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Issue #1644      June 25, 2014

CSIRO budget cuts hit climate and marine research

Government budget cuts to the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) are set to deal a massive blow to Australia’s reputation as a world leader in climate, marine and atmospheric research.

As part of the overall response to federal budget cuts of $115 million which are expected to cost 500 jobs across the entire organisation, CSIRO management has revealed a plan to scale back research and cut science jobs in the Marine and Atmospheric Research (CMAR) division.

In a letter to the CSIRO Staff Association, management states that 31 full-time equivalent positions would be cut from CMAR over the coming weeks, the vast majority of them research scientists.

Climate science in the firing line

Staff Association acting secretary – and CMAR air quality scientist – Dr Michael Borgas said that in addition to CSIRO’s big budget cuts, the organisation had taken an extra funding hit by a budget measure that specifically targeted the science of climate change.

“The government also cut more than $20 million from a separate climate change program of which CSIRO was a major beneficiary. So since the budget there’s been real fear for the future of our world-class climate, marine and atmospheric research.

“Unfortunately those fears appear to be justified. The only ‘direct action’ the government appears to be taking on climate change is sacking the scientists performing the research or abolishing the departments who deliver the advice,” he said.

Big cuts to marine research

Citing the need for “focused reductions or reshaping of research delivered by CMAR,” in response to budget cuts and declining external earnings, CSIRO management have declared the need to “reduce research capability” in a number of areas.

These include cuts to Coastal modelling, Ocean Climate processes, Biochemical processes, Coasts and Oceans Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Pelagic Spatial Dynamics and Population Dynamics, Marine Risk Assessment, Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate, Climate Modelling, Climate Variability, Climate projections and Science Engineering.

CSIRO management has also stated that climate and atmospheric projects and research that delivers “maximum impact” and earns “external revenue” will be spared but that research capability would be cut in other areas. Marine biodiversity – a mainstay of Tasmanian research – will feel most of the pain.

Tasmania and Victoria will be hardest hit

The overwhelming majority of these latest cuts will come from the ranks of researchers, with 28 of the 31 full time positions to be cut being made up of scientists.

Of those, 18 marine and atmospheric research positions will be lost from Hobart. These cuts follow an earlier announcement that 31 Tasmanian jobs, mainly support roles, are scheduled to go as part of a CSIRO internal restructure.

Victoria will lose eight positions from the Aspendale Laboratory, located in the outer south western suburbs of Melbourne. A centre for climate and atmospheric research, last month CSIRO identified Aspendale as one of eight worksites management plan to close as part of their strategy to reduce building maintenance costs.

Next article – Rally for waterfront safety

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