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CSIRO Headquarters in Canberra

This month’s cameo speaker at my local Probus Club chose for his topic ‘ Some Of What CSIRO Does With Your Taxes’. He described how Government funding for the organisation has dropped by 25% over the last five years, which has resulted in CSIRO’s earnings being down too. Then he touched on just three of their current projects:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease (where they have found that it is caused by not just high Amyloid tissue in the brain but also with high iron levels. They are trialling the drug Deferiprone to reduce the iron levels.)
  • Technology for Autism (1-100 children suffer from Autism. Computers may not be of benefit but the best three apps deal with language, education, and attention.)
  • Graphene (is a form of carbon only one atom thick and is very hard . It is very expensive to produce but CSIRO has devised a way to produce it much more cheaply from peanut oil.)

The CSIRO as such came into being after World War II from other precursor scientific organisations. When I was young, I remember the CSIRO being in the headlines much more so than it is today. Its mantra was (and still is):

We do the extraordinary every day. We innovate for tomorrow and help improve today – for our customers, all Australians and the world. 

‘At the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), we shape the future. We do this by using science to solve real issues. Our research makes a difference to people, industry and the planet.’

Notable past developments by CSIRO have included the invention of atomic absorption spectroscopy, essential components of Wi-Fi technology, the polymer banknote, the insect repellent in Aerogard and myxomatosis for the control of rabbit populations.

So why is its funding being reduced? Is science no longer the panacea that it was once thought to be? Is there too much competition for Government monies? Has it become too self-effacing? Has technology stolen the public’s obsessions? In this era when chest beating for the audience attention seems to be dominated by everyone from media chefs to swaggering world leaders, perhaps its time that CSIRO, too, became more vocal about its achievements.