blog In what we’d have to say was one of the more curious funding decisions of the year, it appears as though Australia’s peak research agency the CSIRO has decided that the division which made it the most money over the past few years — the one which which made hundreds of millions of dollars suing many major global technology vendors over its patented wireless innovations — has too much fat and should be trimmed down to keep costs low. The Community and Public Sector Union, which has a strong presence at the CSIRO, issued this media release yesterday:
“Despite reaping almost half a billion dollars in WiFi patent royalties over the past decade – including $220 million earlier this year – the CSIRO is planning to cut several key research positions in its wireless laboratories, citing budget pressures. News of the CSIRO job shake-up comes as the Federal Government prepares a major revamp of innovation and industry policy.
CSIRO Staff Association President, Dr Michael Borgas, said the announcement of redundancies within the Wireless and Networking Technology Program was baffling. “This is not just a bad look. This is an acutely short-sighted decision by CSIRO’s ICT management.” “The development of WiFi has delivered both fame and fortune to CSIRO and the Australian Government. It was only in April that another three US companies settled another patent agreement with CSIRO worth $220 million,” Dr Borgas said.
“So to hear eight months later that CSIRO plans to sack researchers working on the next generation of wireless innovation is almost incomprehensible,” Dr Borgas said.
The Wireless Networking Technologies Research Program consists of approximately 60 Full-Time Equivalent positions, located in Sydney and deployed across several critical CSIRO themes including the Square Kilometre Array project, which will build the world’s largest network of radio telescopes in Australia and South Africa.
In an email to the Staff Association, CSIRO’s ICT management claimed that the “planned reductions (would) not eliminate any scientific capability from… within the ICT centre.”
Dr Borgas said that based on recent form, claims by management that science research would remain unaffected were hard to swallow. “Less than twelve months ago, a restructure in ICT resulted in the loss of five research positions. Management’s new plan to axe another three research positions from the program represents a staff cut of five per cent. It’s reasonable to predict that the loss of these additional research positions will result in some loss of capability. Our members working in ICT certainly think so. Staff say that these latest cuts will bite deep and strike bone,” Dr Borgas said.
The CSIRO Staff Association is calling for ICT management to rethink the situation, Dr Borgas said. “It’s not too late to revisit the decision. These research positions are worth saving. The success of the WiFi patent demonstrates that investment in research pays results. But worthy innovations need time to fully develop.”
“At the very least, scientific talent should not be wasted. It’s a large organisation and if the jobs in the Wireless Program cannot be saved, we’ll be pressing for the redeployment of the affected researchers to another area within CSIRO,” Dr Borgas said.