Why CSIRO jobs had to go: Marshall’s ‘riskier science’

By The Mandarin

Tuesday September 20, 2016

Freeing up resources at CSIRO from cut areas like climate change will enable the Commonwealth’s science research agency to reinvest $52 million over the next four years into six new fields that could change Australia’s way of life.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall has prioritised investing in “challenging and riskier science” according to a statement from the agency on Tuesday, announcing the six “future science platforms” for new investment.

“The platforms fuel deeper collaboration across disciplines as we tackle things that haven’t been done before, which is exactly what we need to stay ahead of accelerating global disruption of all kinds from economic to environmental,” Marshall said.

Government is already highly motivated to make strides in health through big data, and CSIRO will be helping with that. It will also use it’s precision science expertise to look at biological systems, and focus its manufacturing know-how to create more sustainable industries.

While media and union attention has been on recent job losses at CSIRO, Marshall says the new fields is an investment in the next crop of researchers: “FSPs will attract a new generation of researchers to work collaboratively on genuinely challenging science and help invent Australia’s future.”

After inventing WiFi, Aerogard and many other clever innovations, CSIRO says it’s always busy thinking about the future. So what’s next?

The six Future Science Platforms are:

  1. Environomics. Unlocking genetic and other knowledge from our vast species biodiversity so we can preserve and manage ecosystems under environmental change, better manage economically useful species, detect biosecurity threats and create new products based on previously unknown biological data.
  2. Synthetic Biology. The design, fabrication, and construction of new biological parts, devices, systems, and machines, as well as the re-design of existing biological systems for useful purposes. Synthetic biology enables revolutionary advances in cellular factories, designer organisms and biological devices.
  3. Deep Earth Imaging. Discovering the previously undiscovered minerals, energy and water resources that lie deep under the earth or sea. The science of Deep Earth Imaging will help us more precisely image subsurface geology to unlock the potential of this vast and relatively under-explored area.
  4. Digiscape. Helping agricultural industries to be more productive and providing more valuable knowledge to environmental policy makers through a new generation of decision tools. Using sensors, data visualisation, artificial intelligence and assisted decision making to generate timely and relevant advice and insights will allow better choices for more productive and sustainable outcomes.
  5. Probing Biosystems. A revolution in healthcare and agriculture through devices and systems to obtain real-time information from living organisms about their health and well-being. This will lead to the ability to provide health and medical interventions that are timely, customised and highly specific.
  6. Active Integrated Matter. Reinventing fields as diverse as manufacturing, agriculture, emergency services, infrastructure and mining through combining advanced materials, robotics, sensing technologies, data processing and autonomous capabilities. New forms of autonomous robots will operate safely in dangerous environments while smart materials will enable new types of customised and personalised products and services.

For more information on the Future Science Platforms, visit www.csiro.au/FSP

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