What is wrong with CSIRO? The problem is lack of funding and a managment culture that drives dysfunctional behaviours.

I spent 29 years as a scientist working for the CSIRO, an Australian government research organisation. But in 2014 the government cut funding to science research in Australia including over $100 million from the CSIRO. This resulted in the loss of over 1000 science jobs, mine included. But worse than this is the way CSIRO executives treat their staff. The organisation is run by accountants and professional managers, on what are supposed to be "sound business principles". What this means is that they reorganise CSIRO every few years, retrench staff every year and make them reapply for their own jobs, continually cut research programs based on current industry demand (not future demand as in other countries) and spend large sums on consultants to tell them what to do. They no longer treat scientists as professionals but as chattels to be bargained for or discarded at will. They have created a climate of fear resulting in dysfunctional behaviours. It is not surprising that morale in CSIRO is the lowest it has ever been, that staff are continually taking strike action, that many staff are being treated for anxiety and depression. CSIRO was investigated for entrenched bullying, with a workplace that has been described publicly as toxic. Moreover, staff salaries and conditions have been continually eroded over the past few years. But despite the senior execitives failure to secure proper funding for the organisation and their poor management, they still awarded themselves $100,000 bonuses.

I have become totally disillusioned with science in Australia and the dysfunctional management culture that underpins it. I am now part of the "brain drain". Having worked in Europe it is clear that Australian science is irrelevant on the world scene. Australian political "leaders" and industry don't value science and technology. It is no surprise that investment in science in Australia ranks poorly in OECD data (p.268). As an example of how science is viewed by politicians, just look at the quote from our last prime minister who said that climate science is crap. Of course he would know - he trained as a catholic priest after studying economics and law, and his party gets substantial donations from the fossil fuel industry. What can I say?

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