Berlin
  • Andreas Stenger (Chief of the Criminal Division), State Office of Criminal Investigation Baden-Württemberg, Institute for Criminal Technology, Stuttgart
  • Dr. Fabian Staubach (Population genetics/biology), Institute for Biology, University of Freiburg
  • Dr. Victor Toom, (Sociologist), Institute for Sociology, Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main
  • Dr. Thilo Weichert (Attorney and Political Scientist), Board member of the Deutschen Vereinigung für Datenschutz (German Association for Data Privacy) e. V., Bonn
  • Dr. Matthias Wienroth (Political Sciences/Social Studies), Policy Ethics & Life Sciences Research Centre, Newcastle University