Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is the national government body for scientific research in Australia. It was founded in 1926 originally as the Advisory Council of Science and Industry.

Research highlights include the invention of atomic absorption spectroscopy, development of the first polymer banknote, invention of the insect repellent in Aerogard, and the introduction of a series of biological controls into Australia, such as the introduction of Myxomatosis and Rabbit calicivirus which causes rabbit haemorrhagic disease for the control of rabbit populations. CSIRO's research into ICT technologies has resulted in advances such as the Panoptic Search Engine (now known as Funnelback) and Annodex.

Recently, the CSIRO has been actively defending its patent for the use of wireless technologies which are a standard for many modern day laptops. A class action has been filed by US corporations Microsoft, Apple and Dell to renege on paying royalties on the wireless patent filed by the CSIRO in 1996.

In October 2005 the journal Nature announced that CSIRO scientists had developed near-perfect rubber from resilin, the elastic protein which gives fleas their jumping ability and helps insects fly. on 19 August, 2005, CSIRO and UTD (University of Dallas, Texas) announced they were able to make transparent carbon nanotube sheets that will bring carbon nanotube products to the masses.

Research groups and initiatives

Employing over 6600 staff, the CSIRO maintains more than 50 sites across Australia and biological control research stations in France and Mexico. The primary roles of the CSIRO include contributing to meeting the objectives and responsibilities of the Australian Federal Government and providing new ways to benefit the Australian community and the economic and social performance of a number of industry sectors through research and development.

Research undertaken by the CSIRO is divided into 16 operational 'Divisions'. These are:

  • Australia Telescope National Facility
  • Energy Technology
  • Entomology
  • Exploration & Mining
  • ICT Centre
  • Industrial Physics (defunct)
  • Land and Water
  • Livestock Industries
  • Manufacturing and Materials Technology (defunct)
  • Marine and Atmospheric Research
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mathematics and Information Sciences
  • Minerals
  • Molecular and Health Technologies
  • Petroleum Resources
  • Plant Industry
  • Sustainable Ecosystems
  • Textiles and Fibre Technologies

In 2007, the divisions of Industrial Physics and Manufacturing and Materials Technology merged to form a new division, Materials Science and Engineering.

In addition, CSIRO is a participant in a number of joint ventures, including:

  • Ensis - forestry and forest products, with New Zealand's Forestry research organisation named Scion
  • Food Science Australia - with the Victorian Government
  • The Australian e-Health Research Centre - with the Queensland Government

"Flagship" initiative

The CSIRO "Flagship" initiative was designed to integrate, focus and direct national scientific resources. In May 2005, the government announced the launch of CSIRO's $97 million Flagship Collaboration Fund, which is intended to encourage cooperative research between universities, CSIRO and other research agencies. As of Jan 2008, the CSIRO supported the following 9 "Flagships:

  • Climate Adaptation
  • Energy Transformed
  • Food Futures
  • Light Metals
  • Minerals Down Under
  • Niche Manufacturing
  • Preventative Health
  • Water for a Healthy Country
  • Wealth from Oceans

In April 2007, funding for a new Flagship was announced by the Federal government. It will be investigating the effects of Climate Change.

The Air Quality Modelling and Dispersion Team

CSIRO's Air Quality Modelling and Dispersion Team is a part of the Marine and Atmospheric Research division.

Some of the widely used air quality dispersion models developed by CSIRO are:

The "Australian Air Quality Forecasting System" is provided jointly by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. The Bureau of Meteorology generates the high resolution weather forecasts and CSIRO has created computer models to calculate pollution levels.


A precursor to the CSIRO, the Advisory Council of Science and Industry, was established in 1916 at the initiative of Prime Minister Billy Hughes. However, the Advisory Council struggled with insufficient funding during the First World War. In 1920 the Council was renamed the "Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry", and was led by George Handley Knibbs (1921-26), but continued to struggle financially.

In 1926 The Science and Industry Research Act replaced the Institute with the 'Council for Scientific and Industrial Research' (CSIR). The CSIR was structured to represent the federal structure of Australian government, and had state-level committees and a central council. As well as this improved structure, the CSIR benefited from strong bureaucratic management under George Julius, David Rivett, and Arnold Richardson. CSIR research focussed on primary and secondary industries. Early in its existence, it established divisions studying animal health and animal nutrition. After the depression, the CSIR extended into secondary industries such as manufacturing.

Notable inventions and breakthroughs by the CSIRO include:

The CSIRO today has expanded into a wider range of scientific inquiry. This expansion began with the establishment of the CSIRO in 1949 which, as well as a name change, reconstituted the organisation and its administrative structure. Under Ian Clunies Ross as chairman, the CSIRO pursued new areas such as radioastronomy and industrial chemistry.

Historic research

CSIR owned the first computer in Australia, CSIRAC, built as part of a project began in the Sydney Radiophysics Laboratory in 1947. The CSIR Mk 1 ran its first program in 1949, the fifth electronic computer in the world. It was over 1000 times faster than the mechanical calculators available at the time. It was decommissioned in 1955 and recommissioned in Melbourne as CSIRAC in 1956 as a general purpose computing machine used by over 700 projects until 1964. The CSIRAC is the only functioning first-generation computer in the world today.

Domain name

The CSIRO was the first Australian organisation to start using the internet, and as such was free to register the second-level domain (as opposed to or Guidelines were introduced in 1996 to regulate the use of the .au domain.

Previous Chief Executives

Chief Executive Period in office
Albert Rivett 1 January 192731 December 1945
Arnold Richardson 1 January 194618 April 1949
Frederick White 19 April 194913 December 1956
Stewart Bastow 1 January 195730 June 1959
No designated chief executive 1 July 19594 December 1986
Keith Boardman (acting) 5 December 19864 March 1987
Keith Boardman 5 March 19874 March 1990
John Stocker 5 March 19904 March 1995
Roy Green (acting) 5 March 199520 July 1995
Roy Green 21 July 19952 January 1996
Roy Green (acting) 3 January 19964 February 1996
Malcolm McIntosh 5 February 19967 February 2000
Colin Adam (acting) 7 February 200014 January 2001
Geoff Garrett 15 January 2001–present

Recent controversies

Diet book

In 2005 the organisation also gained worldwide attention (and criticism) for publishing and promoting the Total Wellbeing Diet book which features a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The book has sold over half a million copies in Australia and over 100,000 overseas but was criticised in an editorial by Nature for giving scientific credence to a "fashionable" diet book sponsored by meat and dairy industries.

Job cuts

In 2006 CSIRO was again in the news, this time with reports that they were struggling with reduced funding and job cuts. It was reported that the organisation was increasingly affected by political processes as claims of gags on scientists on the topic of global warming emerged. The Labor Party attempted to open a Senate enquiry into the matter but it was rejected by the Government.

802.11 patent

In 2007 the adoption of the 802.11n wireless networking standard was held up when CSIRO refused to provide IEEE a Letter of Assurance to not sue over patent violations.. In late November 2007, CSIRO won a lawsuit against Buffalo Technology, with an injunction that Buffalo must stop supplying AirStation products that infringe on the 802.11 patent.

On September 19, 2008, the Federal Circuit ruled in Buffalo’s favor and has remanded this case to the district court ruling that the district court’s Summary Judgment was insufficient on the merits of obviousness of CSIRO’s patent. Therefore, this case will be tried again before the district court. In this connection Buffalo is hopeful that it will shortly be permitted to, once again, sell IEEE 802.11a and 802.11g compliant products in the United States.

See also


External sources

Currie, George; Graham, John, The Origins of CSIRO: Science and the Commonwealth Government, 1901-1926, CSIRO, Melbourne, 1966

External links

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