CSIRO clampdown on international collaboration and travel?

Changes to International Travel Principles and Guidelines may have snuck under the radar in recent weeks – apparently without any staff consultation – in contrast to CSIRO and Federal Government rhetoric aiming to increase collaboration, including public good research.

According to a documents available on the CSIRO intranet, ‘in May 2017, the Minister of Industry, Innovation and Science agreed to the following approval process for international travel by individuals and delegations.’

If confirmed the changes may represent increased limitations on overseas travel and international collaboration not seen since the restrictions imposed by Tony Abbott’s Coalition Government in 2013.

Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski said the document outlining the changes raised a number of concerns.

“The Staff Association has written to Executive seeking clarification on a number of issues. Firstly, have CSIRO International Travel Principles and Guidelines changed this year – and if so, why?”

“This document seems to infer that Science Minister Senator Arthur Sinodinos has ‘agreed’ to a process however it isn’t clear whether this is at the instigation of CSIRO Executive or the Minister’s office,” Mr Popovski said.

Restricted approval

Approval for all international travel – from single participants to delegations – apparently will not be available without CSIRO Executive and / or Ministerial sign-off.

According to the document, CSIRO Executive Team will have final say on any international travel up to $20,000. Trips to pursue overseas collaboration up to $50,000 will require the imprimatur of Chief Executive Larry Marshall. Larger delegations with bigger budgets won’t pass muster without Ministerial approval.

C$IRO priorities

Despite recent announcements from Government stating that CSIRO will emphasise the pursuit of public good research and basic science, the criteria outlining the purposes for international travel do not seem to echo these calls.

The priorities of ‘client obligations,’ ‘business development’ and ‘supporting external earnings’ appear to be favoured instead.

Lack of consultation?

Mr Popovski said the Staff Association has written to Senior Executives Craig Roy and Hazel Bennett seeking answers.

“If this policy has changed, who did CSIRO consult with on the changes? Were staff consulted? If yes, how and when? Why weren’t Staff Association representatives consulted on the changes?”

Ms Bennett has subsequently responded to the Staff Association agreeing to provide a briefing regarding the issue.

One thought on “CSIRO clampdown on international collaboration and travel?

  1. There are some immediate deductions that follow from this announcement
    1. The revised terms of reference encourage overseas travel from managers and discourage those from scientists
    2. The executive team does not trust business unit managers to be able to assess overseas travel claims
    3. When the executive team does announce specific changes designed to attract and retain best scientists, they’ll be fantastically good to compensate the recent crop of discouraging announcements.

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