ELSI of Genomic Screening of Newborns

Legal and Ethical Safeguards for Roll Out of Genomic Screening of Newborns in Australia

Degree type


Closing date

27 March 2023



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Currently there are a number of routine genetic tests (newborn bloodspot screening) undertaken on newborns to test for rare but serious genetic conditions and there are plans for the expansion of this program to increase the number and consistency of conditions screened for.

As a result of the rapid scientific advancements in genetic testing there is now the technological capacity to undertake genomic screening of newborns which would have the potential to identify hundreds of genetic conditions and to further improve outcomes for infants and their families. However, the introduction of genomic newborn screening raises a range of ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI) beyond those accepted for traditional newborn bloodspot screening such as data privacy/ownership, genetic discrimination, inability to access affordable treatments, and detection of non-paternity. In order to harness the opportunities offered by advances in genomics for newborn screening, legislators and policy makers will need to be well appraised of the potential issues and risks so that they can be planned for and mitigated against before the widespread genomic screening of newborns is adopted in Australia.

This project would investigate the legal, ethical and social issues associated with genomic screening of newborns and what measures need to be put in place before this is taken up in Australia.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Margaret Otlowski


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applications are open to applicants from Law
  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Prior work/research experience with ELSI (ethical, legal and social issues) in relation to genomics

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Prof Margaret Otlowski to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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