Volume 1 Issue 2 (2005): New Challenges for Research Practice: Natural Resource Management in Australia
Main Articles

Integration Initiatives at CSIRO: Reflections of an Insider

Geoff Syme
CSIRO Land and Water
Published October 17, 2005
  • integration,
  • natural resource management,
  • interdisciplinary,
  • community,
  • research


These days CSIRO is focusing on providing holistic solutions to Australia's major problems. For example, the organisation hopes to address significant natural resource management problems of Australia by combining the wisdom of a wide array of disciplines. A number of recent measures have been initiated towards this end, which are described in this paper. Implicitly, CSIRO has recognised that cultural change is needed if the organisation is to contribute to the resolution of long-standing "wicked" problems. Innovations to achieve a more integrated approach are described and assessed in terms of their ability to meet recommendations derived from a formal review of past attempts to conduct multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary research. Much of the interpretation however is personal, reflecting changes observed in thirty years of service within CSIRO. The discussion concentrates on the pragmatics of the creation and performance of teams with differing disciplinary backgrounds in natural resource management. In addition the paper discusses the wider ongoing changes to the roles of scientists as society evolves. It outlines the issues of defining the appropriate questions for research and the changing interaction between scientific and community knowledge. The potential contribution of complex systems theory to assist in creating productive integrated research is discussed. It is concluded that the CSIRO case study provides compatible findings with other analyses of integrated research performance and also other descriptions of the evolving role of scientists within wider society.