Risk governance of genomic technologies in Australia

October 9th, 2020

Delivering responsible genomics with innovative computational tools to advance the field of medicine

Project Duration: February 2020 – February 2022

Abstract luminous DNA molecule. Doctor using tablet and check with analysis chromosome DNA genetic of human on virtual interface. Medicine. Medical science and biotechnology.

Credit: iStock.com/ipopba

Understanding the risks and benefits of genomic technologies for society

The Challenge

With advances in computational capabilities, genomic technologies are revolutionising how we diagnose and treat disease. We are now able to analyse and interpret whole human genome data to predict future disease risk, take preventive action and prepare personalised treatment plans.

These benefits, however, come with the potential for risks, such as the risk of erroneous outcomes leading to incorrect medical diagnoses. How these risks are perceived varies among scientists and practitioners (computer scientists, geneticists, clinicians and genetic counsellors) which further complicates the risk landscape of these technologies. In addition, the pace at which these technologies are emerging raises questions around how they might best contribute to societal wellbeing.

The challenge for decision-makers is to strike a balance between the potential risks and benefits and deliver responsible science and technology for society.

Responding to the Challenge

CSIRO’s Responsible Innovation Future Science Platform (FSP) is working with the Transformational Bioinformatics group at CSIRO’s Australian e-Health Research Centre to explore the risk governance of genomics technologies in Australia.

This research employs a risk governance approach to identify the potential risks of genomic technologies perceived by scientists and practitioners so that these risks can be minimised or mitigated entirely. The research also aims to explore how the promises of genomic technologies translate into (within and beyond) health and wellbeing.

Researchers will analyse the perceptions of scientists and practitioners working across universities, research institutes, private firms, and hospitals using data collected via interviews and an online survey. This engagement approach will allow the researchers to draw insights from qualitative data and demonstrate a generalisable model from quantitative data for future risk governance research of these potentially disruptive technologies.

Project Impacts

This research aims to validate a risk governance framework to inform and guide our research with emerging and potentially disruptive technologies. Together with CSIRO’s Transformational Bioinformatics group, the Responsible Innovation FSP is also aiming to contribute to Australia’s genomics research and future pathways for personalised medicine.


CSIRO: Yuwan Malakar, Justine Lacey, Denis Bauer and  Natalie Twine 

More information relating to this project are available as follows:

CSIRO’s Transformational Bioinformatics group: https://bioinformatics.csiro.au/

New research finds genomic professionals support patient genomic data ownership in Australia