SECRET TAPE SHEDS LIGHT ON WHY AUSTRALIA IS LOSING VITAL CLIMATE SCIENCE JOBS...

Many are concerned cuts at the CSIRO will mean Australia's ability to prepare for climate change will be undermined.

Image: AFP/Getty Images

Remarks made by the head of Australia's peak science body in a secret recording will do little to assuage fears the country will lose much of its climate science capacity amid severe budget cuts...

The Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) was thrown into turmoil in February after reports that hundreds of climate scientists would be made redundant. The change is being led by the organisation's new CEO, Larry R. Marshall, who has made little secret of his desire to concentrate on science that can be commercialised.

The recording, obtained by ABC's Background Briefing, sheds further light on Marshall's view. The audio was obtained during a February meeting in Canberra between concerned CSIRO staff and Marshall, the show reported. 

Only selected audio is available, so the entirety of the discussion cannot be heard.

The Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) was thrown into turmoil in February after reports that hundreds of climate scientists would be made redundant. The change is being led by the organisation's new CEO, Larry R. Marshall, who has made little secret of his desire to concentrate on science that can be commercialised.

The recording, obtained by ABC's Background Briefing, sheds further light on Marshall's view. The audio was obtained during a February meeting in Canberra between concerned CSIRO staff and Marshall, the show reported. 

Only selected audio is available, so the entirety of the discussion cannot be heard.

ABCRadioNational
Selected audio from inside the CSIRO meeting

In the recording, Marshall suggests the CSIRO's work will be focused on fulfilling the government's innovation and growth agenda, above all. "I don't mean to be insensitive, but you have to get real about your customer," he suggests, referring to the government. 

"It's a fundamental shift away from curiosity-led research toward impact. That's the key."

Marshall has run into controversy for appearing to suggest the case for climate science is closed. In the tape, he attempts to clarify his remarks, suggesting the focus should be on adaption to climate change.

"You're cutting our ability to predict what those changes will be," responds one of the attendees.  

Much of the tape's discussion focuses on how research for the public good — science that is not immediately able to be monetised, such as climate monitoring — should be understood. 

When challenged on his view of the concept, Marshall responds: "That's easy, anything that's good for the public.

"Government policy, frankly, determines public good. That's their decision. When they fund renewable energy, environmental science, education, healthcare, that's a fundamental policy choice. Is that not a realistic measure of public good?"

Larry R. Marshall

CSIRO CEO, Larry R. Marshall. Image: AAPIMAGE

According to the ABC, half of the assembled scientists had walked out by mid-meeting. Groans and the occasional expletive can be heard throughout.

Amid criticism of Marshall's plan for the CSIRO, some of the severity of the cuts have been wound back. It is believed around 70 jobs will now be lost from the Oceans and Atmosphere division, and Marshall has announced the creation of a climate research centre in Hobart with 40 staff. According to many scientists however, Australia's climate science capacity will nevertheless be seriously undermined.

The changes at the CSIRO have been met with international condemnation. In February, nearly 3,000 scientists called for the cuts to be abandoned.

"A concerted, urgent and laser-focused effort is required by the international climate research community as a whole, to fully understand and prepare for pervasive climate change impacts," they stated in a letter to the government.

The CSIRO had no comment when approached by Mashable Australia.

In the recording, Marshall suggests the CSIRO's work will be focused on fulfilling the government's innovation and growth agenda, above all. "I don't mean to be insensitive, but you have to get real about your customer," he suggests, referring to the government. 

"It's a fundamental shift away from curiosity-led research toward impact. That's the key."

Marshall has run into controversy for appearing to suggest the case for climate science is closed. In the tape, he attempts to clarify his remarks, suggesting the focus should be on adaption to climate change.

"You're cutting our ability to predict what those changes will be," responds one of the attendees.  

Much of the tape's discussion focuses on how research for the public good — science that is not immediately able to be monetised, such as climate monitoring — should be understood. 

When challenged on his view of the concept, Marshall responds: "That's easy, anything that's good for the public.

"Government policy, frankly, determines public good. That's their decision. When they fund renewable energy, environmental science, education, healthcare, that's a fundamental policy choice. Is that not a realistic measure of public good?"

Larry R. Marshall

CSIRO CEO, Larry R. Marshall. Image: AAPIMAGE

According to the ABC, half of the assembled scientists had walked out by mid-meeting. Groans and the occasional expletive can be heard throughout.

Amid criticism of Marshall's plan for the CSIRO, some of the severity of the cuts have been wound back. It is believed around 70 jobs will now be lost from the Oceans and Atmosphere division, and Marshall has announced the creation of a climate research centre in Hobart with 40 staff. According to many scientists however, Australia's climate science capacity will nevertheless be seriously undermined.

The changes at the CSIRO have been met with international condemnation. In February, nearly 3,000 scientists called for the cuts to be abandoned.

"A concerted, urgent and laser-focused effort is required by the international climate research community as a whole, to fully understand and prepare for pervasive climate change impacts," they stated in a letter to the government.

The CSIRO had no comment when approached by Mashable Australia.


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