Michael Barber, interviewed by Tom Spurling and Terry Healy, 3 December 2017

By Helen WolffSeptember 18th, 2018

Michael Barber was Executive Director of Science Planning at CSIRO

Edited transcript (PDF – 387 KB)

Interview summary

Michael Barber was born in Sydney on 30 April 1947. In the early part of the interview, Michael talks about his experiences growing up in an academic household in Sydney and Hobart. He is a second generation university educated Australian. He recalls some of the visitors to his parent’s home, including Dr Jerry Price, a future Chairman of CSIRO. He also talks about his early interest in science and his mention in a 1965 ‘Heredity’ paper by his father on selection in natural populations.

Michael attended Clarence High School in Hobart where the School Principal, Ed Smith, was also his science teacher. Michael remembers the long-term value of Mr Smith’s insistence good English expression in science essays.

There ensues a detailed discussion about Michael’s mathematical education, including the influences of his key mentors. Michael describes his experiences as an academic at UNSW and the ANU, the effect of the Dawkins’ reforms and his growing interest in leadership roles. He talks about his recruitment to the University of Western Australia, and his contribution to the development of technology transfer policies there.

Michael then relates his experiences as Executive Director, Science Planning and then Group Executive, Information, Manufacturing and Minerals in CSIRO. This includes his reflections on the role of CSIRO in modern Australia and the relation between CSIRO and the tertiary sector.

In the final part of the interview, Michael talks about his time as Vice-Chancellor of Flinders University. He notes how the variety of his previous experiences contributed to his successes in that role.


Interview recorded at Swinburne University of Technology (Hawthorn) on 27th October 2017 as part of the CSIRO History Project.


Copyright owned by Swinburne University of Technology. Some re-use permitted (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND)