CSIRO-ANU Collaboration on Responsible Innovation

September 2nd, 2020

Creating new research capability that fosters responsible, trusted and innovative precision health and synthetic biology sciences

Project Duration: 17 June 2019 – 31 December 2023

Discussion in front of a large information device about universal detection of genes in a specific biological sample.

Credit: SolStock

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The Challenge

Rapid scientific innovation and technology change can disrupt society as well as provide opportunity to change society for the better. Innovators and technology developers seek to reduce negative disruptions and enhance positive opportunities. Yet achieving these goals requires clear thinking about how innovation and technology are developed, who is impacted, and what influences and interventions might improve the outcomes they create?

Two major areas of innovation that promise positive impacts on human life in coming decades are precision health and synthetic biology. However, innovators in these fields need to effectively consider issues of responsibility, equity, diversity, ethics, trust, social governance, and sustainability. Australian research needs skilled and energetic social scientists to assist with this process.

Responding to the Challenge

CSIRO has partnered with the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) and the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) at the Australian National University (ANU). Senior science leaders from CSIRO and ANU will support two early career social science researchers focused on these two vital domains of precision health and synthetic biology. They will leverage Australia’s unique context and benefit from the powerful contribution made by CSIRO and the ANU to Australia’s innovation and technology ecosystem. They will also have the opportunity to link to a cohort of early career researchers in the Responsible Innovation FSP, who are based at Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, the University of Queensland (UQ), and Charles Darwin University (CDU).

The work these scholars will conduct will encompass Australia’s unique and ethnically diverse population which includes Indigenous people – the oldest continuous culture on earth – as well as many citizens and residents from the rapidly expanding Asia-Pacific region. As Australia advances its cutting-edge research in precision health and synthetic biology technologies, the CSIRO-ANU responsible innovation team will track new trends and create new pathways for public understanding, reflection, engagement, and influence.

Project Impacts

The initial collaboration is focused on building opportunities, skills, and knowledge, amongst high-capacity early career researchers. Our first postdoctoral fellow, Dr John Viana, commenced In January 2020. Dr Viana is focusing on equity and diversity in precision health, engaging with case studies in public health, precision nutrition, and genomics.

Our second postdoctoral fellow will address issues in synthetic biology. As synthetic biology is a relatively new field, the project will be aimed primarily at innovation rather than application.

This national collaboration builds on strengths at CSIRO and ANU in the social sciences to energise responsible innovation and create sustainable long-term pathways for doing more equitable, ethical and exciting precision health and synthetic biology.


CSIRO: Marcus Barber (Project Leader). ANU: Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science: Sujatha Raman and Joan Leach; Research School of Social Sciences: Catherine Waldby. ANU-CSIRO Post-Doctoral Fellow: John Viana.

Additional information on this collaboration is available as follows:

CSIRO’s Media release announcing the university collaborations: https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2019/Responsible-innovation-initiative-to-ask-Australia-what-kind-of-future-we-want-to-create

The Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science: https://cpas.anu.edu.au/research/research-stories/responsible-innovation-initiative