Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Age of Genomics

By Ainsley Newson

This edition of Australasian Science focuses on the ethical, legal and social issues associated with advances in genomic science.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Faster and more accurate sequencing of human genomes; smaller and smarter wearable technologies; an increasingly connected world; direct access to health testing; improvements in data storage. These are just some recent innovations now influencing Australian health care and society, and this issue of Australasian Science focuses on their associated social, ethical and legal issues.

Some have called for the genomes of all newborn babies to be sequenced. David Amor and I take a critical look at this idea (p.12) and argue that, despite its potential benefits, genome sequencing is not yet appropriate for wide population use – on scientific, economic and ethical grounds.

We also need to learn more about the impact of genomic information. Amelia Smit and Anne Cust (p.15) look at whether people change their health behaviours after receiving individual risk information. While existing evidence doesn’t show much difference, there are problems with these studies. We also don’t know enough about the psychological impact of this information.

Genomic science has much to offer Indigenous Australians, yet Emma Kowal and colleagues write that poor research practice in the past has led to mistrust (p.18). The National Centre for Indigenous Genomics is fostering the development of genomics for Indigenous Australians, and is supporting Indigenous people to consider...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.