A proposal for a White Paper on Geoethics in Forensic Geology

Lorna A. Dawson*, Rosa Maria Di Maggio, Jennifer McKinley, Giuseppe Di Capua, Silvia Peppoloni, Jamie Pringle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
143 Downloads (Pure)


This paper details the construction of a White Paper on Geoethics in Forensic Geology. It focuses on forensic geology, although it also relates to the wider sphere of the forensic geosciences. Forensic geology is rapidly evolving to provide assistance in police investigations and in criminal and civil courts with providing scientific advice and evidence, but there also should be associated clear guidelines to benefit both the practitioner and the justice system. Examples of where forensic geology delivers to society in a vital way is required and also where potential malpractice could happen.
The paper discusses where forensic geology should pursue social justice in compliance with current legal systems. In order to achieve this goal, it outlines the main areas that we suggest should be developed within the discipline: the competence of the scientist in forensic geology; creation of best practice guidelines; establishing clear duties of the expert in forensic geology; consideration of ethical aspects in forensic geological activities and ethical aspects in communicating geoscience evidence. When developing geoethics within forensic geology, the following practices were identified as of prime importance: improved standardisation of methods; the use of appropriate methods and/or combination of complementary methods; greater clarity of approach used for the location of areas of interest; collection and recovery of evidence; scene examination and sample collection evaluation of data; construction and appropriate use of databases, background information, documentation, cartography and communicating forensic data; summarising evidence and acknowledgement and consideration of uncertainty and bias. Honesty, integrity, respect, transparency, competence, and reliability are vital for the forensic geoscientist to adhere to. Raising the ethical profile of the forensic geoscience profession aims to pave the way to ensure that forensic geoscientists are empowered now and into the future for serving society: acting responsibly and adopting effective ethical codes is vitally important for a safe society.
This paper highlights the necessity to hold urgent discussions on the ethical and social implications of forensic geology and their potential repercussions on societal justice. Forensic geology is a very useful tool, but like any other tool in human hands, it presupposes responsibility in its application. Professionalism and honesty in forensic geology are fundamental to assure the public that geoscientists involved have the highest scientific respectability, social credibility, and community respect for their role to help pursue judicial truth. The aim of this draft White Paper is to stimulate an open and informed debate on geoethics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeoethics: Status and Future Perspectives
EditorsG. Di Capua, P.T. Bobrowsky, S.W Kieffer, C Palinkas
Place of PublicationBath, UK
PublisherGeological Society, London
ISBN (Print)978-1-78620-538-4
Publication statusPublished - 05 Feb 2021


  • Forensic Science; Geoforensics; soils; landforms; crime; burials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • General
  • Environmental Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'A proposal for a White Paper on Geoethics in Forensic Geology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this