Thursday, 12 November 2009

CSIRO backs down on banned ETS paper

Tuesday 10/11/2009 Page: 6

THE CSIRO has agreed to allow the publication of a paper criticising emissions trading schemes, subject to "minor" amendments. The backdown came as union officials lashed the CSIRO for not consulting with them before rolling out a new publications policy that limits the ability of scientists to publish their findings on politically sensitive issues such as climate change. CSIRO Staff Association secretary Sam Popovski said the union was demanding answers from management as to why it was not consulted on the changes.

The changes make it more difficult for scientists to publish their findings in their private capacity. The CSIRO began rolling out the new policy three weeks ago but has so far refused to release it. However, the union welcomed chief executive Megan Clark's decision to allow economist Clive Spash to publish his paper on ETS policies with only minor changes. Dr Spash's paper was initially banned from publication by senior CSIRO managers because it was politically sensitive.

The acting head of the CSIRO's sustainable ecosystems group, Daniel Walker, said at the time that any critique of ETS policies, even if made in general form, breached the CSIRO's charter, which prevented scientists from debating the merits of government policy. The initial decision to gag the paper involved the head of CSIRO's environment group, Andrew Johnson, who is a member of the organisation's executive and reports to Dr Clark. Following a meeting with Dr Spash and Mr Popovski, Dr Clark said the paper would be amended to comply with the charter.

A spokesman said the amendments were minor. "We have agreed to resolve this matter quickly and all parties will now work to make the amendments with the intention to have the paper ready for publication," Dr Clark said. Dr Spash's paper, The Brave New World of Carbon Trade, argues the Rudd government's ETS is an ineffective way to cut emissions. It was accepted for publication by the journal New Political Economy' after being internationally peer-reviewed.