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Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
CSIRO Logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed 1916
Preceding agencies
  • Advisory Council of Science and Industry (1916–1920)
  • Institute of Science and Industry (1920–1926)
  • CSIR (1926–1949)
Jurisdiction Australia
Headquarters Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Motto We imagine. We collaborate. We innovate.
Employees 5,500
Minister responsible
Agency executives
Website CSIRO Australia

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is an independent agency of the Australian Federal Government responsible for scientific research in Australia. Its chief role is to improve the economic and social performance of industry, for the benefit of the community. CSIRO works with leading organisations around the world.[1][2]

A precursor to CSIRO, the Advisory Council of Science and Industry, was established in 1916 at the initiative of prime minister Billy Hughes. From its headquarters in Canberra, CSIRO maintains over 50 sites across Australia and sites in France, Chile and the United States of America, employing about 5500 in total.

Notable developments by CSIRO have included the invention of atomic absorption spectroscopy, essential components of Wi-Fi technology, development of the first commercially successful polymer banknote, the 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 for the control of rabbit populations.


As of 1 July 2014, CSIRO is governed by a Board, chaired by David Thodey with nine directors inclusive of the CE, all appointed by the Australian Government. Daily management is led by a CE, presently Dr Larry R. Marshall.

Research and focus areas

CSIRO is structured into research focus areas, services and infrastructure.[3]

Research areas

  • Agriculture and Food
  • Data61
  • Energy
  • Land and Water
  • Mineral Resources
  • Manufacturing
  • Oceans and Atmosphere
  • Health and Biosecurity


  • Small medium enterprise (SME Connect)
  • Education
  • Publishing house (CSIRO Publishing)
  • Testing
  • Strategy and foresight (CSIRO Futures)

Infrastructure and facilities

CSIRO manages national research facilities and scientific infrastructure on behalf of the nation to assist with the delivery of research. The national facilities and specialised laboratories are available to both international and Australian users from industry and research.


CSIRO manages a number of collections of animal and plant specimens that contribute to national and international biological knowledge. The National Collections contribute to taxonomic, genetic, agricultural and ecological research.


  • ON, Australia's innovation accelerator
  • Main Sequence Ventures, the CSIRO Innovation Fund
  • Future Science Platforms


A precursor to 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.

CSIRO today has expanded into a wider range of scientific inquiry. This expansion began with the evolution of CSIR to the CSIRO by the Ben Chifley Labor government in 1949 which amended the Science and Industry Research Act,[4] under which CSIRO continues to operate. The amendment enlarged and reconstituted the organisation and its administrative structure. Under Ian Clunies Ross as chairman, CSIRO pursued new areas such as radioastronomy and industrial chemistry.


Notable inventions and breakthroughs by CSIRO include:

Historic research

CSIRO had a pioneering role in the scientific discovery of the universe through radio "eyes". A team led by Paul Wild built and operated (from 1948) the world’s first solar radiospectrograph, and from 1967 the 3-kilometre-diameter (1.9 mi) radioheliograph at Culgoora in New South Wales. For three decades, the Division of Radiophysics had a world-leading role in solar research, attracting prominent solar physicists from around the world.[5]

CSIRO 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 1,000 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.[6] The CSIRAC is the only surviving first-generation computer in the world.[7]

Between 1965 and 1985, George Bornemissza of CSIRO's Division of Entomology founded and led the Australian Dung Beetle Project. Bornemissza, upon settling in Australia from Hungary in 1951, noticed that the pastureland was covered in dry cattle dung pads which did not seem to be recycled into the soil and caused areas of rank pasture which were unpalatable to the cattle. He proposed that the reason for this was that native Australian dung beetles, which had co-evolved alongside the marsupials (which produce dung very different in its composition from cattle), were not adapted to utilise cattle dung for their nutrition and breeding since cattle had only relatively recently been introduced to the continent in the 1880s. The Australian Dung Beetle Project sought, therefore, to introduce species of dung beetle from South Africa and Europe (which had co-evolved alongside bovids) in order to improve the fertility and quality of cattle pastures. Twenty-three species were successfully introduced throughout the duration of the project and also had the effect of reducing the pestilent bush fly population by 90%.[8]

Domain name

CSIRO was the first Australian organisation to start using the Internet[9] and was able to register the second-level domain csiro.au (as opposed to csiro.org.au or csiro.com.au). Guidelines were introduced in 1996 to regulate the use of the .au domain.

Governance and management


  • 802.11 patent: In the early 1990s, CSIRO radio astronomy scientists John O'Sullivan, Graham Daniels, Terence Percival, Diethelm Ostry and John Deane undertook research directed to finding a way to make wireless networks work as fast as wired networks within confined spaces such as office buildings. The technique they developed, involving a particular combination of forward error correction, frequency-domain interleaving, and multi-carrier modulation, became the subject of U.S. Patent 5,487,069, which was granted on 23 January 1996.In 1997 Macquarie University professor David Skellern and his colleague Neil Weste established the company Radiata, Inc., which took a nonexclusive licence to the CSIRO patent for the purpose of developing commercially viable integrated circuit devices implementing the patented technology.[19] During this period, the IEEE 802.11 Working Group was developing the 802.11a wireless LAN standard. CSIRO did not participate directly in the standards process, however David Skellern was an active participant as secretary of the Working Group, and representative of Radiata.[20] In 1998 it became apparent that the CSIRO patent would be pertinent to the standard. In response to a request from Victor Hayes of Lucent Technologies, who was Chair of the 802.11 Working Group, CSIRO confirmed its commitment to make non-exclusive licenses available to implementers of the standard on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.[21] In 1999, Cisco Systems, Inc. and Broadcom Corporation each invested A$4 million in Radiata, representing an 11% stake for each investor and valuing the company at around A$36 million.[19] In September 2000, Radiata demonstrated a chip set complying with the recently finalised IEEE 802.11a Wi-Fi standard, and capable of handling transmission rates of up to 54 Mbit/s, at a major international exhibition.[19] In November 2000, Cisco acquired Radiata in exchange for US$295 million in Cisco common stock with the intention of incorporating the Radiata Baseband Processor and Radio chips into its Aironet family of wireless LAN products.[22] Cisco subsequently took a large write-down on the Radiata acquisition, following the 2001 telecoms crash,[23] and in 2004 it shut down its internal development of wireless chipsets based on the Radiata technology in order to focus on software development and emerging new technologies.[24] In April 2009, Hewlett-Packard broke ranks with the rest of the industry becoming the first to reach a settlement of its dispute with CSIRO.[25] This agreement was followed quickly by settlements with Microsoft, Fujitsu and Asus[26] and then Dell, Intel, Nintendo, Toshiba, Netgear, Buffalo, D-Link, Belkin, SMC, Accton, and 3Com.[27][28] The controversy grew after CSIRO sued US carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile in 2010, with the organisation being accused of being "Australia's biggest patent troll", a wrathful "patent bully", and of imposing a "WiFi tax" on American innovation.[29][30][31] Further fuel was added to the controversy after a settlement with the carriers, worth around $229 million, was announced in March 2012.[32][33] Encouraged in part by an announcement by the Australian Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans,[34] an article in Ars Technica portrayed CSIRO as a shadowy organisation responsible for US consumers being compelled to make "a multimillion dollar donation" on the basis of a questionable patent claiming "decades old" technology.[35] The resulting debate became so heated that the author was compelled to follow up with a defence of the original article.[36] An alternative view was also published on The Register, challenging a number of the assertions made in the Ars Technica piece.[37]
  • Workplace bullying and the Pearce Review: In response to allegations of workplace bullying and harassment, in 2012-13 former CSIRO CE, Dr Megan Clark commissioned Dennis Pearce,[38] who is assisted by an investigation team from HWL Ebsworth Lawyers,[39] to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of workplace bullying and other unreasonable behaviour.[40]
  • Climate change: In August 2015 the CSIRO discontinued its annual global warming sentiment survey; on the 11th February 2016, Dr Larry Marshall described Australia’s national climate change discussion as “more like religion than science,”; In “an open letter to the Australian Government and CSIRO”, 2,800 climate scientists from 60 countries responded to cuts in CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere research program.[41]

See also


  1. ^ Although no chief executive was separately designated during the period 1 July 1959 – 4 December 1986, during the latter part of the 1978–1985 tenure of Paul Wild as chairman, the powers of chairman and chief executive were combined – that is, Wild was designated "Chairman and Chief Executive". Subsequently, the roles were again split with separate powers, the chairman becoming part-time.[10]


  1. ^ https://www.csiro.au/en/About/International
  2. ^ "International collaboration – CSIRO". Csiro.au. 2016-01-28. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference OrgChart2017 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ "ComLaw – Science and Industry Research Act". Australian Government. Retrieved 21 December 2015. 
  5. ^ "Dr John Paul Wild". CSIRO. 16 May 2008. Archived from the original on 25 January 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  6. ^ Steven Pass; David Hornsby. "CSIRAC". Department of Computer Science and Engineering. University of Melbourne. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2006. 
  7. ^ "Museum Victoria's CSIRAC information site". Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  8. ^ Bornemissza G. F. (1976). "The Australian dung beetle project 1965–1975". Australian Meat Research Committee Review. 30: 1–30. 
  9. ^ "AARNET – About Us – History". Australian Academic and Research Network. Archived from the original on 12 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Wild, J.P. (John Paul); Bhathal, R.S. (interviewer) (7 February 1995), Paul Wild interviewed by Ragbir Bhathal for the Australian astronomers oral history project, Canberra: National Library of Australia, pp. 43, 44. 
  11. ^ "Vale Neville Wran: CSIRO's first Board Chairman" (Press release). Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  12. ^ "Chief Executives and Chairs". Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Retrieved 21 December 2015. 
  13. ^ "Dr John Stocker, AO: CSIRO Board Chairman". Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Archived from the original on 15 August 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2008. 
  14. ^ Atkins, William (21 June 2010). "Simon McKeon becomes CSIRO head". itwire.com. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  15. ^ "Macquarie boss gets CSIRO top job". ABC News. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 26 January 2011. 
  16. ^ "Former Telstra chief executive Thodey appointed CSIRO chairman". Australian Financial Review. 6 August 2015. 
  17. ^ "Dr Megan Clark: Next Chief Executive of CSIRO". Csiro.au. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  18. ^ Donaldson, David. "CSIRO appoints venture capitalist Larry Marshall as new CEO". The Mandarin (9 October 2014). Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  19. ^ a b c Matthews, Mark; Bob Frater (November 2003). "Creating and Exploiting Intangible Networks: How Radiata was able to improve its odds of success in the risky process of innovating" (PDF). Australian Government, Department of Education, Science and Training. pp. 8–9 & 16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 April 2007. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  20. ^ Skellern, David (5–9 July 1999). "Tentative Minutes of the IEEE P802.11 Full Working Group" (PDF). Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  21. ^ Cooper, Dennis (4 December 1998). "Letter to Mr V Hayes, Chair, IEEE P802.11" (PDF). Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  22. ^ "Press Release: Cisco Systems to Acquire Radiata, Inc". Cisco Systems, Inc. Archived from the original on 24 November 2001. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  23. ^ Heskett, Ben (9 May 2001). "Cisco still confident after networking shock". ZDNet. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  24. ^ Reardon, Marguerite (30 January 2004). "Cisco retires wireless chipsets". CNET News. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  25. ^ Moses, Asher (1 April 2009). "CSIRO cashes in on patent claim". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  26. ^ Duckett, Chris (15 April 2009). "Microsoft, Fujitsu, Asus settle with CSIRO". ZDNet. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  27. ^ Stevens, Tim (22 April 2009). "CSIRO's patent lawsuits conclude with the final 13 companies set". Engadget. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  28. ^ Flynn, David (23 April 2009). "CSIRO could scoop billions from Wi-Fi patent". APC Magazine. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  29. ^ Popper, Ben (3 June 2010). "Australia's Biggest Patent Troll Goes After AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile". CBS News. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  30. ^ Stevens, Tim (21 May 2010). "CSIRO's patent fight targets more victims: AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile". Engadget. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  31. ^ Masnick, Mike (2 June 2010). "CSIRO Wants To Expand Its WiFi Tax: Sues Mobile Operators". TechDirt. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  32. ^ Chirgwin, Richard (1 April 2012). "Champagne at CSIRO after WiFi patent settlement". The Register. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  33. ^ Brodkin, Jon (3 April 2012). "WiFi patent case results in $229 million payment to Australian government". Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  34. ^ "Media Release: Aussie scientists bring home millions in wifi windfall". Australian Government. 1 April 2012. Archived from the original on 9 April 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  35. ^ Mullin, Joe (5 April 2012). "How the Aussie government "invented WiFi" and sued its way to $430 million". Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  36. ^ Mullin, Joe (6 April 2012). "Responses and clarifications on the CSIRO patent lawsuits". Ars Technica. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  37. ^ Chirgwin, Richard (10 April 2012). "CSIRO patent-trolls ALL OF AMERICA!". The Register. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  38. ^ "Emeritus Prof. Dennis Pearce AO FAAL". Hwlebsworth.com.au. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 
  39. ^ "HWL Ebsworth appointed to CSIRO bullying enquiry". Asian Legal Business. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  40. ^ Independent Investigator for Allegations of Workplace Bullying and Other Unreasonable Behaviour Archived 9 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine., hwlebsworth.com.au
    "Emeritus Professor Dennis Pearce AO has been appointed as the independent investigator for allegations of workplace bullying and other unreasonable behaviour by current and former CSIRO staff members and CSIRO affiliates."
  41. ^ "The world's top scientists beg Malcolm Turnbull to allow CSIRO to continue its climate research". Businessinsider.com.au. Retrieved 2017-01-04. 


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

External links

  • Official website
  • Commonwealth of Australia. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). (1949–) National Library of Australia, Trove, People and Organisation record for CSIRO
  • Commonwealth of Australia. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). (1926–1949) National Library of Australia, Trove, People and Organisation record for CSIR
  • Australian e-Health Research Centre (AeHRC)
  • Centre for Liveability Real Estate
  • Issues
    • "United States Appellate Court Rules in Buffalo's Favor in Ongoing U.S. Patent Litigation". Buffalo Tech. 24 September 2008. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Wi-Fi technology relating to the transmission of wireless signals 
    • "Victims of Bullying, Harassment, and Victimisation in the CSIRO". 2011. 
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