Australia's science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, recently announced that it is temporarily stopping external recruitment and contract renewal, leading many researchers there to be worried, the Nature News Blog reports.
Currently, the Nature News Blog says there are some 6,300 people working at CSIRO, and about 1,360 of them are fixed-term or casual workers. Of those workers, just more than 600 have contracts that expire before June, though under "exceptional circumstances" some contracts may be extended.
Megan Clark, the chief executive of CSIRO, says in a statement that the cuts will not affect "commitments to industry or other key stakeholders. ... This approach will allow CSIRO to continue to deliver our outstanding work with industry and the community."
The timing of the cuts also caused some confusion, the Nature News Blog adds. Around the same time, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott began to implement a campaign promise to reduce the number of public servants, and the Public Service Commission issued directions to agencies to let temporary contracts lapse. CSIRO, though, says it made its decision on its own.
"Initially … staff were upset, but understood the context. They're more bewildered now," Sam Popovski, the secretary of the CSIRO staff union tells the Nature News Blog." The leadership of the organization haven't really made clear what the premise of the decision was."
Popovski notes that about three quarters of temporary contract workers deal directly with research. "I just can't see how it [the cuts] can't have an effect on research," he adds.