By Jennifer Phillips

What does a dung beetle look like? Is this material fire-resistant? What research are you conducting in the field of renewable energy?

These are just some of the types of questions the friendly folk in our Client Relations contact centre regularly help find answers to. With 30,000 enquiries coming their way every year, they know A LOT about our science (and lots of other weird and wonderful things for that matter).

To understand first hand what it’s like to work on the end of our hotline, this week our Chief Executive Megan Clark jumped in to field some of your burning questions.

L-R Our Client Relations Manager Claire Manson showing our Chief Executive Megan Clark the ropes

L-R Our Contact Centre Manager Claire Manson showing our Chief Executive Megan Clark the ropes

As she quickly learnt, people contact us about all sorts of things. We’ve been at the forefront of Australian science since 1926. So when people want to go straight to the source, they tend to turn to us. Here are just some of the hot topics we regularly respond to:

Keeping you healthy
We love that Australians want to be healthier. This was made abundantly clear when our Total Wellbeing Diet book was first published. It sold a million copies and almost sent our phone system into meltdown. The release of BARLEYmax caused a similar reaction, with people calling in straight from their local supermarket aisle wanting to get their hands on the supergrain.

Testing, testing
We’re used to being contacted about our testing services, but every now and then we field a request that catches us off guard.  Like the time a caller asked if we could test the nature of an unidentified ‘floatie’ in her beverage. While this (unfortunately) fell outside our remit, we do offer many other testing services for Australian companies – from assessing the bushfire risk of a dwelling, to measuring the slip-factor at the local pool.

I’ve got an invention
We often hear from entrepreneurial members of the public who fancy themselves as the next Thomas Edison. We’ve been approached about animal-human transmogrification, invisibility shrouds and time-travelling devices, to name a few. While we weren’t able to help on these occasions our Small and Medium Enterprise Engagement Centre can assist businesses that want to use science to gain competitive advantage, improve profitability and help their business grow.

When I grow up…
Out of all the enquiries we receive, our most heart-warming often come in the form of letters from the next generation of budding scientists. Our most famous correspondent was seven-year-old Sophie, who recently wrote to us politely asking if we could make her a dragon. Our generous 3D printing experts kindly obliged. No biggie.

This is just a small insight into how we help Australians connect with our science in all kinds of wonderful and powerful ways. Contact us via CSIRO’s website or: