Archive for October, 2014
The following article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald
Who could disagree?
The suggestion in CSIRO’s Annual Report that the Pearce investigation was a staff welfare exercise is absolutely astounding and reprehensible. Victims of CSIRO are yet to hear from any participant in the investigation who feels they benefited from in. In contrast many participants have described a feeling of being re-victimised or re-injured as a result of their participation.
The Terms of Reference for the investigation were clearly lacking in any reference to providing closure for victims.
The Annual Report really underscores the extreme lack of empathy of those governing the CSIRO.
One might suggest that claiming a largely publicly discredited investigation as an outstanding high water mark of success for the CSIRO is just a little out of touch with reality.
…and they might have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky advocacy groups!
Here’s the article.
CSIRO spin doctors work their magic in latest annual report
Experts in organisational behaviour recognise the annual report as symbolic of an organisation’s culture, reflecting the enacted values of its leaders. These reports also shape cultural norms, as employees see this very public expression of what their leaders recognise as important. At the front of their latest report, CSIRO proudly showcases its ‘Values Compass’, which embraces core values of scientific excellence; trust and respect; scientific creativity; delivery on commitments; and health, safety and sustainability. But does the content of the recent report actually reflect these espoused values of CSIRO?
CSIRO’s over-riding focus on scientific excellence, creativity and delivery on commitments is clear, with more than 75 pages devoted to reporting its performance achievements. In contrast, the report dedicates just two pages to reporting on health and safety; three to environmental performance and three to diversity and inclusion and staff demographics. Given this extreme imbalance in emphasis between reporting outcomes related to science delivery and those which demonstrate ethical corporate values, CSIRO’s poor performance with respect to gender equity and dealing appropriately with bullying complaints is perhaps unsurprising.
The 2013-14 report includes scant detail on gender equity initiatives or outcomes. By comparison, universities and private companies supply very detailed information on the gender composition of their workforce to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency each year. This includes comprehensive reporting on gender policies and strategies supporting women’s participation (eg recruitment and retention; pay equity; parental leave; flexible work; childcare provision; sex-based harassment and discrimination). The majority of Federal Public Service Agencies report detailed statistics through the Australian Public Service Commission. However, CSIRO takes advantage of its status as “trusted advisor” to government to avoid the reporting that other organisations are legally obliged to comply with.
So can annual reports reveal more than the facts and figures contained within them? Research on the linguistic analyses of corporate communications has proliferated since the Enron scandal in the US. A Stanford University1 study found a strong association of “extreme positive emotion words” with deception by CEOs. Such language results from attempts to persuasively influence to mask poor performance. The tone of the latest CSIRO report is remarkably Pollyannaish given CSIRO’s recent funding cuts; staff layoffs; low staff morale; on-going reputational impacts of inappropriate institutional responses to bullying complaints and gender inequity. The CEO’s report sets the tenor with its somewhat unlikely assertion that she “will leave CSIRO knowing that it is well-positioned for the future“. Dr Clark’s two-page spiel is dotted with superlatives and extravagant phrases such as “extraordinary by any measure”; “truly humbling”; “outstanding privilege”; “delivering profound impact”; and “outstanding talent”. The contrast in approach with that of the former CEO, Geoff Garrett, is somewhat striking. He adopts a measured tone in his summary reports, using phrases such as “a very good year”; “great science and innovative solutions” and “significant and positive transformation”, lending confidence to his evaluation of organisational performance as realistic and spin-free.
The CSIRO’s propensity for spin is plainly revealed by the CEO’s reference to the recent Pearce investigation as an “investigation into staff welfare”. The controversial investigation was originally extensively publicised as an investigation into bullying and unreasonable behaviour, and was clearly a reaction to persistent public accusations of the organisation’s failures in that regard. The re-labelling to imply something more proactive and positive is remarkable, but consistent with CSIRO’s reluctance to publicly acknowledge that Prof Pearce wasn’t empowered to make findings of bullying or misconduct.
Dr Clark’s statement that “We are changing people’s lives” is especially poignant for those current and former employees of CSIRO affected by the organisation’s failure to respond appropriately to bullying and discrimination complaints. People’s lives have indeed been changed irrevocably by CSIRO. Many have suffered significant and lasting impacts, including loss of career, adverse financial circumstances, damage to relationships and long-term psychological distress. These impacts have been heightened by participation in the Pearce investigation, and their collective experiences give lie to Prof Pearce’s assertion that there are no problems with CSIRO’s culture. Indeed, the lack of honest, balanced and accountable reporting in CSIRO’s annual report underscores the reality of an organisation out of touch with its values.
Perhaps it’s time for the government to recognise that Australia’s “trusted advisor” can no longer be trusted, and take steps to return it to the ethical and respected organisation it once was.
Judy Eastham is a consultant and researcher investigating gender equity in the workplace. She formerly worked as a scientist in industry, research and academic institutions.
The following curious tweet was forwarded to Victims of CSIRO
We can only assume that CIO means Commonwealth Industrial Organisation which obvious suggests the removal of Scientific and Research!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The recent story on 60 minutes about the inherent dangers of the ionisation type of smoke alarms in almost all Australian homes. Most of these alarms are tested by the CSIRO who give them a seal of approval. The CSIRO is a member of the Standards Australia FP002 committee that has formally acknowledged the existing Australian Smoke Alarm Standard (AS3786-1993) is flawed. Australian’s should be able to place their trust in the CSIRO brand – the 60 Minutes story demonstrates the potentially fatal consequences of doing so.
The CSIRO’s CEO, Dr Megan Clark and the CSIRO Board of Directors have been aware for a number of years about the serious deficiencies inherent in ionising smoke alarm technology. Despite the tireless efforts of the World Fire Safety Foundation and others the CSIRO have continued to certify ionisation alarms as fit for purpose under their ActivFire scheme. CSIRO has refused to allow the filming of their testing, a formal request in the Australian Parliament for them to allow it.
The CSIRO receives a substantial income from its “rubber-stamping” of this technology which may have already contributed to the loss of Australian lives.
Australian and International firefighting authorities are strongly advocating against the continued use of these alarms and the technology has been discontinued in many other jurisdictions. However, the multi-nationals who manufacture and sell them continue to market them in Australia courtesy of the “trusted” CSIRO. Why? Because this technology is cheaper to manufacture and the manufacturer’s derive significant profits from their continued sale and use.
This is a clear example of the CSIRO putting its own financial interests ahead of the Nation’s own interests. It is hard to suggest that our national interests are being served by CSIRO’s generation of income through the testing products that have led to the loss of Australian lives.
Even more insidiously, the CSIRO has gone to great lengths to prevent the independent examination and verification of its compliance testing processes for such devices under the relevant Australian Standard, arguing that such access would breach its commercial obligations. Commercial considerations could be protected by removing or concealing the brand of device being tested or by requesting the manufacturer to supply an unbranded sample for testing purposes.
Such complicity on behalf of the CSIRO will inevitably come back to bite the organisation and the Australian Tax payer. A class action lawsuit was recently lodged against the manufacturers in the United States, and the largest testing authority has already been involved in litigation for alleged fraudulent testing. As Australian common law is closely aligned with its U.S. and British counterparts, it is only a matter of time before such suits commence in Australia.
The question Dr Clark, the CSIRO Senior Executive and indeed, the CSIRO Board should be asking themselves is how they would feel were a close family member to suffer a preventable death as a result of their failure to take appropriate steps to protect the public.
Given that recent investigations have found senior CSIRO officers to be lacking in empathy, it would not be at all surprising to learn that those involved have failed to conceive of such a possibility!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The following article was posted in the Age newspaper on the 4th of October 2014.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )