The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, known as CSIRO, is Australia’s national science research agency, formed in 1949 to solve challenges and issues using innovative science and technology. Our research concentrates on CSIRO’s evolution since World War II and the main factors that have driven changes in the organisation. This project will help document CSIRO’s rich and important history. 

While there is a large and growing literature about CSIRO, many of these publications concentrate on the scientific and commercial success of certain CSIRO Divisions or on the personalities of major players involved with the organisation. What is still lacking, however, is a comprehensive account of how CSIRO has evolved since its formation in 1949, in response to the changing external environment.

Creating this documentation will both acknowledge the contribution of the organisation and its leaders to the development of the nation as well as allow past successes and failures to help guide the future direction of the organisation. A proper understanding of why CSIRO should continue to exist and thrive requires knowledge of how and why it evolved in the Australian context, which is why our project is an important undertaking.

Research areas and activities

Within this project we’re exploring: 

  • CSIRO’s general policies and practices 
  • contributions by key CSIRO personnel 
  • external factors influencing CSIRO 
  • comparisons of Australian and foreign approaches to the conduct of national scientific research programs 
  • CSIRO’s technology transfer processes and their effectiveness 
  • employment practices, including diversity and gender policies

Research activities for this project include: 

  • digitising CSIRO governance records 
  • conducting and documenting oral history interviews 
  • developing the CSIROpedia as a vehicle for publishing history project outputs online 
  • working with CSIRO alumni to have histories written about CSIRO’s scientific research programs.

Research team

Name Position Research area
Helen Cohn Adjunct Professor Australian Encyclopaedia of History and Science
Terry Healy Adjunct Professor Governance; intellectual property
Gavan McCarthy Adjunct Professor Australian Encyclopaedia of History and Science
Ken McInnes Adjunct Professor Australian Encyclopaedia of History and Science
Greg Simpson Adjunct Professor Science capability development
Tom Spurling Professor, Innovation studies Oral histories; governance; technology transfer
Garrett Upstill Honorary Research Associate Evolution of technology transfer
Helen Wolff Research Associate Data management

Explore our other research themes

Contact the Centre for Transformative Innovation

There are many ways to engage with us. If your organisation is dealing with a complex problem, get in touch to discuss how we can work together to provide solutions. Call us on +61 3 9214 4861 or email

Contact us