Genetics, technology, security and justice: the social life of DNA

matthias-wienroth-150Dr Matthias Wienroth is researcher and knowledge broker at the interface of the sociology of science and technology, public and policy engagement, ethics, and governance studies. He is part of the FP7 European Forensic Genetics (EUROFORGEN) Network of Excellence and Research Fellow at Northumbria University; he is also Visiting Researcher at the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences (PEALS) Research Centre, Newcastle University.

Here, in the latest of our biosocial blog series, he discusses the role of DNA and the research discussed in the ESRC-funded seminar series ‘Genetics, technology, security and justice: Crossing, contesting and comparing boundaries’

DNA evidence is often portrayed as vital to criminal investigations and trials. Just over 30 years ago, in 1984, Alec Jeffreys and his team at Leicester University discovered DNA profiling. In its first application it helped to exonerate one suspect and then build the case for the conviction of another. Today, DNA analysis is often perceived to be the ‘gold standard’ for evidence. Continue reading

‘Big data’ in action: Linking 180 million tweets with 600,000 police records

Professor Matthew Williams and Dr Pete Burnap are directors of the ESRC-funded Social Data Science Lab that continues the successful COSMOS programme of work. The Lab forms part of the Data Innovation Research Institute, which will be housed within the new Social Science Research Park at Cardiff University.

Together with colleagues (Dr Luke Sloan and Professor Omer Rana) they recently presented their intriguing findings about the power of pulling large sets of data from social media in front of 150 policymakers, academics and industry experts at the Data Science and Government ConferenceThe event, organised by the Behavioural Insights Team, looked at how emerging techniques in data science can best be used to support policy agendas in a range of areas.

Professor Matthew Williams and Dr Pete Burnap

Professor Matthew Williams and Dr Pete Burnap

Many would say there has been a lot of hype about the promise of Big Data and Data Science in government circles in recent years.  The Data Science and Government Conference gave one of the first opportunities for presenters, from government and academia, to demonstrate how very large datasets are being put to use in real-world policy contexts to address a range of pressing questions and to introduce new efficiencies. Recently the Cabinet Office developed a set of guidelines for the ethical use of big data in government projects.
Continue reading