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Photo of Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marin

Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marin

Lecturer (Sociology)

I am a Science and Technology Studies scholar working in the fields of biomedicine, forensics and citizen science. I conduct in-depth ethnographic research of race & genomics, and develop participatory action research models to intervene in humanitarian crises via DNA bio banking, grass-roots databases, and citizen-led science.

I am currently developing research on data justice, citizen-sensing and alternative approaches to scientific innovation in the Global South in spaces like Mexico, Colombia and Indonesia. My current research projects are: Mobile Solutions Against the Mexican Kidnapping Epidemic (Newton Fund-ESRC 2016-19) and Data Justice in Mexico's Multiveillant Society (ESRC Transformative 2018-20). My research has attracted vast public attention since Mexicans are currently dealing with more than 61,000 disappearances (according to the Mexican government) in a context characterised by the complicity of authorities and organised crime. For a brief audio-visual taste of Citizen-Led Forensic watch:

Citizen-Led Technologies


In 2015 we co-created an independent forensic DNA database –with ~500 samples and ~1000 testimonials of violence– that was tailored to the needs, expertise & sensitivities of relatives of the disappeared ( I also coproduced training materials & on-line tutorials for collecting forensic DNA and a song to reach communities in which radio was the main form of communication (ES/M00063X/1). In our Newton Fund project Mobile Solutions Against the Mexican Kidnapping Epidemic (MAKE), centred in digital technologies (ES/P005918/1), I led the creation of a suite of CLS approaches to combat kidnapping in Mexico, including:


  • A handbook/comic book informed by over 60 interviews with victims and offenders. The digital version is accessible via our MAKE Instagram (;



  • A web page & a series of short videos to disseminate the project outputs ( 


  • Cowriting, codirecting & coproducing with a crew of young film-makers six soap opera (Telenovelas) episodes dealing with different types of kidnapping for dissemination & impact (


  • In our current project grappling with data justice in Mexico (ES/R009945/1), we are designing a comic book & coding an app centred on safe mobility, connected with our previous digital technologies.

Research group links

Research interests

 Since 2007 I have conducted ethnographic studies of race, nation and genetics in Colombia and Mexico. In the last five years my work has experimented with alternative ways to imagine and practice techno-science and citizenship in order to bring social justice. Consequently, my research moves away from state-centric paradigms to citizen-led participatory experiments, shifting the locus of authority from the state, to the victims of human rights abuses that act as governors and co-designers of the technologies to search for truth and justice. The goal is to advance a theory methods/package that opens up new, largely unexplored, forms of biopolitics and governmentality.

Below, you can find some links to the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) summaries of the active research projects dealing with Mexico and Citizen-Led Science in which I am involved:


Data Justice & Multiveillance, ESRC Transformative 2018-2020 


Mobile Solutions Against the Mexican Kidnapping Epidemic, Newton Fund/ESRC, 2016-2019. 


Also, some links to the project webpage of my previous ESRC transformative research, Citizen -Led Forensics project 2014-2016 (translated by our local partners to English):



Other information 

External impact and engagement


2017       Silent Witness, script advisor for the season finale title ‘Awakening’ part 1 and part 2, celebrating 20 years of the Drama in BBC One. Episodes inspired in Citizen-Led Forensics (ESRC funded):

2015          ‘Promise’: a song for the disappeared, at:

2015          A  History  of Disappearance in  Three Chapters, at:

2015           Didactic Materials on how to take a DNA sample and engage in Citizen-Led Forensics:   

2014          Schwartz-Marin, E., & Cruz-Santiago, A (2014) How citizens lead the search for Mexico's disappeared. Al Jazeera, World News, 20th of November, available at:  (Opinion Editorial)

2014          Citizen-Led Forensics-Introduction:   



To date my ESRC research has been covered in more than 123 mass media outlets including documentaries, TV news and newspaper articles in Mexico and worldwide. It is covered constantly by local media in Mexico.


2015    BBC World Service. Mexico: A Mother's Search for Her Missing Son.

2014    WBEZ 91.5 Chicago Public Media. Citizens take on their own investigation in Mexico.

2014    Sveriges Radio. Mexiko: Anhöriga skapar nationellt register över försvunna anhöriga.

2014     Radio Fórmula. Familiares de víctimas de desaparición crean sistema forense ciudadano.

2014     Dominio 96.5 FM. Exhuman presuntos restos de Brenda Damaris González Solís.

Newspapers and magazines

2015    Semanario Brecha Uruguay, Nuevas formas de Buscar la Verdad y la Justicia.

2014    The Telegraph. British forensic experts work with Mexican parents to create database of disappeared.

2015    NYHETER. Mexikanska familjer fortsätter söka studenterna.


In 2006 when I first engaged with 'Genomics in Society' I had just recently read “Rules for the Human Zoo: a response to the Letter on Humanism” by Peter Sloterdijk, and I was so inspired by this paper that I decided to achieve a close ethnographic understanding of science, specifically the new genetics. My quest took me to Egenis in 2007, where I completed my master and PhD in 2011. A decade after I first arrived to Exeter University from Mexico City, I am delighted to be back as Lecturer in Sociology.

Currently, I am the PI of an ESRC transformative project entitled: Data Justice in Mexico’s Multiveillant Society (2018-2020), which explores new ways to engage with big data in order to tackle the inherent asymmetries to social media, and surveillance capitalism. I am also the Co-PI of a multi-national Newton Fund project: Mobile Solutions Against the Mexican Kidnapping Epidemic (2016-2019)spanning Mexico, US and Colombia, investigating the multiple (im)mobilities related to kidnapping, in order to create a citizen-led counter-kidnapping system, via the creation of a mobile apps and grass-root governance mechanisms. 

My current projects build on my experience as principal investigator in the ESRC transformative research grant 2014-16 entitled “Citizen-Led Forensics”. During this project, I directed a team of 5 researchers, and together with relatives of the disappeared in Mexico we formed an agenda-setting citizen-led organisation in charge of governing and managing a DNA forensic database.

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