Research Request

We received this request for help in a research project and we are passing on the information to our readers. Please note that this is not something we at BME are conducting but rather a research project being conducted by a member of BME.

I’m a member of BME and currently doing research on body modifications. Our research has been featured in the news both nationally and internationally, including the BBC.

The purpose of the research is to collect as many images of body modifications as possible that we will use to research how common certain modifications are. While there is a lot of literature on why people acquire a body modification in different groups of society, hardly any articles are published on what type of body modifications and designs are common in different age groups, geographical areas, sexes, etc. When we know that, we can use that knowledge in disaster victim identification and the investigation of unknown victims e.g. to predict where the victim was from, what kind of work he was doing, age group etc. It will also help us to establish the prevalence of a specific tattoo design for example by looking how many times similar designs can be found in our database. This will assist in establishing stronger support for identification when other data is not available such as DNA. So far, our preliminary findings show an interesting relationship between employment and tattoo design as well as country of residence and tattoo design.

The research is completely voluntary and participants can withdraw at any time. Those who wish to participate also have to tick a consent box if they wish to take part in the research.

The research is approved by the University of Dundee’s ethics committee and we are therefore bound to strict data protection rules and research guidelines. I am the only person who can see the personal details of the participant submitting the body modification image. We may share the images with the other partners in our project to develop separate aids for use in disaster victim identification, but they will not get the personal data of any of the participants nor will they get an image unless the participant has given specific consent to share this. We will use the personal data only for my research and participants are not required to give their name or email. Therefore I do not know the person’s identity. It is also important to note that none of the images will be used for policing purposes simply because we don’t have permission to do so. The database will only be used to classify body modifications and establish their prevalence to assist in identifying victims of disasters or unidentified bodies.

If you wish to participate or find out more information, you can visit the website at

3 thoughts on “Research Request

  1. Body modifications are “international” since more than two decades… A lot of tattoo artists travel the world (convention, guest)… For example, there are Marquesan tribal (inspired) tattoos everywhere in the world, old-school designs, etc, etc.
    Speaking about piercing/implants is useless…. Artistic scarifications without cultural “roots” will not give useful informations…
    I am skeptical…………
    “It is also important to note that none of the images will be used for policing purposes simply because we don’t have permission to do so” … Oh, I thought that it was because you did not want to do it…. I’m kidding. ;)

  2. I think that they are more hoping to gather statistical data on the matter. Like, how human remains will often have indicators that suggest not only ethnicity, but region and social status, lifestyle etc. It’s not fool proof, but having a data base about body modification will certainly give people something to work with. To make a very simple comparison- Culturally, flower tattoos on your lower back very strongly suggests that you are female. There are going to be patterns just like that with every type of mod. So when you have unidentifiable remains, even the smallest clue can potentially point you in the right direction. I think this is a pretty awesome idea!

  3. There are crazy implications for privacy here. One of the partners of this project is Interpol, the international police organization. I find it disingenuous to suggest that any project partnered with Interpol won’t be used for policing. However well-intentioned academics may be, law enforcement agencies don’t have a great track record respecting things like whether or not someone gave permission for their data to be used in a particular way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>