SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Abandoning their usual reserve, nearly 1000 scientists across the country downed instruments and grabbed placards this week to protest pending job losses at the nation’s leading research organization, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). “Scientists are not known for rushing to the barricades,” says Anthony Keenan of the CSIRO Staff Association, who adds that while staff members are concerned about job cuts at CSIRO, they are “dismayed” at the government’s short-sighted approach to science.
Job cuts at CSIRO are the direct result of the government’s decision last month to slash AU$115 million, or 16%, from the organization’s budget over 4 years. As many as 420 staff members, mostly scientists, could be out of work by June 2015, according to a memo circulated to staff members on 14 May by CSIRO chief Megan Clark. According to the Staff Association, the losses are “unprecedented.” Currently, CSIRO has 5500 positions. The pending cuts could leave the agency with 1000 fewer staff members than last year, and up to 2500 fewer than it had in the 1990s. The conservative government, elected last September, has also chosen not to appoint a science minister, the first time since the portfolio was created in 1931.
Protests occurred today at the Black Mountain site near Canberra, the Melbourne suburb of Clayton, North Ryde near Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart, and Perth. On Tuesday, scientists gathered at regional sites in the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, as well as in Western Australia
After speaking at the Canberra protest, former science minister and opposition Labor Senator Kim Carr blasted the government with this tweet: “No Science Minister, no policy, no idea.”