Quality assured science: Managerialism in forensic biology

Myles Leslie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article takes as its point of departure the idea that the adoption of managerial principles to ensure the quality of DNA evidence is an accident of history which has changed the ways forensic biology is conducted and forensic biologists think. I begin by defining managerialism and tracking its entry into the contentious world of forensic biology, asking how it is that a focus on efficiency and precise process control is affecting these labs. My analysis unfolds in two parts. I first look at the external inspection routines that assure quality in forensic labs and the degree to which these routines represent "self" rather than "peer" assessment. I next look at the internal lab quality assurance (QA) routines that facilitate managerial control of technical and scientific workers, noting that QA is a trope flexible enough to govern both the numerically auditable and quasirobotic activities of technicians along with the less tangible more consensus-based human interactions of scientists. Illustrating that "science" is being pushed aside by management imperatives, I examine the consequences of this new emphasis for both the lab workers and the criminal justice system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-306
Number of pages24
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Accountability
  • Audit
  • Forensic biology
  • Forensic science
  • Managerialism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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