Understanding Climate Risk

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Archive for the ‘Research and development’ Category

What is public good research?

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When recently asked at a meeting with CSIRO scientists what he thought public good research was, their CEO Larry Marshall said:

“Anything that’s good for the public”

He then went on to say:

“Government policy, frankly, determines public good. That’s their decision. When they fund renewable energy, environmental science, education, health care, that’s a fundamental policy choice. It’s completely separate to us. National objectives, national challenges, is that not, a realistic measure of public good?”

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The other Marshall Plan

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Part of the debate about CSIRO funding and priorities, and public good research (PGR), is what public good research means. This confusion in part comes from different world views, but it also has specific economic and less specific philosophical meanings that need to be teased out and understood. Otherwise PGR will be a political football, subject to the politics of the day.

In Australia, we’ve already seen that happen in a number of areas of public good, such as climate change, the arts and the humanities, to name a few. Because they are not directly injecting cash into the economy (or are perceived slow down other areas of income generation), these areas are held to be uneconomic and a burden to the public purse. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

June 13, 2016 at 11:20 pm

Save CSIRO: the value of public good research

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Yesterday was hug a climate scientist day. Dear readers, you missed out if you didn’t get to one, because there were a whole bunch of climate scientists at the State Library of Victoria being very huggable. And other friends of CSIRO.


The Friends of CSIRO had a forum at the State Library of Victoria, moderated by Kate Auty. Senator Kim Carr spoke and announced that if elected, Labor would restore $250 million to the CSIRO budget, reversing the cuts currently underway. Adam Bandt science spokesperson from the Greens said they would would go further, investing slightly over $300 million, and boosting funds for R&D generally. Both were very welcome statements. Read the rest of this entry »

CSIRO climate research cuts: Statement by concerned scientists

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The following is a statement prepared by a group of climate scientists in response to the recent announcement of cuts by CSIRO. It was released today at lunchtime by scientists attending the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society 2016 Conference.


We strongly believe that the proposed cuts to CSIRO (announced 4/2/16) will seriously undermine Australia’s capacity to respond to the challenges posed by climate change.

Some 100 positions are to be cut in CSIRO’s Ocean and Atmosphere Flagship as part of 350 lost positions across the organisation. This will cripple CSIRO’s climate research.

Australia is a continent surrounded by rapidly changing weather patterns, connected to a rapidly changing global climate. We have already learnt a great deal about our region’s climate, but urgently need to improve our understanding in important areas. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Roger Jones

February 8, 2016 at 5:26 pm

CSIRO cuts to climate science are against the public good

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Roger Jones, Victoria University

CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is facing another round of job losses to basic public research, with the news that the organisation is making deep staffing cuts to areas such as Oceans and Atmosphere and Land and Water. Internally, there are signals that Oceans and Atmosphere will be cut substantially, amid 350 job losses over two years across the organisation.

In a letter to staff, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said:

CSIRO pioneered climate research … But we cannot rest on our laurels as that is the path to mediocrity. Our climate models are among the best in the world and our measurements honed those models to prove global climate change. That question has been answered, and the new question is what do we do about it, and how can we find solutions for the climate we will be living with?

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Written by Roger Jones

February 5, 2016 at 6:18 pm

Is the Chief Scientist’s recent science & economy report really pseudo-science?

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Fairfax journo Gareth Hutchens has an article in today’s Herald with the headline:

Australia’s scientists forced to rely on pseudo-science to be taken seriously in Canberra

Well, it is April the first.

Hutchens has a go at the recent Chief Scientist and Australian Academy report: The importance of advanced physical and mathematical sciences to the Australian economy (pdf). They engaged the Centre of International Economics to conduct an economic analysis that used the MMRF-NRA computable general equilibrium model to estimate the impacts of a number of input assumptions on the contribution of the physical and mathematical sciences to the economy. The report estimates that the direct contribution of the advanced physical and mathematical sciences is
equal to 11% of the Australian economy (about $145 billion per year). Along with the direct contribution, the report estimates additional and flow-on benefits of another 11%, bringing total benefits to just over 22% (around $292 billion per year).

I felt I had to defend the report, which is not perfect but necessary (I think I also agree with the headline). In doing so I find myself in defence of CGE economic models (which I can’t quite believe I’m doing). Basically, Hutchens reckons that by engaging with an economic consultancy and an economic model, the Chief Scientist and Australian Academy of Science have prostituted themselves (my words) to the same economic lobbying that everyone else in Canberra uses to argue for government support. Here’s my response posted to the comments of the article (slightly edited – doesn’t seem to have made it through, either):

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Written by Roger Jones

April 1, 2015 at 9:17 am

NCCARF Climate Adaptation Conference 2013

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The NCCARF (National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility) Climate Adaptation Conference climate adaptation knowledge + partnerships is on from June 25-27 in Sydney. I’m attending to present the results of our recently completed project Valuing Adaptation under Rapid Change. There are many researchers and practitioners of climate adaptation from Australia and overseas here, but there is also a sense of things winding down, because NCCARF finishes up at the end of June with no obvious Commonwealth footprint in climate adaptation beyond that date.

Throw in the recent efforts by some state governments to open up for business and cut green tape, there is a genuine uncertainty about the future of research that aims to improve the three pillars of sustainable development: economy, environment and society, over long time scales. Ahh yes, but I hear you say, research is like policy, it doesn’t only need to be enacted (i.e., published in the peer reviewed literature), it needs to be enabled and implemented. And that’s something that research has not always been able to do. NCCARF has managed to do some of this, but with mixed success.

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