Probe into CSIRO 'bullying'
THE CSIRO has announced an ''independent'' inquiry into a string of serious allegations of misconduct and workplace bullying by as many as 100 former scientists, two months after it was issued with a formal notice by the Commonwealth work safety regulator.
The nation's peak scientific body quietly posted the announcement on its website on Tuesday night, saying that ''an eminent and experienced independent person [would] examine claims made by former employees''.
Midway through last year a group of scientists and former CSIRO staff formed a group - ''victims of CSIRO'' - to exert pressure on the organisation to address what the group claim is a culture of bullying and cover-up.
This group has names on it such as Maarten Stapper, a soil scientist allegedly pushed out because of his criticism of genetically modified crops, globally recognised oceanographer Trevor McDougall and award-winning entomologist Sylwester Chyb, who has begun litigation against the CSIRO for misleading conduct and unlawful termination.
In September, Fairfax media revealed that two of three CSIRO employees who blew the whistle in 2008 and 2010 on alleged ''criminal or civil breaches of the law'' were made redundant while the alleged perpetrators remained employed.
Then in December, Comcare issued the organisation an ''improvement notice'' under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
It requested a ''review and improvement'' of CSIRO's management of workplace misconduct and allegations of bullying.
Late last year, the opposition science spokeswoman, Sophie Mirabella, wrote to the government requesting it establish an inquiry. Ms Mirabella said she is aware of as many as 100 cases of alleged workplace harassment.
She said on Tuesday night there has been a ''stream of bullying allegations from some very qualified senior former CSIRO scientists'' and promised that if the Coalition won the election, she would change the way the sprawling organisation handled such matters.
The CSIRO statement said the inquiry aimed to ensure its duty of care was being met to its staff.
''This review mechanism is designed to provide an independent and formal means for former employees to raise concerns and allegations of inappropriate behaviour and misconduct whilst they were employed at CSIRO,'' it said. But it also said the inquiry was not a mechanism by which former employees could seek compensation.