It was last week announced that Australia’s government funded research body, CSIRO, is facing up to 350 job cuts, including the Land and Water division. The climate science teams are also among those expected to be hit the hardest.
In an interview with Fairfax media, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall explains the rationale behind the cuts, including the federal government funding cuts in 2014. Mr Marshall indicated that an email notice was issued to CSIRO staff this morning indicating that jobs in the Data61, Oceans & Atmosphere, Land & Water and Manufacturing divisions would be cut at a rate of 175 per year, over a two year “strategic realignment”.
Professor Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University commented on the cuts, saying that any cuts to science are always a setback:
“It is always disappointing when science is cut back,” Professor Lowe said “…especially when we need to be more innovative to overcome the economic problem of falling commodity prices. It is particularly bad when the cuts are in such areas as Oceans & Atmosphere, Land & Water and Manufacturing, as these are critical to our chances of a sustainable future.”
Former venture capitalist Larry Marshall was appointed as CEO of CSIRO last year and the cuts come just over a year after his appointment.
Using the example of climate change, Mr Marshall made the case that CSIRO’s current staff base isn’t capable of facilitating the changes required to overcome Australia’s challenges.
“We have spent probably a decade trying to answer the question ‘is the climate changing?'” Mr Marshall said to Fairfax. “After Paris that question has been answered. The next question now is what do we do about it?”
“The people that were so brilliant at measuring and modelling [climate change], they might not be the right people to figure out how to adapt to it.”
Mr Marshall said that in a worst-case scenario, 350 CSIRO staff would be affected.
In Melbourne, Australian climate scientists gathered on Monday to protest the changes and express their concerns about the substantial threat these job cuts pose to Australian climate research and how this may bring about the end of Australia’s world class climate model, the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS).