CSIRO’s Operating Model is designed to support the successful execution of our strategy and delivery of our goals.

Operating Model

CSIRO’s Operating Model underpins the governance of the Organisation by defining the roles, relationships and accountabilities of leaders and operating units. It includes our processes for planning, investment, review and reporting, and outlines CSIRO’s Policy Framework.

The Model is complemented by the CSIRO Code of Conduct. The Code aligns with our Values Compass and sets the standard for behaviour expected of CSIRO and of everyone working in CSIRO. It forms a key component of our staff induction programs.

Further information on the Operating Model and the Code of Conduct can be found on our Governance policy page.

Legislation and government policy

CSIRO is an Australian Government statutory authority constituted and operating under the provisions of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 (SIR Act).

CSIRO’s primary functions are to:

  • carry out scientific research to:
    • assist Australian industry and to further the interests of the Australian community
    • contribute to national and international objectives and responsibilities of the Commonwealth
  • encourage or facilitate the application and use of the results of CSIRO scientific research.

Our secondary functions include international scientific liaison, training of research workers, publication of research results, technology transfer of other research, provision of scientific services and dissemination of information about science and technology.

Reporting, accountability and other rules for CSIRO’s operations are set out in the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act).

Pursuant to a service agreement, CSIRO provides administrative support services to the Trustee of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund consistent with the Science and Industry Endowment Fund Act 1926. The Fund has its own governance structure.

In October 2011, CSIRO submitted an annual Compliance Report to the Australian Government regarding the Organisation’s compliance with the CAC Act and its financial sustainability.

General policies of the Australian Government that applied to CSIRO in 2011–12 under section 28 of the CAC Act are: Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy; Australian Government Foreign Exchange Risk Management Guidelines; and Outsourcing of Information Technology Infrastructure Services. In addition, CSIRO has complied with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines as they apply to CSIRO.

Responsible Minister

In 2011–12, the Ministers responsible for CSIRO were Senator the Hon Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research till December 2011 followed by Senator the Hon Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research.

Under the SIR and CAC Acts, the Minister has power to:

  • add to the purposes for which CSIRO may carry out scientific research (SIR Act, section 9)
  • provide to the CSIRO Board in writing, directions and guidelines with respect to the performance of the functions, or the exercise of the powers, of the Board or of the Organisation (SIR Act, section 13).

The Minister’s Statement of Expectations and the Board’s Statement of Intent can be found on our Statement of Expectations page.

The Public Research Agency Charter, signed by the Minister and the Board, provides guidance to CSIRO and its researchers on providing scientific advice and engaging in public debate. The Charter can be found on our Board Charter page.

The Government has approved CSIRO’s funding for the 2011–12 to 2014–15 period and the Quadrennium Funding Agreement confirming the terms of that funding should be signed in the third quarter of 2012.

Ministerial directions and notifications

No new directions were received in 2011–12. The CSIRO 2011–14 Enterprise Agreement was developed in accordance with the Minister’s direction regarding compliance with the Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework.

Twenty-one notifications of significant events under sections 15 and 16 of the CAC Act were made to the Minister during 2011–12. These related to participation in research centres and alliances, licence agreements, equity transactions and major research and infrastructure projects.


CSIRO is governed by a Board which is responsible to the Australian Government for the overall strategy, governance and performance of the Organisation.

The CSIRO Board comprises nine part-time, non-executive members including the Chairman plus a full-time Chief Executive. All non-executive members are appointed by the Governor-General. The Chief Executive is appointed by the CSIRO Board, in consultation with the Minister.

The CSIRO Board operates partly through three standing committees:

  • Board Audit Committee
  • Board Commercial Committee
  • Board Nominations and Remuneration Committee.

In response to a performance review in 2011, the Board implemented a range of improvements and reviewed its charters. It decided to close the Board Endowment Committee in June 2011 and the Board Commercial Committee in June 2012. Their responsibilities will be subsumed by the Board. From July 2012, the importance of overseeing risk and health and safety will be recognised by reconstituting the remaining committees as a Board Audit and Risk Committee and Board People, Health and Safety Committee.

Disclosure of interests by Board members and the Chief Executive are made in accordance with the SIR Act and CAC Act, as appropriate.

Details of the 2011–12 Board members, including qualifications and terms of appointment are one our Board membership page. Details of remuneration, membership of Board Committees and attendance at meetings are shown in Part 4: Financial statements. The Board Charter and membership profiles are available on our Board membership page.

Newly appointed Board members are informed of their responsibilities and rights through a formal induction process. In the pursuit of their duties, Board members may take such independent professional advice as is considered necessary and have complete access to senior management.

CSIRO Executive Management

The Chief Executive conducts the affairs of the Organisation in accordance with the strategy, plans and policies approved by the Board and the Board Directions to the Chief Executive.

The Chief Executive is supported by the Executive Team. As a team and through their individual roles, the members lead, direct, coordinate and control CSIRO’s operations and performance. Details of the members are on our Executive team membership page.

The Executive Team is assisted by the Science Sub-committee, Flagship Oversight Committee and Commercial Executive Committee. The CSIRO Health, Safety and Environment Committee is accountable to the Chief Executive. In 2011 a Precinct Oversight Committee was also formed to steer the implementation of that key element of the CSIRO strategy.

The Executive Management Council of senior managers provides a forum for sharing and discussing issues relating to the management and future strategy for CSIRO.

Policies, standards and procedures

The CSIRO Policy Framework comprises policies, standards and procedures. It is supported by the CSIRO Delegations and Authorities Framework.

The policy statements, approved by the Board, cover the Organisation’s commitment in relation to:

  • Science and Delivery
  • People
  • Governance
  • Risk
  • Health, Safety, Environmental Sustainability and the Community.

The statements are available on our core policies page.

In 2011–12 there was a comprehensive review of all human resources procedures; finance; procurement and property procedures; and intellectual property (IP) and commercial procedures.

Other standards and procedures introduced or amended this year include:


  • Major projects
  • IP and licensing


  • Advisory committees
  • Australian Growth Partnerships
  • Aviation safety and small boats safety
  • Individual flexibility arrangements
  • Mobile devices
  • Major projects
  • Platform IP management

In June 2012, the Delegations and Authorities Framework was amended to further support CSIRO’s Operating Model. The framework aligns delegations more closely with roles and responsibilities, provides more flexibility, streamlines and improves the clarity of the delegation schedules, tightens some controls and reduces administration.

Planning and monitoring performance

The implementation of a new Strategic Plan for the period 2011–15 was a major focus for the Organisation in 2011–12. (This can be viewed on our Strategy page.)

The plan conveys the broad objectives for the Organisation, and sets out the broad policies and strategies to be pursued to achieve those objectives. In brief, the strategy emphasises CSIRO’s intent to maintain its focus on addressing national challenges and opportunities through an enhanced program of National Research Flagships, and to continue developing Australia’s scientific capability and preparedness by investing in the people and infrastructure required to meet current and future challenges.

Within the context provided by the Strategic Plan, CSIRO’s portfolio of research is decided through a science investment process that is guided by the twin imperatives of seeking relevance and impact for Australia.

The actions to achieve the strategic objectives and investment priorities are described in the annual CSIRO Operational Plan. (This can be viewed on our Operational Plan page).

Performance is reported against annual key executive actions, the Strategic Plan Enterprise Strategy Measures, CSIRO’s Portfolio Budget Statements and other internal performance indicators.

In addition, our Divisions and Flagships are subject to regular review by panels chaired by independent experts who assess the strength of our capability, as well as the relevance and impact of our research. The quality of our research is subject to scientific peer review mechanisms and the Chief Executive conducts an annual review of all research portfolios, Divisions and functional areas.

Advisory mechanisms

CSIRO’s Strategic Advisory Committees provide advice on CSIRO’s longer-term strategic directions and research and development priorities and on how CSIRO can meet the research, technical and business needs of customers or communities. Whilst the Flagship Advisory Committees, established for each Flagship, focus on how to maximise the effectiveness of the Flagship portfolio to achieve its goals. The Committees comprise representatives from industry, government, non-government organisations and other stakeholders.

Risk management

CSIRO’s Risk Policy recognises that the identification and management of risk is central to delivering the functions of CSIRO and delivering benefits to Australia.

CSIRO’s risk management framework provides the methodology by which CSIRO’s risk profile is articulated and regularly updated. It also sets out the responsibilities of all individuals across CSIRO, including the Board and management for identifying and managing risk.

Risks are managed on an enterprise basis through mitigation strategies that include, in appropriate circumstances, insurance to transfer the financial impact of risk.

General insurance including General Liability and Professional Indemnity insurance and Directors and Officers Liability insurance is through Comcover. CSIRO’s workers’ compensation liability is covered by a premium paid to Comcare.

External audit and internal controls

Assurances about the Organisation’s financial state of affairs, compliance issues and control environment are provided through a range of processes including internal Audit and Security functions, compliance reporting by senior managers and the operation of a Whistleblower Scheme. External audit is provided by the Australian National Audit Office.

CSIRO complies with Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines (revised 2011). A Fraud Risk Assessment was completed in February 2010 and an updated Fraud Control Plan incorporating guideline amendments was released in September 2011.

The CSIRO Strategic Protective Security Risk Assessment was updated in February 2009 and is currently under review. As a result of the release of the Commonwealth Protective Security Policy Framework in June 2010, a CSIRO wide Security Committee has been established chaired by General Counsel. This Committee will oversee and endorse all changes to security policies and procedures with CSIRO. A review of security within CSIRO is currently underway and is expected to be completed by October 2012.

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