Funding for astronomy and space science at Australia’s Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is set to take a major hit courtesy of government budget cuts.
The Federal Government will slash science funding at CSIRO by $115 million resulting in hundreds of job losses, cuts to research and site closures.
CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science Division – responsible for the science that led to the development of Wi-Fi – has confirmed that funding cuts will cost jobs, scholarship programs and signals an uncertain future for radio telescope facilities in Parkes and Narrabri.
Space science job cuts
CSIRO management have announced twelve positions will be made redundant as a result of funding cuts to Astronomy and Space Science research.
However the combined impact of direct job cuts – alongside the non-renewal of specified term positions and vacancies remaining unfilled – is estimated in the loss of 30 full time equivalent positions.
Astronomy scholarships suspended
Several prestigious and world-renowned astronomy scholarships offered by CSIRO will be suspended.
The Bolton Fellowship is Australia’s longest standing astronomical prize fellowship and is designed to assist young space scientists.
As an international collaboration between CSIRO and the Department of Astronomy of the University of Chile, the Australis Fellowship had provided up three years of postdoctoral study across two southern continents.
Parkes and Narrabri facilities face uncertain future
While CSIRO remains upbeat over the future of the Square Kilometre Array – an international project to deliver the world’s largest network of radio telescopes – management’s decision not to appoint a Chief Scientist to the SKA project has raised eyebrows across the astronomical community.
Of more immediate concern is the future of the Parkes radio telescope and the Australia Telescope Compact Array located at Narrabri.
In a recent presentation to staff, Astronomy and Space Science Director Dr Lewis Ball stated that without long term, substantial external investment, CSIRO might have to stop funding Parkes, Narrabri – or both.
Recent media reports have suggested that CSIRO may seek to implement automated observing at the iconic Parkes telescope, made famous by the Australian film The Dish.
CSIRO cuts space research deeply to find required $114m savings – Guardian Australia