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Australia Government Science

Corruption Allegations Rock Australia's CSIRO 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the say-it-aint-so dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Australia's premiere government research organization, the CSIRO, has been rocked by allegations of corruption including: dishonesty with 60 top-class scientists bullied or fired, fraud against drug giant Novartis, and illegally using intellectual property, faking documents and unreliable testimony to judicial officers. CSIRO boss Megan Clark has refused to discipline the staff responsible and the federal police don't want to get involved. Victims are unimpressed and former CSIRO scientists are calling for an inquiry."
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Corruption Allegations Rock Australia's CSIRO

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  • Terrible (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 14, 2013 @11:43AM (#43446397)

    They need to round up this lot of criminals and send them to an island!

  • It looks bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @12:21PM (#43446539) Journal
    The links in the summary are kind of scattered (the claim of 60 bullied scientists appears in the third link, for example). Here is a quote from one of the articles:

    Researchers feel ''sliced and diced'' and ''disempowered'', the reviews say, by the need to adhere to what paying customers want.

    So it seems that CSIRO got a new director, and, not having enough funds, this new guy started operating the research group like a business, focusing on outside revenue from other companies. Of course, this made it hard to do science, especially since the director wasn't a particularly good director. The scientists almost are turned in to sales people. So it seems kind of bad.

    It's a matter of 'not enough money' then 'getting money from the wrong sources' causing motivations to go bad.

    • It is a matter of "not enough money" in the sense that if the government has limited the CSIRO's budget then they are forced to either downsize, or look for outside funding.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      So it seems that CSIRO got a new director, and, not having enough funds, this new guy started operating the research group like a business, focusing on outside revenue from other companies. Of course, this made it hard to do science, especially since the director wasn't a particularly good director. The scientists almost are turned in to sales people. So it seems kind of bad.

      My understanding was that instead of doing pure research, they were focusing on solutions to specific goals that were dictated by industry/clients.

      They wanted to do basic research and couldn't.
      Coupled with shitty matrix management and bullying, no wonder they're pissed.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Not to forget the very thin skins of scientist types, known to get is quite a flat about perceived issues of Status. As for the Novartis, pretty bloody obvious the dirty players here are the private partner over hyping and selling the technology and Novatris obviously trying to shift fault from the private company with limited fiscal resources and on to the Australian government for the major revenue gaining law suit (must be losing as it is now pushing the bad publicity angle).

      As for operating like a bu

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @12:43PM (#43446629)
    You guys need to get your government under control. Get with your boards of directors and insist on a proper budget for buying "compliant" government officials. I, know, it's painful sometimes, but it's the price of doing business. They payoff is that we can do just about anything we want and with a little more money thrown at the right political campaigns, and the stupid voters will stay focused on stupid shit like gay marriage and leave us alone. So get it done. We can't have the people thinking that they actually control things. Not now.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      You guys need to get your government under control.

      The problem with this that the government has continually shrunk funding for CSIRO and as a result CSIRO has been forced to rely on other sources of funding. This means they spend more time and resources on securing revenue than doing actual science. To lack of government funding is directly behind this.

      and the stupid voters will stay focused on stupid shit like gay marriage

      Gay Marriage is actually an important issue. 50 years ago your country discriminated people based on skin colour, these days you do the same thing based on sexual preference. Taking a stand against this kind

      • by Jawnn (445279)
        Gosh, perhaps I was a bit too hard on your corporate powers. They seem to be putting forth a sound effort to advance their own interests and to distract voters with BS issues. My apologies.
        BTW, any thinking person knows that gay marriage is an important issue. It's just that the rest of the voters seem to think that it's important for all the wrong reasons.
  • Judging by the SMH article, the problems started when a new director came in and started to run the place like a corporation instead of a research facility.

    It would appear the CSIRO is - along with the ACCC, and others - another victim of the Howard neocons. New Labor being nearly indistinguishable in this regard, have just kept the ball rolling.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Megan Clark was installed as Director under Labor in 2009. While you might want to cast some blame howards way for funding cutbacks, the mess didn't really start till labor took over.
    • by sjwt (161428)

      And that would make you another Labor revisionist?

      2009 - Labor was in power...

      Seen all those ads on TV from Labor about how the Liberals were denying the GFC? It was Labor who said 'We are not in a recession' when the Liberals were talking about the GFC and how it hit Australia.. The only thing that saved us was Liberals hard saved cash that Labor spent.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        revisionist?

        the only revisionism here is your post.

        Seen all those ads on TV from Labor about how the Liberals were denying the GFC?

        No, because they dont exist.

        Stop getting your info from Murdoch.

        We are not in a recession'

        That's because we weren't in recession.

        We experienced knock on effects from the GFC when it hit the US and Eurozone. We recovered within months whilst the US and Eurozone have been in actual recessions for the last 4 years.

        The GFC never really hit Australia. Our economy has been growing since mid 2009 although a lot of idiots keep saying that it's going to hit us any minute now... Any minute now..

        • by barv (1382797)

          That North Atlantic Banking Crisis (aka GFC) did not justify the incredible wastage by Batts, overpriced & unnecessary school (BER) buildings, and the $94 billion NBN, Thank God JH sold off Telstra and airports. Those places were hotbeds of union "regulatory capture" for wage rises. What we need is a Thatcher to stop all the union rorts.

          • by drsmithy (35869)

            What we need is a Thatcher to stop all the union rorts.
            Yeah. That overwhelming ~17% of the workforce that's unionised, mostly in average- to low-paying jobs like teaching and childcare, sure are "rorting" the system.
            Like the other guy said, stop getting your new from Murdoch. All he wants to do is turn Australia into another America (and he's doing a bang-up job so far, thanks to useful idiots like you). If you want to live in America so badly, move there. It's pretty easy for Australians to emigrate.

            • by barv (1382797)

              Teachers (NSW) get $70k-$100k. Average annual pay for my PT waiter about $25k. Average FT Oz pay about $50k. Don't start me on miners, MUA or union organizers ($100k+), And every time I see about 3 flag wavers (what are they on? $50k?) to every worker repairing footpaths I know how my council rates are being wasted. At least in NY there were 3 blokes repairing the road, and no flag wavers, just a light moveable barrier.

              The system is rorted by a process called "regulatory capture" where laws are passed

              • by drsmithy (35869)

                Teachers (NSW) get $70k-$100k.

                Average annual pay for my PT waiter about $25k. Average FT Oz pay about $50k.

                Actually median salary is around $50k. Average is around $70k.
                For a skilled, degree-qualified job, teaching is not particularly highly-paid, especially in context of its importance.
                A schoolteacher's (as in, someone in the classroom) salary in NSW will top out at around $85k, no matter how long they're employed. If you want to go higher than that, you need to look at principal or other administrativ

                • by barv (1382797)

                  PT = part time. As in that is the only work he/she has. $25k + tips.

                  As in "average" includes high flyers like Rhinehart and Julia, but does not include part time workers? Median is what FT workers get when the high flyers excluded?

                  WRONG: "A schoolteacher's (as in, someone in the classroom) salary in NSW will top out at around $85k". I know teachers employed in NSW to teach Physics who get over $100k. Of course they work in the unregulated (non union) private school system.

                  And yes, quite seriously, I d

        • by drsmithy (35869)

          The GFC never really hit Australia. Our economy has been growing since mid 2009 although a lot of idiots keep saying that it's going to hit us any minute now... Any minute now... We've dodged 20 of these recessions in the last year. Mostly because idiots dont actually know anything about the economy.
          Our time is coming. Or economy has been almost entirely hollowed out and the ridiculously high real estate prices have massively and unsustainably increased the cost of living, and are now putting a drag on the

      • by drsmithy (35869)

        And that would make you another Labor revisionist?
        Fuck no. I haven't voted Labor since Keating. Since they've become nothing more than Liberals Lite, I wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole. My political position is soft-left, and Labor hasn't been anywhere left of centre for a decade.

        2009 - Labor was in power...
        The rot started nearly ten years earlier. [smh.com.au]
        "Some sheet home blame to CSIRO's former chief executive Geoff Garrett. Before his appointment in 2000, each division of the organisation directed its

  • Part of the job of CSIRO is to "deliver solutions for agribusiness", which basically means, "let Monsanto do whatever they want to whomever they want".

    I'm pretty sure the opportunities for corruption are quite numerous.

    "Let's do research into how wonderfully effective all the new genetically modified crops are and how we need to make sure nobody can grow a goddamn thing without paying a license fee. And look at this: Monsanto has sent scientists to help us!"

    • by dbIII (701233)
      It's not that simple and CSIRO have been in that field for decades before any supposed involvement with Monsanto.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        But we don't live in "decades ago" and today CSIRO is in bed with the multinationals. Look at the comment before yours for cites.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          No, I'm disputing your very narrow definition due to it ultimately being bullshit in the majority of cases. Even if it's true once the definition is too narrow if it's false a thousand other times.
          • by PopeRatzo (965947)

            No, I'm disputing your very narrow definition due to it ultimately being bullshit in the majority of cases. Even if it's true once the definition is too narrow if it's false a thousand other times.

            An organization doesn't have to be corrupt every time in order to be corrupt.

            That's how corruption works. You do what you're supposed to 95% of the time, but then the other 5% you really screw the pooch, morally. You're still corrupt. Through and through.

            • by dbIII (701233)
              However the problem here is misrepresenting an organisation that you know so little about that you cannot even correctly spell the last word of their name. Do you even know if they are working with Monsanto? Does Monsanto even have anyone working on research in Australia, and if they do, is there anything corrupt about what they are doing? You cannot answer a single one of those questions can you but here you are pretending that it's an established fact that an organisation owned by the Australian taxpay
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 14, 2013 @03:26PM (#43447259)
    The allegations directed at the CSIRO are little different from what could be said about many Australian universities (speaking as a PhD graduate and post-doc of many years' experience in them). It's possible that the CSIRO problems are coming to light first because they have more senior academics; not just hoardes of PhD students and the occasional terrified post-doc.

    In particular, it's common for low and mid-level people to be hired from overseas, come to Australia, and see their research stagnate due to lack of funding. New academics don't realise that when Australian positions have "grant writing" as part of the job description, they mean: "You must bring in ALL of your own money, dude, oh, and btw, hope you have better luck with that than ALL THE REST OF OUR DEPARTMENT!" These new people end up fiddling around with bits and pieces of their old research projects from former institutions while they're ground to dust lecturing a bazillion subjects. All of this is covered up by our glorious leaders in Administration who commission glossy brochures to explain how well we're doing in research.
    • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @06:03PM (#43448017)
      Oh for a mod point or ten. I spent the first year of my faculty position scrambling to get funding, and now that I've got it I need to scramble to do research whilst also running classes. Between the dozen 'urgent' things to be done at any one time, I never get a chance to really sit and think hard about my research problems - I just have to hope that I hit on something novel and important when I'm in the shower and that a student then does it justice to get the papers out. It's shit and it makes our research shit.
  • Seen it first hand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HuguesT (84078) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @03:47PM (#43447371)

    I'm not really at liberty to describe the research culture at CSIRO in great detail, but it is, or at least was, as the articles say, very application-driven and short-term, external-earning motivated. This was only in one division, I cannot speak for the whole of the organization, however these stories seem to indicate that the problem is widespread.

    I was at CSIRO between the mid-1990 to the mid 2000, and I have seen it progressively become a very tough place to do research. I was very very happy to leave. I'm not a top researcher by any stretch of the imagination, and I was never bullied, although I did experience unpleasant conflict. Ever since I've left (for academia) I've been more free to conduct my research the way I wanted it, I have found that it is indeed easier to find funding (so far). Looking for funding first and doing skunk research second is a sure way to kill imagination and generate stress, dissatisfaction and mistrust, not to mention poor results. Scientists are not necessarily good salespeople (too frank). Basically CSIRO was (and apparently still is in some places) in some ways a toxic place for scientists.

    I hope it improves. CSIRO is nowhere near the top 10 rank it seeks to achieve, at least in the areas I'm familiar with, but there are still very good people working there.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As a project staff person, I really enjoyed my time at CSIRO. I was working on a project that had some initial success but eventually wound up. The uni I'm working for now is no better for job security - still fixed term employment tied to the duration of whatever grant is propping things up at the time - but there seems to be less confusion about budget and more strategy (or even just acknowledgement) of how to deal with my current term ending. At CSIRO, every year, we would receive termination E-mails and

    • by Anonymous Coward
      CSIRO is not alone in this type of behavior.

      For example, in the US, The Aerospace Corp. routinely and deliberately re-negs on promises made at acceptance of an in-writing offer for employment (Who would sue their new employer for breach of contract?). Then they carefully, and step-by-step, try to bottle up talent, so that those employees are no longer marketable as scientists, effectively trapping them in their job at Aerospace. If talent continues to be expressed, punishments follow. They breed medioc
    • I'm not really at liberty to describe the research culture at CSIRO in great detail, but it is, or at least was, as the articles say, very application-driven and short-term, external-earning motivated. This was only in one division, I cannot speak for the whole of the organization, however these stories seem to indicate that the problem is widespread.

      Sounds like the culture needs improving, but I don't hear anything in there about "fraud", "corruption" or any other "illegal" goings-on, as the article suggests.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I must have missed that one. I thought the NY one was the best, especially after Grissom left the original series.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Posting as AC because I currently work at CSIRO. I've made my views known many times during employee surveys and reviews, this isn't new to CSIRO but I hope it is informative to the public.

    The government has been cutting our funding progressively for a long time. They announce brand new funding agreements that are "amazing" increases, whilst not-announcing on-going small cuts to our funding between agreements. This is basically death by a thousand cuts, with a band-aid applied every 50 or so.

    Our organisatio

  • Oh. I guess it doesn't suit the powers that be that this subject be a topic for discussion. It might reflect badly on the Labour Party (= Democrat).

  • What are the quotation marks in the OP indicating? Who said it? The CSIRO is an extremely accountable and ethical organisation. If the CEO and the AFP are not taking action against CSIRO staff, then it must be for a good reason that we have not been told. My guess is that this a beat-up by Novartis or some other patent troll. More critical thinking and less jumping to conclusions please.

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