1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · Research

How DNA matters: An ethnographic investigation of police practices

David Wyatt

Start date


Affiliated staff

Christine Hauskeller and Dana Wilson-Kovacs


Tel: 01392 269142 Fax: 01392 264676

Homepages: David Wyatt Egenis Research Student, , and Email: dmw206@exeter.ac.uk

Building: Byrne House

Room Number: FF10

Funded by

ESRC (Egenis)


This project considers the role of the perceptions, the training and the practices of Crime Scene Investigators in their use of DNA and forensic science in day-to-day police work. Paying specific attention to the taught and tacit knowledge used in the practices surrounding the use of forensics, demarcating and defining the crime scene and managing the relationships between the different stakeholders involved in criminal investigations, the research will contribute to discussions on intelligence-led policing and the development of future policing strategy.


This study explores the infrastructural provisions, routines and concepts involved in the everyday uses of DNA and forensic science as instruments of police investigation and crime detection. The research is empirical and will be conducted in collaboration with a number of UK police organisations. Bridging the gap between Science and Technology Studies and sociological analyses of institutions, it will provide an account of the role of genetic and scientific instruments in policing and offer a detailed contribution to an underexplored area of sociology.


The Exeter University’s ethics approval to carry out this project has been secured. Currently in the planning stage, this research will ideally incorporate ethnographic fieldwork at the NPIA’s Forensics Training Centre, including a combination of participant observation and qualitative interviews with trainers and trainees (before, during and six to nine months after they have finished their training).In addition, qualitative interviews with Crime Scene Managers, other members of the Scientific Support departments and detectives at two UK police stations are planned.The resulting empirical data will be supported by an analysis of documents from a number of sources including: forensic genetic literature, police and government protocols, extant social science literature and scientific information on the required standards for the collection, processing and storage of DNA samples.