Archive for March, 2015
CSIRO Workplace Relations Manager, Alex Allars presented the following Case Study entitled “The impact of systems change on Bullying at CSIRO” at the 2014 Comcare National Conference. A link to the video of the presentation can be found at http://comcare.gov.au/conference/speaker_presentations2/video-presentations/alex_allars. It is a pity that a transcript of the presentation has as yet not been posted on the Comcare website, however, we would encourage those who are interested to take the time to view the presentation and consider some of the discussion points along with the comments we provide below.
We would like to acknowledge Alex for taking the opportunity to reference the vital work of groups such as Victims of CSIRO in her presentation to conference delegates, particularly as most organisations would like simply to ignore the fact that such groups exist in the first place.
In referencing the work of groups such as Victims of CSIRO, Alex makes comment to the effect that such groups often have a negative/deleterious effect on the reputation of the CSIRO and we feel that this is an important topic as for many of our members it is a subject close to our hearts.
A large proportion of our membership have devoted considerable periods of their life to the CSIRO and invariably held or still hold great pride in having worked for such a well-regarded and prestigious organisation and do not take the decision to publicly criticise the CSIRO lightly.
It is not uncommon to hear a member state that they considered the CSIRO to be an organisation for which they could have conceivably continued to work for the rest of their life, but for their experiences of workplace bullying and what they perceive to be the wholly unsatisfactory response to their complaints by CSIRO management.
Most choose to speak out against the organisation in the fervent hope that the proverbial “airing of the dirty laundry” will in some measure help to address such issues and bring about positive change and do so out of a sense of frustration borne by the feeling that internal mechanisms of the CSIRO had failed them utterly.
The reality is that CSIRO management trashed its own reputation by abusing its own standards of behaviour and risk. We know it can be shown – through Comcare data alone – that CSIRO’s management – to the most senior levels – have cavalierly condoned and engineered a proactive ‘bullying’ in order to ‘manage out’ disagreeable people or whistleblowers when required. They have run the gauntlet of reputational damage and waste of public funds under the umbrella of the public trust afforded CSIRO by its scientists’ dedicated work. The result has been a growing trail of damaged individuals who cumulatively mean a list of expensive Comcare claims (mostly hidden from view by arrangement).
Initiatives such as the Victims of CSIRO only arise out of severely poisoned conditions – management are still actively buck-passing to scapegoats and patching the suppurating wound.
It has never been, nor will ever be the goal of the Victims of CSIRO to destroy the public reputation of the CSIRO. We reaffirm that we look forward to day for the Victims of CSIRO group will be the day that a group such as ours is no longer necessary and we can shut down the website.
In fact, we would strongly encourage the CSIRO to forget about its reputation for long enough to focus on what the organisation can do to assist in the rehabilitation or perhaps even (where possible) the repatriation of those it has injured. Making amends would go a long way towards achieving healing for those whom the CSIRO has wronged.
In her presentation, Alex Allars speaks of the criticality of restoring the trust in CSIRO processes and policies and the people that drive them.
We note that Victims of CSIRO have attempted on numerous occasions to engage with members of the CSIRO CEO, the CSIRO Executive, the CSIRO Chairman and the CSIRO Board of Directors but in our nearly four years of existence have received no positive response to such overtures. Trust is a two way street and the CSIRO needs to be willing to engage with victims and their advocates in a meaningful way in order to demonstrate that such trust is more than a superficial marketing ploy.
Alex’s presentation describes the steps by CSIRO taken in relation to the Improvement Notice issued by Comcare in 2013 as a result of its treatment of one of its senior researchers, which includes the provision of face to face training for staff in the division in which the notifiable incidents occurred and the rolling out of online training throughout the organisation, the latter of which to CSIRO’s credit was not required as a remedy.
Victims of CSIRO would however question the effectiveness of on-line training, particularly as one Senior HR Manager was reportedly overheard in one of CSIRO’s staff cafeteria’s as stating that “the training was pointless and that there was no problem with bullying in CSIRO anyway”.
Anecdotally, it would appear that after bullying has not abated nor declined as a result of the provision of online training to all staff and incidents may have actually increased. Victims of CSIRO are certainly aware of a number of psychological injury claims accepted by Comcare in and around the time of the online training, two of which were accepted by Comcare in relation to the same CSIRO worksite within one week of another.
It should come as no surprise that the worksite in which this occurred was also the same site at which the aforementioned Senior HR Manager was employed!
Provision of education on workplace bullying will only go so far without the willingness of the CSIRO to actually enforce its anti-bullying policies and sanction those engaging in such behaviour as we have stated many times before in our articles.
It would appear that the CSIRO is still unwilling to sanction those engaging in or supporting such abhorrent behaviours, particularly within its middle and senior management ranks and this is why no amount of education will ultimately prove successful.
In relation to the external investigation, we would again like to relay that the terms of reference were so narrow as to be exclusive of the majority of potential complainants which, whether intentionally or otherwise precluded the participation of hundreds more complaints.
The obvious lack of stakeholder engagement all but guaranteed the terms of reference would not serve the interests of victims of workplace bullying and the interference of members of the CSIRO executive hampered the independence of the investigation.
More critically, the investigator failed to adhere to the proper investigative processes by paraphrasing and removing from consideration elements of complaints, particularly those relating to failure of CSIRO to properly manage the complaints and in failing to provide a right of reply to complainants in the event that a contention of facts occurred.
Two complaints out of 130 in such an investigation process are statistically anomalous and further support our criticisms in relation to the conduct of the investigation team.
To date, despite writing to the chairman of the CSIRO Board, CSIRO have been unwilling to engage with the Victims of CSIRO group in order to discuss and understand our concerns in relation to the investigation and those of victims who found the investigation to be significantly lacking and in many cases offensive.
Again we would like to restate our willingness to engage with CSIRO management in relation to workplace bullying issues within the organisation but as yet have received no overtures from CSIRO in relation to any such discussions.
One critical failure of the presentation ignores the central fact: there would be no basis for making the complaints if the original bullying had not occurred or if CSIRO had followed up and taken action against the bullying staff. In practice CSIRO has demonstrated that it condones the behaviour of bullying staff by doing nothing about it, by denying court and Tribunal findings against CSIRO staff and by setting up an Inquiry whose terms of reference were designed to cover up the bullying.
Comcare, the Commonwealth Workplace Health and Safety body itself must take a share of the blame as Comcare have consistently failed to investigate complaints of workplace bullying within the CSIRO and continues to promote CSIRO as a poster child of reform whilst critically ignoring the growing number of psychological complaints arising out of workplace bullying within the CSIRO.
We do not believe that CSIRO has learned from its mistakes and that as long as the organisation continues to use smoke and mirrors in order to daze and confuse those around it into believing that they are truly and sincerely addressing the problem rather than simply applying a generous slather of window dressing, groups such as the Victims of CSIRO will continue to be necessary.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
The following articles were published in the Australian Newspaper and ScienceDaily News respectively and indicate an alarming trend suggesting that the CSIRO is cutting off its proverbial nose to spite its face in retrenching world class researchers who subsequently pioneer new research of substantial value both commercially and to our society collectively.
Victims of CSIRO previously wrote about Dr Fred Prata, a world class scientist who after being retrenched from the CSIRO developed a technology which permits aircraft to circumnavigate volcanic ash clouds and thus avoid major airport closures such as occurred for a prolonged period over European airspace as a result of a massive volcanic eruption in Iceland in 2010.
Liming Dai, a professor of macromolecular science and engineering and a former CSIRO employee who was also retrenched has recently been credited with developing a carbon based catalyst for use in Fuel Cell technologies capable of replacing the expensive metal catalysts currently used. This is an area of research which scientists have been working on for over 50 years.
The sacking of these former CSIRO researchers represent a permanent loss of benefit to the Australian public which runs counter to the CSIRO’s charter and an organisation that was established for the benefit of Australians.
Former CSIRO Senior Principal Research Scientist, Dr Warwick Raverty, who resigned from CSIRO in protest at the dysfunctional nature of the senior management of the organisation, commented that: “When a dysfunctional organisation like CSIRO cuts the fat, it usually pushes out the bone marrow first because senior managers in these organisations do not have the skills or ability to judge which scientists are conducting truly ground-breaking work and which ones are simply following fashion and doing mediocre R&D with the prefixes, bio-, nano- and nanobio- in front of them.”
These are just two examples of irreconcilable losses to Australia from the sacking of CSIRO scientists. How many other similar stories are there as a result of CSIRO hack and slash approach to its workforce and how many more stories will occur as a result of the organisation’s future staffing cuts and its generally reprehensible treatment of its employees?
Know of any other losses to Australian science? Please contact us at email@example.com
CSIRO brain drain accelerates with staff numbers at historic low
- The Australian
- March 04, 2015 12:00AM
Higher Education Reporter
BRAIN drain from Australia’s national science organisation has accelerated, with the CSIRO workforce now at historic lows.
A Senate estimates committee has heard that the number of full-time equivalent staff slipped below 5000 last year for the first time in decades, after the agency lost about 500 people between July and December.
CSIRO has about 2000 fewer workers than the 7400 it employed 20 years ago, when it described itself as one of the largest scientific research institutions in the world. It has lost 1300 employees since mid-2010, when it entered a period of steady decline.
Staff say the losses have been understated, with up to another 100 redundancies likely by June.
CSIRO Staff Association secretary Sam Popovski said the head count could slide as low as 5200, down from 5387 last week.
Last November, the association warned that the agency would lose almost 900 people this financial year. Combined with more than 500 job cuts last year, this adds up to one-fifth of the workforce over a two-year period.
CSIRO management disputes the claim, saying the losses this year would be about 700.
But Mr Popovski said the union didn’t have “any reason to revise our figures”.
He said redundancies were still being rolled out in CSIRO’s manufacturing and digital research areas. Digital research could be further destabilised by a mooted merger with National ICT Australia.
In its May budget, the government revealed it would withdraw all funding for NICTA in mid-2016. Last week CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall confirmed that his organisation was in negotiations with NICTA but said there was no firm proposal to merge.
Mr Popovski said staff had been kept informed at a “general” level but still had no idea whether NICTA would be absorbed into CSIRO, become a subsidiary or form a completely new company.
“If there was a move to a new entity with NICTA staff, what resources would be available? (It could) mean further job cuts for people in that area because CSIRO would have to allocate its own money to the venture.
“Ultimately it depends on resources. The decisions are going to be influenced by how much money the new entity can access.”
The staff association also has disputed comments by Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson, who blamed about 60 per cent of the recent CSIRO staff cuts on the former Labor government. Senator Ronaldson told estimates that 600 job losses were due to “efficiency dividends” imposed by Labor, compared with 420 “as a result of the dividends of this government”.
Mr Popovski said Labor was to blame for only about 200 of the efficiency dividend cuts. But Senator Ronaldson’s office said several hundred more redundancies announced under the Coalition last April had been due to changes imposed by Labor.
2nd March 2015
New inexpensive metal-free catalyst
Structure enables a carbon-based catalyst to perform comparably with metal catalysts in an acidic fuel cell.
OHIO, US: For nearly half a century, scientists have been trying to replace precious metal catalysts in fuel cells. Now, for the first time, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have shown that an inexpensive metal-free catalyst performs as well as costly metal catalysts at speeding the oxygen reduction reaction in an acidic fuel cell.
The carbon-based catalyst also corrodes less than metal-based materials and has proved more durable. The findings are major steps toward making low-cost catalysts commercially available, which could, in turn, reduce the cost to generate clean energy from PEM fuel cells–the most common cell being tested and used in cars and stationary power plants. The study was recently published online in the journal Science Advances.
“This definitely should move the field forward,” said Liming Dai, the Kent Hale Smith Professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve and senior author of the research. “It’s a major breakthrough for commercialization.”
Dai worked with lead investigator Jianglan Shui, who was a CWRU postdoctoral researcher and is now a materials science and engineering professor at Beihang University, Beijing; PhD student Min Wang, who did some of the testing; and postdoctoral researcher Fen Du, who made the materials. The effort builds on the Dai lab’s earlier work developing carbon-based catalysts that significantly outperformed platinum in an alkaline fuel cell.
The group pursued a non-metal catalyst to perform in acid because the standard bearer among fuel cells, the PEM cell, uses an acidic electrolyte. PEM stands for both proton exchange membrane and polymer electrolyte membrane, which are interchangeable names for this type of cell.
The key to the new catalyst is its rationally-designed porous structure, said Dai. The researchers mixed sheets of nitrogen-doped graphene, a single-atom thick, with carbon nanotubes and carbon black particles in a solution, then freeze-dried them into composite sheets and hardened them.
Graphene provides enormous surface area to speed chemical reactions, nanotubes enhance conductivity, and carbon black separates the graphene sheets for free flow of the electrolyte and oxygen, which greatly increased performance and efficiency. The researchers found that those advantages were lost when they allowed composite sheets to arrange themselves in tight stacks with little room between layers.
A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy by removing electrons from a fuel, such as hydrogen, at the cell’s anode, or positive electrode. This creates a current.
Hydrogen ions produced are carried by the electrolyte through a membrane to the cathode, or negative electrode, where the oxygen reduction reaction takes place. Oxygen molecules are split and reduced by the addition of electrons and combine with the hydrogen ions to form water and heat – the only byproducts.
Testing showed the porous catalyst performs better and is more durable than the state-of-the-art nonprecious iron-based catalyst. Dai’s lab continues to fine-tune the materials and structure as well as investigate the use of non-metal catalysts in more areas of clean energy.
© ScienceDaily News
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