Dr Geoff Garrett AO
Geoff Garrett was appointed Chief Scientist to the State Government of Queensland in January 2011. In this role he was accountable for science policy, providing strategic guidance across a range of government departments, and was also involved with or led a number of reviews and enquiries covering, inter alia, the science of floods, uranium mining, bat derived horse viruses, underground coal gasification, health and biomedical research and, currently, water quality improvement in the Great Barrier Reef.
Formerly he was, for eight years, Chief Executive and member of the Board of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. CSIRO is one of the world’s largest and most diverse national research organisations, with over 5000 staff across more than 50 sites in Australia and internationally and an annual turnover exceeding Aus $1.2 billion.
Prior to joining CSIRO, Geoff led South Africa’s national science agency, the CSIR, as President and Chief Executive from 1995, following five years as Executive Vice President: Operations. He was named South Africa’s ‘Boss of the Year’ in 1998, and ‘Engineer of the Year’ by the South African Society of Professional Engineers in 1999.
Educated in the United Kingdom, Geoff is a graduate of Cambridge University where he completed a doctorate in metallurgy. He was also a university boxing blue. He then took up a lecturing position at the University of Cape Town. Prior to joining the CSIR in 1986 to head up South Africa’s National Institute for Materials Research, he was Professor and Head of Department at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He held visiting positions at Brown University (RI, USA), and at Oxford and Sheffield Universities. His research interests centred around the fracture and fatigue behaviour of engineering materials.
On joining CSIRO, Dr Garrett and his team undertook a program of major strategic and operational transformation, seeking to achieve greater focus through their Flagship Programs on the major scientific challenges for Australia, including water, clean energy, health and climate change, and opportunities in minerals and mining, manufacturing, new food technologies and ocean science. Key to this was developing stronger partnerships across the innovation system, and growing the organisation’s impact through a more unified ‘One-CSIRO’ approach. In December 2008 CSIRO’s Flagship Programs received the top Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Sector Management.
Geoff is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, the Royal Society of South Africa and the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and served on the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council in Australia for eight years. From 2002 he also served as a founder Principal and subsequently as an Executive Committee member of the Global Research Alliance, a group which brings together some of the world’s most significant R&D organisations, spanning five continents.
Dr Garrett is a recipient of the Centenary Medal for service to Australian society through science, and was named by the Australian Financial Review as one of Australia’s 2008 ‘True Leaders’. In June 2008 he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
During 2010, Geoff was a part-time Visiting Fellow in Innovation with the Australian National University (ANU) and was also engaged with an International Review for the US National Science Foundation of the major, 26 country International Ocean Discovery Program, IODP; in September 2010 he was appointed Chairman of ANZIC, the Australia New Zealand IODP Consortium comprising 22 collaborating institutions. He is the co-author with Sir Graeme Davies, recently retired Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, of the highly regarded “Herding Cats - Being advice to aspiring academic and research leaders” (Triarchy Press, UK), and its recently published sequel for leaders in the professions, “Herding Professional Cats”. He lectures in leadership and change management and provides coaching support in these areas to academics and to senior officers of the Australian Public Service.
Geoff is married to Janet, and they have four sons, Ben, Matt, David and Luke. His interests include fishing and tennis, and his three (so far!) grandchildren, Liam, Aran and Evie.