CSIRO chief scientist moves to UNSW

Brandon How

CSIRO chief scientist Bronwyn Fox is stepping down to become the University of New South Wales’ new deputy vice-chancellor for research and enterprise from mid-July.

Professor Fox will join the Sydney-based university to fill the vacancy left by Professor Nicholas Fisk, who left the role earlier this month after nearly eight years in the job, UNSW announced on Monday.

Professor Merlin Crossley is currently acting in the role while simultaneously continuing as deputy vice-chancellor for academic quality.

Professor Fox, has a research background in material science and engineering, including work with carbon fibres, carbon nanotubes, graphene and carbon quantum dots, has been CSIRO’s chief scientist since October 2021.

CSIRO’s outgoing chief scientist Professor Bronwyn Fox. Image: UNSW

She was also a co-founder of the Carbon Nexus carbon fibre research facility at Deakin University, and has previously worked as Swinburne University’s deputy vice-chancellor for research and enterprise.

UNSW vice-chancellor and president Professor Attila Brungs said Professor Fox’s background makes her “ideally suited to shape and advance the strategic direction in research, innovation and enterprise at our University”.

“Our community will greatly benefit from Professor Fox’s international connections and wide-ranging experience. We are very excited to have such an eminent leader join the university,” Professor Brungs said.

Professor Fox will commence the role after concluding her time on the federal government’s AI Expert Group, which is informing it development of a regulatory response to the risks of AI development and adoption. The group was appointed at the end of February and is expected to wrap up at the end of June.

She also represents Australia on the panel overseeing the international Frontier of AI State of the Science report, agreed to in the Bletchley Declaration at the AI Safety Summit in November 2023.

Professor Fox also chaired the National Robotics Strategy Advisory Committee, which assisted with the development of a yet-to-be-released strategy. The strategy was originally expected in March 2023, but its yet to materialise.

Professor Fox was also a member of the federal government’s National Quantum Advisory Committee, which drove the development of the National Quantum Strategy but was not asked for advice on the recent $940 million federal and Queensland government co-investment in Psi Quantum.

As the announcement of Professor Fox’s departure was made, CSIRO staff expressed concerns with the executive of the national science agency as it reportedly prepares to cut hundreds of jobs.

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