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Pockley's Point

Peter Pockley's occasional blog

Vale Peter Pockley

Peter Pockley

Peter Pockley (pointing) during preparations at CSIRO's Parkes radiotelescope for the Our World global telecast in 1967 – the first global television broadcast. Source: CSIRO

Australia's longest-serving science journalist, and long-time columnist for Australasian Science, has passed away.

Australasian Science is mourning the loss of Dr Peter Pockley, who passed away peacefully at home on 11 August 2013 at the age of 78.

Science Lost in CSIRO's Matrix

By Peter Pockley

Part 3 of this series documents some of the glaring omissions from a “warts and all” account of CSIRO.

Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series have reported how two senior executives – centrally involved in CSIRO’s massive reorganisation of the agency’s research structure and external communications from 2001 to 2006 – have scored an “own goal” in making false claims against the factual reports and independent commentaries published in Australasian Science.

How a Tobacco Lobbyist Won over CSIRO

By Stewart Fist

In part 2 of this exclusive series, Freedom of Information requests of CSIRO internal correspondence reveal the machinations behind the eventual appointment of a former senior tobacco executive and lobbyist as the science organisation's Director of Communications.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Geoff Garrett and his Deputy Dr Ron Sandland had previously engaged Di Jay as their first Director of Communications. Recruited from Medibank Private, she had no experience in science or media and lasted barely a year before resigning.

How a Communications Saga Rocked CSIRO

CSIRO in bed with big tobacco, as characterised in Australasian Science, April 2004 and July 2004. The cartoon was condemned by Sandland as “a scurrilous piece of junk”, yet Staunton got a member of her staff to ask the Editor for the original artwork to hang in her office. Credit: Simon Kneebone

CSIRO in bed with big tobacco, as characterised in Australasian Science, April 2004 and July 2004. The cartoon was condemned by Sandland as “a scurrilous piece of junk”, yet Staunton got a member of her staff to ask the Editor for the original artwork to hang in her office. Credit: Simon Kneebone

By Peter Pockley

A "warts and all" account of CSIRO has sidestepped some of its most embarrassing failures. The first blog in a series published online this month outlines the documentary evidence behind CSIRO's appointment of a tobacco lobbyist as its Director of Communications, which led to a public black ban of Australasian Science.

How the leadership of Australia’s premier research agency, CSIRO, decided to engage former senior tobacco lobbyist Donna Staunton in 2003 as a top executive to run its “communications” operation – first as a highly paid public relations consultant and, soon after, as Executive Director with membership of the Executive running CSIRO’s management – has been the subject of continuing conjecture within and outside CSIRO.

Budget Analysis

By Peter Pockley

Chief Scientist Ian Chubb scores for science education.

The despair that many scientists feel about their relations with society might, at last, need to be modified in a crucial testing ground. Becoming Australia’s Chief Scientist last year, Professor Ian Chubb’s influence on science policy has become evident in the 2012/13 Budget delivered on 8 May. You wouldn’t have known this, though, from listening to Treasurer Wayne Swan’s speech which didn’t pay even passing mention to key areas like science, technology, research, innovation, engineering and mathematics.

Scientists, Media and Society

By Peter Pockley

Peter Pockley reports from a conference held by the Australian Science Communicators.

As I start assembling for publication a historical account of the sometimes fractious relations between scientists, media and society, the recent biennial conference of the Australian Science Communicators association provided a window on the current state of play.

First, who does the ASC represent? Of the 257 delegates on the official list, by my count practising scientists (8) and full-time media professionals (13) were very small minorities. There were only three teachers.