CSIRO reduce job cuts but still 275 to go

The announcement of a new climate research centre has saved some CSIRO jobs from the chopping block but there are still 275 to be cut.

The CSIRO in Canberra

CSIRO has announced a new climate research hub for Hobart, employing 40 fulltime scientists. (AAP)

The CSIRO will slash 275 science jobs but the agency insists it remains committed to climate change research and has unveiled plans for a specialised centre in Hobart.

In an email to workers on Tuesday, CSIRO boss Larry Marshall advised that the government's peak science body will employ 40 full-time scientists at the new centre as part of a decade-long commitment.

The number of job losses is down from 350 as announced in February's proposed restructure of the agency's 5000-strong workforce.

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"To achieve this change, we won't be able to make as many new recruitments in the areas as previously planned," Dr Marshall said.

"Our goal is still for our staffing levels to return to the current level, but it will take us longer to achieve."

The CSIRO faces funding constraints, along with additional priorities which had prompted the changes, but department director Alex Wonhas said a backlash by staff and the community prompted a re-think.

"The outcome we have come to now is a much better outcome in particular when it comes to climate science where we maintain a much stronger capability," he told reporters in Hobart on Tuesday.

The work will focus on collecting data, making observations and conducting modelling to better understand climate change.

An independent panel, the National Climate Science Advisory Committee, will also be set up and report to Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Industry, Science and Innovation Minister Christopher Pyne.

It remains unknown how the job cuts will be made, but the email to staff nominated six departments, including oceans and atmosphere, which is to be hit hardest with the loss of some 75 positions.

He said a "relatively small" impact would be felt in Hobart, where up to 40 jobs will go.

CSIRO senior research scientist Richard Matear said a meeting on Tuesday afternoon gave staff their first idea of where the job cuts will bite.

"The cuts are across the whole atmosphere and oceans division rather than just being in the climate space," he told AAP.

Dr Matear and his colleagues expect to hear more detail over the coming fortnight and in the meantime are sceptical about how the agency will cope with less staff.

"There will have to be a reduction in effort," he said.

"It's still not super clear what areas of science we are going to have to drop."

Critics say the new research centre is a cover for the cuts.

"It can't avoid the fundamental issue here which is that ... we are facing a hammer blow to climate science in Australia," Greens senator Nick McKim said.

Federal Labor senator Kim Carr said the new centre has been announced for political, not scientific, reasons and called on Mr Pyne to intervene and stop the CSIRO making rushed changes.

Dr Marshall is due to face a Senate committee hearing in Canberra on Wednesday when he is expected to be quizzed about the CSIRO's latest moves.


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3 min read
Published 26 April 2016 at 5:30pm
Source: AAP