Our genetic data and what it means about us

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1. Project summary (maximum 150 words)

I believe it is critical that science and technology are introduced to society in an equitable way that benefits everybody. I currently have a particular focus on the science and technology of genetics. This is really important because the technology is advancing very fast and it's going to bring a lot of benefits in medicine, but it's also highly predictive and there is a risk of discrimination. There are three major components to this - policy, innovation, and education and I am active across these three areas. Policy means examining whether legal protections are in place to safeguard our genetic data and how people can use it. Innovation means creating new technology that allows us to share our genetic data safely, and education means plain English communication so that people know enough to make informed decisions about what they do with their genetic data.

2. How does your project benefit Queensland? (maximum 500 words)

Queensland researchers are really leading the world in advancing genetic science and research. Bringing genomics into Queensland clinics is going to have a lot of important health benefits for Queenslanders. It's important that we build and maintain trust in this critical technology for the introduction to be successful. This requires education and effective communication. Bringing Queenslanders along for the journey is a critical part of getting the technology ready for use. If I were successful with this prize, I'd like to use the funds toward creating a podcast to discuss these issues - along with broader issues linking science, technology, and society.

3. What STEM promotion/engagement activities do you do/have you done? (maximum 500 words)

I'm committed to communicating with the public about science. I spoke in a short video this February for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science with the goal of encouraging participation and diversity in STEAM. I'm also a Queensland 2019 ‘Flying Scientist’, an outreach program designed to engage rural Queenslanders in Science.

I was awarded an ABC Top 5 Scientist Media Residency award, and was embedded with the ABC Science Unit in the ABC Sydney Studio, to learn from the experts! During that time I created a 10-minute piece on genomic data privacy issues for The Health Report with Norman Swan (available here), and I wrote a news story about genomics for ABC online.

I’ve given several public lectures, such as ‘BrisScience lecture’ in South Bank (March 2018), and CSIRO’s 2018 ‘Pint of Science’, brings science to people in an informal setting by giving a presentation about in a bar!

Since mid-2017, I’ve published seven articles in The Conversation relating to genomics and how it impacts society. They've been republished in 67 international media outlets including Australasian Science, Smithsonian Magazine, ABC, International Business Times, and World Economic Forum, and been read over 100,000 times.

I've spoken about genomics and genetic testing in over 20 radio interviews in the past year, sometimes answering on-air questions from listeners. The interviews have included (ABC Radio National Life Matters’ show ABC Triple J ‘Hack’, as well as interviews on ABC, commercial and community radio stations in Queensland, Tasmania, New South Wales, and Victoria. I’ve spoken about genomics in several national televised interviews, including Channel 9’s ‘Today Show’ and ABC News ‘Afternoons’. I even put myself out there in University of Queensland's first public Data Privacy Debate, with other academics and members of the impressive debating society!

In November 2018 I spoke with 60 international documentary producers at the 2018 World Congress of Science and Factual Producers ‘Ideas Salon’. The idea was to explain some of the current trends in genomics and how they may impact people, to provide ideas for future documentaries. I also participated in the ’72 Hour Film Sprint’ at the Congress, where I collaborated on a short science communication film with the talented Tessie Liddell (which we made in 3 days!)

On August 21, 2018 I gave a 10-minute Parliamentary Briefing for Queensland Parliament about the Ethical, Legal and Social issues of genomics to MPs and others - to discuss privacy and legal issues relating to genomics. I also co-authored a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission 'Human Rights and Technology Project', and commented on MyHealthRecord for Contact magazine.

On March 22 2019, I've been invited to speak at: ‘From Digital Data to Decisions.', a symposium discussing digital data and decision-making, featuring Australian Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow and Virginia Eubanks, author of Automating Inequality. I'll also be speaking at the World Science Festival in Brisbane ('Ockham’s Razor’) on how genetic ancestry testing interacts with our ideas and discussions about race, to air on ABC Radio National.



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Hi, I'm a researcher interested in the way genetics interacts with society. I'm a population geneticist and I now work with experts in law, ethics and policy to better understand the ethical, legal...

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