CSIRO continues to set science directions for future
Earlier this month the Federal Government announced in the Budget a reduction in direct funding to CSIRO over the next four years of A$63.4m, of which A$23.6 million came from the Government’s decision to implement a one-off increase in the efficiency dividend (applied to 30 per cent of CSIRO’s direct government appropriation funding base) and A$39.8 million from a further savings measure announced in last weeks’ budget (essentially extending the coverage of the efficiency dividend to the other 70 per cent of CSIRO’s funding base).
Although disappointed by the cuts announced by the Government to CSIRO’s funding the organisation’s Chief Executive, Dr Geoff Garrett said to staff:
“The challenge is to now work within these new constraints – and opportunities – with which the organisation is presented. Over the past three years CSIRO has had to make hard decisions to focus its research, reduce its overhead costs and improve efficiency and is now clearly being required to do so again,” Dr Garrett said.
“CSIRO has a well established and robust process for the review and prioritisation of investments in research and support programs – the Science Investment Process (SIP). The SIP provides a rigorous and systematic approach for prioritising research investments across CSIRO ensuring that skills and resources are built and focused on the most important issues for Australia.”
The SIP was indentified by the Productivity Commission in its 2007 research study Public Support for Science and Innovation “as providing a framework for the systematic and robust evaluation of research areas that warrant investment of CSIRO appropriation revenue”.
“CSIRO’s focus has been on finding ways to reduce fixed costs and overheads wherever possible so that we can minimise the impact these budget reductions will have on CSIRO’s science capability and activity,” Dr Garrett said.
“However, with funding reductions of this size and in light of the significant reductions that have already been made by CSIRO over the past five years to overhead and support costs, there will be an adverse impact on research.”
After a rigorous assessment of the Budget implications combined with the SIP outcomes, Dr Garrett said the CSIRO Board has approved measures to accommodate the reduction to CSIRO’s budget.
“In short, we will reduce our fixed and management costs by closing some sites and reducing (by two) the number of operating Divisions in CSIRO through Divisional mergers, re-phasing planned growth in the Flagship Collaboration Fund, and making some additional reductions in lower priority research portfolios,” he said.
“However, with a salary bill close to 60 per cent of our total expenses – it will not be possible to absorb this change without some job losses. Thus I would confirm that we envisage a net reduction from CSIRO’s current staffing level of 6350 over the next year of approximately 85 FTEs (Full Time Equivalents), in all probability around 100 staff.” (See Attachment below – Specific Decisions for further details.)
“Notwithstanding these reductions, consistent with our Strategy and Science Directions, increases in investment by CSIRO will take place in the energy (supported by the Government’s announcement of additional funding for CSIRO research in clean coal technologies and renewables), water and climate domains, in CSIRO’s research talent ladder development program and in the transformational capability platforms of Transformational Biology, Advanced Materials, Computational and Simulation Science, and Sensors and Sensor Networks critical to maintaining CSIRO’s central role in the national innovation system.
“There will also be redirection of funding from some near market and incremental research in the food production and supply domain to address more systematically issues affecting the long term viability of Australian agriculture and food production.”
ATTACHMENT - SPECIFIC DECISIONS RESPONDING TO 2008/09 FEDERAL BUDGET
Reduce Livestock Industries site footprint – close Bakers Hill, WA and the Rendel Laboratory, Rockhampton, QLD
Livestock Industries is one of CSIRO’s most distributed Divisions, which has implications around overheads and the integration of research programs.
The WA field station at Bakers Hill, where two staff are employed, will be closed. The Rendel laboratory in Rockhampton, where 27 staff are currently employed, will also be closed. Critical capability will be consolidated by transferring staff to Townsville to further build this hub as the centre for tropical science. Some staff will also be transferred to Brisbane to build critical mass in animal genomics and molecular biology at the joint UQ/CSIRO Bioscience Centre, St. Lucia. The Rockhampton field station at Belmont will be maintained in order to support long term ongoing cattle and ICT research activities.
Reduce Plant Industry site footprint – close Laboratory at Merbein VIC
Plant Industry is also one of CSIRO’s most distributed Divisions, again with implications around overheads and the integration of research programs.
CSIRO will focus its plant research on Australia’s core food and non-food crops, scaling back on horticultural crops (using a staged exit to ensure all technology transfer is complete) but continue to support our leading wine research program. These changes will affect the 30 staff currently at this laboratory.
This decision will see CSIRO consolidate its horticulture capability in Adelaide with a focus on wine grapes with some residual presence in Merbein to sustain the wine grape stock collection.
Integrate Forest Biosciences capability into other Divisions, close Cooroy, QLD and move staff from Yarralumla, ACT to Black Mountain or Gungahlin, ACT
Critical mass in bioscience capability will be increased and administrative costs reduced by distributing current CSIRO Forest Biosciences capabilities into other relevant divisions (CSE, CMSE, CPI, CENTO), moving Yarralumla ACT staff to CPI Black Mountain or CSE Gungahlin as appropriate.
The Cooroy station currently employs 6 staff who will offered relocation to other CSIRO Queensland sites.
Merge the Textiles and Fibre Technology (CTFT) Division with the Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE) Division to reduce overheads and rationalise the research portfolio
Divisional overheads will be rationalised and integrated within our advanced materials research portfolios.
There is the opportunity for some relocation of capability between Belmont (Geelong VIC) and Clayton: Belmont will continue to work on cotton fibre and textiles technology; Clayton will focus on other advanced materials technologies and seek integration with CSIRO’s existing advanced materials capability in CMSE and CMHT.
CSIRO will seek to re-position Belmont as a regional cotton fibre and textiles hub, move to better integrate with Deakin University’s fibre research capability, and seek to relocate other research capability and industry support programs to Belmont.
Consolidate Sydney property portfolio
CSIRO will accelerate our long-term ‘game plan’ to reduce administration and overhead costs, and promote ‘one CSIRO’ synergy through geographic co-location, by rationalising activities and accommodation at our North Ryde Riverside site by freeing up space to accommodate staff from nearby sites, specifically from Marsfield, Macquarie University and Lindfield.
- The Federal Government announced in the Budget a reduction in direct funding to CSIRO over the next four years of A$63.4m.
- CSIRO has a well established and robust process for the review and prioritisation of investments in research and support programs – the Science Investment Process (SIP).
- CSIRO’s focus has been on finding ways to reduce fixed costs and overheads wherever possible so that we can minimise the impact on CSIRO’s science capability and activity.
- Some site closures and job losses are expected.