Scientists frontline communicators in changed policy
He said that he had sought a review of CSIRO’s Public Comment Policy because of significant concerns alleging that CSIRO was gagging its scientists, and that the previous policy lacked clarity.
He said the preamble to the new policy laid out some important foundations:
CSIRO’s fundamental purpose is to achieve positive impact from science on behalf of Australia – and our ability to do so ultimately depends upon our integrity and our reputation. The core of CSIRO’s overall standing is its externally validated and peer-reviewed science, and the communication of that science for the benefit of Australia. Underlying CSIRO’s core values is commitment to the open exchange of scientific information. This policy aims to assist CSIRO staff in their external communication activities.
Dr Garrett said the review team of senior scientists, chaired by Dr Tony Haymet, consulted widely throughout the organisation, holding 10 separate consultation sessions with staff all over Australia. The review team found that the previous policy had sometimes discouraged staff from speaking about their science in public.
The review team recommended that CSIRO should reaffirm its trust in its scientists as frontline communicators and support them in this endeavour. The recommendations of the Review were strongly supported by the CSIRO Executive Team and accepted by the CSIRO Board in June.
“As a result of the Review we have totally rewritten our policy. We have taken out the word “permission.” We encourage our scientists to communicate the outcomes and implications of their scientific work and, where relevant, suggest policy options and scenarios stemming from their scientific findings,” Dr Garrett said.
“We also ask them to avoid making direct comment for or against government or opposition policy, from State or Federal governments. Our job is to inform policy, not to prescribe it, and to be an authoritative and honest broker, rather than an advocate.”
Dr Garrett said CSIRO has many opportunities as a Statutory Authority to contribute to government policy. “Science is but one – albeit very important– input to developing policy, along with economic, social and political factors.”
“We strongly encourage our scientists to use their peer reviewed or externally validated science as a foundation for any public comment,” Dr Garrett said.
- ‘We strongly encourage our scientists to use their peer reviewed or externally validated science as a foundation for any public comment,’ Dr Garrett said
- The review team recommended that CSIRO should reaffirm its trust in its scientists as frontline communicators and support them in this endeavour.