CSIRO boss talks restructure, staff culture at besieged science body

The Silicon Valley CEO picked to run the CSIRO says pure science won’t be pushed out. And he’ll happily take coffee out to striking employees. Larry Marshall faces up to his critics in a new interview.

The national science agency and its staff have a “missionary passion” that is less like a public service body and more like a start-up culture, new CSIRO boss Dr Larry Marshall has observed after taking the reins in January.

Dealing with the morale situation is priority number one, Marshall (pictured) says. Passion for the work notwithstanding, the agency’s staff are moving to take industrial action over pay, budget cuts and redundancies, a process that begins with a ballot of employees. If it succeeds, Marshall told Business Spectator it’s still an opportunity to engage with the workforce:

“If there’s a strike, perhaps I’m naïve, but I plan to take coffee out to the strikers and have a cup of coffee with them and have a chat with them. At the end of the day, I think the goal of the union and our goal is largely the same. We both want to provide the best working conditions we can.

“A lot of people in the organisation are nervous about, ‘who’s this crazy guy from Silicon Valley who’s going to come here and change the way we do things?’ It’s part of the reason I’m trying to get out in front of as many of the people of CSIRO as I can, so they can get to understand that I’m not some crazy Silicon Valley guy; I’m a scientist just like them, except that I went through this rare journey of learning how to become an entrepreneur and a CEO.”

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