Science cuts strike at vital tasks
Government cuts to the CSIRO’s infectious disease research could not have come at a worse time, staff say.
A number of scientists at Geelong’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) will be sacked just weeks after beginning research into the deadly Ebola virus.
Researchers were looking for new tools to fight the deadly outbreak currently spreading through parts of West Africa.
Now, in a letter to the CSIRO Staff Association, agency management has confirmed that Government budget cuts and falling revenues have prompted “a planned reduction in microbiology and virology expertise”.
The Association say up to eight researchers will lose their jobs.
“These latest cuts to CSIRO are particularly illogical and short-sighted.” said CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski.
The high-tech high-containment facility in Geelong is also home to research projects that are critical to protecting Australia from Avian Influenza, SARS, Hendra virus and a broad range of foreign pest species.
There was much fanfare when the centre opened earlier this year, but already its capabilities have been reduced.
“AAHL has a world-class reputation for research into zoonotic diseases; viruses that can be passed from animals to humans. This is terrible news for hardworking researchers who are dedicated to keeping Australians - indeed the world’s population - safe from illness.” Mr Popovski said.
The cuts to the program come just as CSIRO begins to research Ebola in earnest and less than a year since AAHL securely obtained a live sample of the virus currently sweeping through West Africa.
In a related response to Government cuts, CSIRO management have revealed plans to stop work in other areas of health and medical research.
Research into bowel or colorectal cancer - the second largest cause of cancer deaths in Australia - will cease completely.
CSIRO’s work in the neurosciences - including critical studies into Alzheimer’s, dementia and other diseases set to afflict Australia’s ageing population - will be shut down entirely.
The closures are expected to be coupled with the removal of dozens of staff.
The Staff Association says it will pursue the concerns of CSIRO researchers in meetings with federal politicians in Canberra next month, ahead of a Senate Inquiry into the state of Australia’s innovation, science and research system.