International Society for Forensic Genetics

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International Society for
Forensic Genetics
ISFG logo.png
PurposeThe society aims to promote scientific knowledge in the field of genetic markers as applied to forensic science.
John M. Butler
Vice President
Walther Parson

The International Society for Forensic Genetics – ISFG is an international non-profit scientific society founded in 1968. The main goal of the society is to advance the field of forensic genetics, also termed DNA profiling, through dissemination of scientific results and opinions, communication amongst scientists and education. The bi-annual international ISFG congresses, international workshops and seminars, the society’s scientific journal (Forensic Science International: Genetics), and the scientific recommendations on current topics all work towards this goal.[1] The society’s website contains up to date information on all activities.[2]


The International Society for Forensic Genetics – ISFG – was founded in 1968 in Mainz, Germany, under the name Gesellschaft für forensische Blutgruppenkunde (Society for Forensic Haemogenetics). The society was founded as a non-profit organisation according to German civil law. The original aim of the society was to promote the science of genetic markers in human blood for use in forensic science. In 1989, the society was transformed to an international society (International Society for Forensic Haemogenetics – ISFH). In 1991, based on the transition from traditional serological markers in blood to universal DNA polymorphisms the name was changed into International Society for Forensic Genetics. Currently the ISFG strives to support all research interests in forensic genetics, also including non-human DNA studies, RNA-based test systems, and large-scale sequencing technologies.[3] At the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the ISFG in 2018, the society has published a brochure highlighting its achievements to promote scientific knowledge in the field of forensic genetics.[4]

Membership and activities[edit]


In January 2020, the ISFG had approximately 1,400 individual members from more than 60 countries. The members are typically in academic institutions, criminal justice and police organizations, as well as private companies. The members’ fields of expertise include forensic biology, molecular genetics, population genetics, blood group serology, forensic pathology, parentage testing, biostatistics, criminal law, medical ethics.

International ISFG congresses[edit]

The ISFG organises biennial international congresses, with educational workshops preceding the congress. This is achieved with the help of local forensic institutes or universities that will form a local organizing committee and host the congress under the joint leadership of the ISFG board and the local congress president. From 1985–2005, conference volumes with short articles based on these presentations were originally published as books under the title Advances in Forensic Haemogenetics and later as Progress in Forensic Genetics.[5]

Since 2007, the proceedings have been published electronically as part of the Forensic Science International: Genetics Supplement Series and can be accessed online.[6] Past ISFG meetings have been held mainly in Europe but also in cities on other continents such as New Orleans and San Francisco in the US, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Melbourne, Australia, and Seoul, South Korea. The ISFG meetings often serve as a focal point for a dialogue of relevant scientific issues, as in the 2007 Single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) panel discussion,[7] or the debate on the limits of low template DNA in forensic genetics.[8]

The DNA Commission[edit]

The DNA Commission of the ISFG functions as an international DNA expert advisory group and is formed based on emerging needs when dealing with new DNA technologies.[9] For each topic the ISFG board will invite scientists with specific expertise and form a commission to discuss open issues and formulate recommendations that provide guidance to forensic geneticists. While not binding, these recommendations are a first step to establishing standards for new genetic typing methods. ISFG recommendations are a valuable tool for forensic geneticists and as such are highly cited by other scientists.[10]

Shortly after the implementation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based short tandem repeat (STR) DNA testing, the ISFG was instrumental in the standardization of allele designations,[11] which was a key component in inter-laboratory data comparability and the creation of national DNA databases.[12] DNA commission topics also have included best practices for paternity and relationship testing now integrated into forensic genetics textbooks.[13] All published recommendations of the DNA and the Paternity Testing Commissions can be accessed openly on the ISFG website.

Language-based working parties[edit]

The ISFG has language-based working groups for Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Korean, Polish and Spanish-Portuguese members.[14] They meet regularly and typically work on topics of regional or national interest. The English Speaking Working Group (ESWG) offers an annual proficiency testing exercise for paternity testing laboratories. The Relationship Testing Workshop is open to all members of the ESWG and each year, blood samples, a questionnaire and a paper challenge are sent to the participating laboratories.[15]

The Spanish and Portuguese Speaking Working Group of the ISFG (GHEP-ISFG) was founded in 1989 and has been actively supporting and coordinating the development of forensic DNA typing in Spain, Portugal and Latin America.[16] The GHEP-ISFG focuses on quality and scientific methodology and has organised many collaborative exercises on a variety of topics and shared the results with the scientific community through several publications. GHEP has also established a proficiency testing program, which as of December 2014 has been accredited by ENAC National Accreditation Entity in Spain under the standard ISO/IEC 17043: 2010.[17]

The European DNA Profiling Group[edit]

The European DNA Profiling Group (EDNAP) was established in 1988 by scientists from European countries.[3][18] The initial purpose of EDNAP was to harmonize DNA technologies for criminal investigations so that DNA results could be exchanged across the borders in Europe. In 1991, the group was included among the working groups of the ISFG. It consists of approximately 20 European laboratories and collaborates closely with the DNA Working Group of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI).[19]

EDNAP organises collaborative exercises in order to explore the possibility of standardization of new forensic genetic methods. The results of the exercises are published in peer-reviewed journals. One valuable resource resulting from these activities is the "EDNAP mitochondrial DNA Population Database", short EMPOP, which is being maintained by the Institute for Legal Medicine of the Innsbruck Medical University, Austria.[20] This database allows for the determination of the statistical weight of evidence for forensic mitochondrial DNA-typing results.[21]

Honorary members[edit]

The general assembly of ISFG members has appointed a number of distinguished honorary members, among them Erik Essen-Möller, Alsbäck/Lysekil, Sweden; Ruth Sanger, London, UK; Otto Prokop, Berlin, Germany; Konrad Hummel, Freiburg, Germany; Sir Alec Jeffreys, Leicester, UK.


  1. ^ Butler, John M. (2012) "Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Methodology", Elsevier Academic Press: San Diego. p. 168 (Print ISBN 9780123745132, Electronic ISBN 9780123878236)
  2. ^ "ISFG -". Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Morling, Niels (2013) History of the International Society for Forensic Genetics - ISFG. Chapter in Siegel, J.A. & Saukko, P.J. (editors) Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences, Second Edition. Elsevier Academic Press: San Diego. pp. 365-368 (Print ISBN 9780123821652, Electronic ISBN 9780123821669)
  4. ^ "50 years International Society for Forensic Genetics 1968 - 2018" (PDF). Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  5. ^ "ISFG - Publications/Congress Proceedings". Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  6. ^ "Forensic Science International: Genetics Supplement Series". Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  7. ^ Butler, J.M.; Budowle, B.; Gill, P.; Kidd, K.K.; Phillips, C.; Schneider, P.M.; Vallone, P.M.; Morling, N. (2008). "Report on ISFG SNP Panel Discussion". Forensic Science International: Genetics Supplement Series. 1 (1): 471–472. doi:10.1016/j.fsigss.2007.10.159. ISSN 1875-1768.
  8. ^ Butler, John M. (2014) "Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Interpretation", Elsevier Academic Press: San Diego. (Print ISBN 9780124052130, Electronic ISBN 9780124058545), p. 318-319.
  9. ^ Butler, John M. (2013) Forensic DNA advisory groups: DAB, SWGDAM, ENFSI, and BSAG. Chapter in Siegel, J.A. & Saukko, P.J. (editors) Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences, Second Edition. Elsevier Academic Press: San Diego. pp. 339-343 (Print ISBN 9780123821652, Electronic ISBN 9780123821669)
  10. ^ King, C. (2011) For high impact forensics, the clues point to Europe. Science Watch Featured Analyses July August. Retrieved July 9, 2013
  11. ^ Schneider, Peter M. (2007). "Scientific standards for studies in forensic genetics". Forensic Science International. 165 (2–3): 238–243. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2006.06.067. ISSN 0379-0738.
  12. ^ Butler, John M. (2012) "Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Methodology", Elsevier Academic Press: San Diego. p. 123-126 (Print ISBN 9780123745132, Electronic ISBN 9780123878236)
  13. ^ Butler, John M. (2014) "Advanced Topics in Forensic DNA Typing: Interpretation" Elsevier Academic Press: San Diego. (Print ISBN 9780124052130, Electronic ISBN 9780124058545), p. 364-366.
  14. ^ "ISFG - Working Groups". Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  15. ^ "Website of the Relationship Testing Workshop". Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  16. ^ Alonso, A., Albarran, C. (2000) The Spanish and Portuguese ISFG Working Group: Ten Years Coordinating DNA Typing In Spain, Portugal and Latin America. Profiles in DNA, August 2000, 7-8;
  17. ^ Gómez, Josefina; Alonso, Antonio; Garcı́a, Oscar; Carracedo, Angel (2003). "The proficiency testing program on DNA typing of the Spanish and Portuguese working group of the International Society for Forensic Genetics". International Congress Series. 1239: 837–840. doi:10.1016/S0531-5131(02)00395-3. ISSN 0531-5131.
  18. ^ "EDNAP - EDNAP". Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  19. ^ "Welcome to ENFSI". Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  20. ^ Parson, Walther; Dür, Arne (2007). "EMPOP—A forensic mtDNA database". Forensic Science International: Genetics. 1 (2): 88–92. doi:10.1016/j.fsigen.2007.01.018. ISSN 1872-4973.
  21. ^ "EMPOP". Retrieved January 25, 2020.

External links[edit]