MS 9476

Papers of Ralph Slatyer (1929- )


Creator: Ralph O. Slatyer, 1929-

Title: Papers of Ralph Slatyer

Date range: 1959-1999

Extent: 2.24 metres ( 16 boxes )

Reference number: MS 9476

Administrative Information

The collection is restricted until Slatyer's death. Series 4 and 5 closed for 30 years from date of creation.

The papers were donated by Professor Ralph Slatyer in 1999.

Scope and Content
Ralph Slatyer had a long association with the CSIRO and the Australian National University and was actively involved in many research and official organisations and committees. Much of the work would be recorded on ANU and official files. The papers that he retained mainly relate to some of his activities toward the end of his career.

Slatyer was appointed Australia's Ambassador to UNESCO in 1978 by the Fraser government and then Chairman of the Australian Science and Technology Council in 1982 by the Fraser government, continuing under Prime Minister Hawke. He was then appointed Australia's first Chief Scientist and adviser to the Hawke and later the Keating Governments. There are many government papers, which are mainly correspondence, in his papers. Other material includes biographical sketches, a list of Slatyer’s publications, videocasettes, an audio tape, speeches, reports, discussion papers, photographs and medals. The series also comprises files relating to the establishment of the Cooperative Research Centres Program, and other research initiatives.

For the most part, the file titles are those supplied by Slatyer, with additional information in a few instances for clarification.

Biographical note

Ralph Slatyer was born in Perth, on the 16 April 1929. He was educated at the University of Western Australia where he obtained his Bachelor’s (1951) Master’s (1955) and Doctoral (1960) degrees in agricultural science.

Career details - Full time positions

1951-66 CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Research Scientist, Division of Land Research
1966-67 CSIRO Associate Chief of the Land Research Division
1967-92 Australian National University: Professor of Biology and Foundation Head of the Department of Environmental Biology
1984-89 Australian National University: Director, Research School of Biological Sciences
1963-64 Duke University, North Carolina: Visiting Professor of Forestry and Botany and National Science Foundation Senior Fellow
1973-74 University of California: Visiting Professor of Biological Sciences and Ford Foundation Senior Fellow
1978-81 Australian Ambassador to UNESCO, Paris
1989-92 Australia's first Chief Scientist and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Science and Technology

Services on Selected Committees and Councils

1973-83 International Coordinating Council of the major UNESCO inter governmental Program of 'Man and the Biosphere' (Chairman, 1977-81)
1976-91 SCOPE (Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment) (President 1982-85, member of the executive committee until 1991)
1979-83 World Heritage Committee (Chairman, 1981-83)
1982-87 Chairman of ASTEC (Australian Science and Technology Council)
1990-93 Chairman of Cooperative Research Centres Program
1970-80 Member of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO (Chairman, 1976-78)
1995-96 Chairman, Review of the Bureau of Meteorology ( BOM )
1995-97 Chairman Commonwealth State Working Group on Access to Australia's Genetic Resources

Awards and distinctions

1967 Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA)
1975 Fellow of the Royal Society of London (FRS)
1976 Foreign member of the United States National Academy of Sciences
1977 Queen's silver jubilee medal
1981 Foreign member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1982 Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)
1983 Honorary degree of Doctor of Science from University of Western Australia
1984 Honorary member of the British Ecological Society
1986 Honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Duke University
1991 Medal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science
1992 Honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Queensland
1992 Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
1993 Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) (Appointed Officer (AO) in 1982)
1993 Foreign member of the Korean Association for Science and Technology
1993 Gold medal of the Ecological Society of Australia
1998 Honorary degree of Doctor of Applied Science from Charles Sturt University
2001 Clunies Ross award for lifetime contribution to science and technology.

Slatyer is the author and editor of six books, and his research writings have been published in numerous science journals. For a comprehensive publication list, refer to Series 1, folder 1-4.

Books (authored or edited)

  1. Practical micro-climatology, R. Slatyer and I.C. Mcllroy eds. UNESCO, Paris 1961
  2. Plant-water relationships, Academic Press, London, 1967
  3. Arid lands of Australia, R. Slatyer and R. A. Perrys eds. ANU Press, Canberra,1969
  4. Man and the new biology, ANU Press, Canberra, 1970
  5. Photosynthesis and photorespiration, M.D. Hatch, C.B. Osmond and R.Slatyer eds. Wiley Interscience, New York, 1971
  6. Plant responses to climatic factors, R. Slatyer ed. UNESCO, Paris, 1974

Series List


1 Personal documents, 1959-99

2 Australian National University, 1984-93

3 Australian Ambassador to UNESCO, 1978-81

4 Chief Scientist, 1986-94

5 Co-operative Research Centre Program, 1989-99

6 Committees and councils, 1992-97

7 Visits and reports, 1986-92

8 Correspondence with other universities, 1989-94

9 Speeches and talks, 1985-99

10 Publications, 1969-99

Series description

Series 1 Personal documents, 1959-99

Ralph Slatyer’s personal documents include a large number of biographical sketches, both handwritten and typed. Of particular value is a document headed 'Personal Records' prepared for the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Science, curricula vitae, a publication list, and newspaper articles about him.

The series also contains the medals that Slatyer received for academic achievement and services to UNESCO and ANZAAS (Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science). It incudes the medal for the Clunies Ross Lifetime Contribution, awarded in 2001. He was also awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal. There are transparencies and photographs, one of Slatyer receiving the UNESCO medal, and a certificate and an honorary doctorate.

The three videocassettes include farewell speeches at Slatyer’s retirement, a news report about his A.C., and an Academy interview by Max Blythe (the transcription is included). There are nomination papers, booklets, and letters of congratulations relating to his A.O. and A.C. awards. There is an audio tape relating to Slatyer’s speech given at the Belgrade UNESCO Conference and two transcripts of an oral history interview he recorded with Ann Moyal.


1-4 Biographical background, 1975-99
5 Newspaper articles and papers, 1967-99
6 Three video cassettes and one audio tape, 1992-93
7 Two transcripts of interview, 1992-93
8 Photographs and transparencies, 1959-98
9 Five Medals, 1960-98
10 Two Awards, 1996-98
11 Nomination and congratulatory letters, and booklets, 1993
12-13 Correspondence, 1973-99

Series 2 Australian National University 1967-93

At the Australian National University Ralph Slatyer was Professor of Biology between 1967 and 1992 and Director of the Research School of Biological Sciences between 1984 and 1989. In 1992, he became a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Research School of Biological Sciences.

The first folder includes letters relating to offers of positions at the ANU and Slatyer’s acceptance of a consultancy in a UN Development Program project in South Korea.

Other correspondence includes invitations and notes about the Cooperative Research Centre for Robust and Adaptive Systems, the John Curtin School of Medical Research, and requests for advice about university issues. There are copies of the ANU Reporter. In one issue there is an article about Slatyer’s appointment as Chief Scientist.

The Chubb Report material includes letters and notes about university funding issues and Slatyer’s letter to the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, relating to Professor Chubb’s report about ANU restructuring. There is a draft report reviewing the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), including letters from international university professors lobbying ministers against changes at the ANU.

Series 2 also contains Slatyer’s draft speech at the launch of ANU/Fujitsu collaborative R&D (Research and Development) program, and Slatyer’s opening speech for the ‘Commitment to Discovery’ANU Tech exhibition.


1 Correspondence, 1984-93
2 Report Chubb, 1991
3-4 IAS Review, 1990-91
5 Research and development, 1989-93

Series 3 Australian Ambassador to UNESCO 1978-81

During 1978-81 Slatyer held the position of Australian Ambassador to UNESCO, based in Paris. The series includes official UNESCO photographs of Slatyer, photocopies of a news release about his new position and notes about his accomplishments as an international scientist.


1 News release, photographs, notes, 1978-81

Series 4 Chief Scientist 1989-94 (CLOSED)

Slatyer was appointed Chairman of the Australian Science and Technology Council by Malcolm Fraser in 1982. He was continued in that position by R.J. Hawke when he became Prime Minister, serving until 1987. When the government established the new science policy arrangements in 1989, Slatyer became the first Chief Scientist.

As Chief Scientist Slatyer was an adviser to the Hawke Government and briefly to the Keating Government. The series includes a photocopy of the Chief Scientist job agreement, correspondence between cabinet ministers, heads of business enterprises, government agencies, departmental secretaries, university vice-chancellors, national and international leaders of the science, technology, and environmental communities. Slatyer was chairman of the Australian Science and Technology Council (ASTEC) and there are papers relating to the work of the Council. Also included is Paul Keating’s farewell speech to him as Chief Scientist.

During Slatyer’s time as Chief Scientist he travelled extensively and there are papers, reports, correspondence, travel arrangements and notes about his impressions of science issues in other countries. The format of the material includes faxes, letters, e-mails, photocopies of official government material, reports, policy papers, awards, overhead transparencies, Slatyer’s handwritten drafts and notes and publications.

In this series the folders have been listed according to Slatyer’s subject headings, with some elaborations.


1-2 Submissions and position papers, 1989-93

3 Australia and New Zealand Scientific Exploration Society, 1988-89, Australian Institute of Physics, A.G. Klein, 1991

4 Science and Technology Policy Asian Network (STEPAN), 1989-91
Earth Watch, 1990
IBM, 1990-91
EPAC (Economic Planning Advisory Committee), 1991
Australian/US Science and Technology workshop, 1990

5 Queensland Metals Corporation Ltd, 1991,
National Parks Association, 1990
OTC Worldwide Telecommunications Solutions, 1989-91
Letters about Australian Vice-Chancellors meeting arrangements, 1989-93

6 PECC (Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference) Science and Technology symposium Korea, 1990
Constitutional Centenary conference, 1991
Greenhouse Conference, 1989

7 Evans Deakin Ltd, 1991
Science Policy Research, John Irvine and Ben Martin, 1990
T.T. Kozlowski,. 1991
Lewis Chadderton, 1991
Lord Shackleton, 1989-90
Professor E.R. Oxburgh, 1989

8 CAB International World Services to Agriculture, Don Mentz, 1988-89
Vocational and Technical Training (VTTC), Ian Berckelman, 1990-91
Shell UK, Robert Reid and Patrick Coldstream, 1990-92
Sir John Fairclough, Chief Science Adviser (UK) 1989-90

9 Sir Arvi Parbo, Western Mining Corporation, 1991-92
Rick Gould, High Commission, London, 1989-91
Dr Ian Forrester, NZ CS (New Zealand Chief Scientist), 1990-91
CSIRO Plant Industry Talk (program) 1991
ANZAAS (Australian and New Zealand association for the Advancement of Science Incorporated)-General, 1991
Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd (CRA), 1992

10 Science and Technology Policy, 1989-92

11-12 ASTEC papers, 1986-92
ASTEC Search correspondence, 1990

13 Draft statement on Science and Technology, 1989-91

14 Endeavour Fellowship, 1989-94

15 Environment Initiative, 1989-91

15 CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting), London, SCOPE, Expenses, 1989-91

16 Miscellaneous UK/Europe, June-July, 1991

17 Communication with executive assistant about overseas trip,1989-91
Main impressions Oct/Nov UK and France visit, 1989

18 BHP Awards Launch, 1990
National Science Forum, 1990
Professor D.W. Pearce seminars, 1990

19 Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (AATS)
Symposium, 1991
Energy Resources of Australia, 1990-92
Tetley Manufacturing, 1991
Business and the Environment, 1991

20 Tasmanian ANZAAS Symposium, 1991
Garvan Institute of Medical Research talk, Sydney, 1991
International Conference on Coal Research, 1991

21-22 Prime Minister’s Science Council, 1991-92

23-24 White House Conference, 1990

25 Strategic Research Fund (SRF), 1991
Aerospace CR (Cooperative Research) Seminar, 1990

26 Articles printed in journal Search: IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) and EPAC Paper, 1990-92
Australian Defence Force Academy, 1990
Search article about PMSC (Prime Minister’s Science Council) 1990

27 Document about government procedures and CSIRO operations

28 Published draft Part 1 of the third WMO (World Meteorological Organization) Long Term Plan, 1990

29 Draft of Reports: Policy makers and Scientific Assessment of Climate Change, 1990

30-31 ASTEC (Australian Science and Technology Council) and Science Council, 1991-92

32 Advanced Technical Training Institutions, 1990-91
Advanced Engineering Centres, 1990-91

33 Primary Industries and Energy Research Council and the Bureau of Meteorology, 1989-91

34 French Australian Industrial Research Program (FAIR), 1990-92
New Zealand Ministerial Task Force Visit, 1991-92

35 Australian Embassy, Paris, 1989-90
Australian Embassy, Washington, 1989-92

36 Indonesian visitors, 1991-92
Korean visitors, 1992

37 Official guests visit to Australia, 1990-91 include:
Thai Minister for University Affairs, 1991
Sir Mark Richmond, UK, 1991
Representatives from the USA House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, 1990
Representatives from the Science Council of Japan, 1990

38-39 Papers on Slatyer’s overseas trips to Singapore and England (Merlewood Research Station), 1991
Germany, Helsinki, London, 1991
Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, 1991
Papers on the SPRU (Science Policy and Research Unit), 1991 and IUCN (The World Conservation Union) World Heritage matters, 1991

40 Finland visit, 1991

41 Australian Bilateral S & T (Science and Technology) activities with Korea, 1990-91
Korean matters and a report and publication, 1991-92

42 Hong Kong Consulate General, 1991-92
Report on South East Asian April Visit, June 1991
Miscellaneous South East Asia, 1991

43 Acquittal and travel arrangement Europe, Singapore, June – July 1991

44 Acquittals of overseas travel, CHOGM, Oct 1989, Asia, April 1991

45 Farewell speeches, 1992

46 Miscellaneous correspondence and other papers, 1990-92

Series 5 Cooperative Research Centres, 1989-99 (CLOSED)

In his capacity as Chief Scientist, Slatyer was the major force behind the implementation of the (CRC) Cooperative Research Centres in 1989-90.

The series comprises research notes, papers and correspondence between ministers and Slatyer about CRC implementation. There is an original and photocopy of a memorandum, press release notes, financial estimates, Slatyer’s handwritten notes and a letter to Bob Hawke expressing the need for science and technological development in Australia, faxes, overhead transparencies and publications and e-mails relating to the proposal and the establishment of cooperative research centres throughout Australia. It also includes published booklets, compendiums, pamphlets and magazines relating to the Cooperative Research Centre Program.


1 Cabinet memorandum and the CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) proposals, including Slatyer's letter to ministers and CRC first draft, 1989-90

2 CRC launch media release, 1990, notes about policy and administrative issues notes and list of the members of the Prime Minister's Science Council

3 Meeting notes on CRC Policy, 1990, CRC's applicants, procedures manual, 1991
Estimation of CRC's expenditure and correspondence

4-5 Draft of the CRC Agreement, CRC Guidelines and discussion papers, 1991
Media release 1990-91

6 Slatyer's draft notes for CRC talk, proof of article entitled 'CRC: the concept and its implementation, photocopies and other speakers' notes and correspondence, 1993-94

7 Draft and discussion paper, 1995-96

8 CRC Conference, Canberra, 1995, Sydney, 1996, e- mails and publications, 1995-99

9-10 Publications 1989-98

Series 6 Committees and Councils, 1993-97

Slatyer held the position of chairman and president in many organisations. For instance, he was chairman of the World Heritage Committee, the Australian Research Council, Co-op Multi Media Centres Program, the Bureau of Meteorology, and Access to Australia’s Genetic Resources. This series comprises reports, correspondence, proposals, guidelines, legal documents, publications, discussion papers, research material, and budget papers.


World Heritage Committee

1-5 Draft reports, 1994, 1996, letters, research material, and other papers
Slatyer’s letters and notes, research material from IUCN, correspondence between Slatyer and M. Pitman (Chief Scientist) 1995, draft report, 1997
Draft reports 1996, 1997, World Heritage Report Part 1, 1997
Notes and papers for meeting in Canberra, 1997 Related published material, 1995-92

Australian Research Council (ARC)

6-8 Report drafts, 1995 and ARC meeting notes, 1996, research material and other general correspondence, 1995-96
Slatyer’s notes about the ARC advice on the IAS (Institute of Advanced Studies) Review and Netherlands scientific research paper and correspondence, 1995-96

Co-op Multi Media Centres Program

9-11 Guidelines, proposals, correspondence, 1995, notes on Slatyer’s telephone conversation with Simon Crean, 1995
Assessment panel meeting notes, application form, briefing session notes, 1994
Legal document concerning an agreement draft, 1995
Correspondence between Slatyer and Jim Belshaw (Interim CEO, Ndarala Multimedia Centre) 1995, minutes concerning assessment process, and draft media release from Simon Crean about the centres, notes on funding recommendations, 1995

Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)

12-13 Legal document, 1995, graph, correspondence from Slatyer to Ministers regards Slatyer’s report and review of BOM, 1997 and overhead transparencies and notes
Publications by Slatyer, Capturing opportunities in the provision of Meteorological Services, 1997 and another publication about a 1996 review of BOM, when Slatyer was chairman

Access to Australia’s Genetic Resources

14-16 Discussion papers, UNESCO report, meeting notes, 1995-96
Minutes 1995 Background information notes, Intergovernmental agreement on the environment 1992, 1994
Slatyer’s Commonwealth –State Working Group Meeting notes, 1995
Publication entitled National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biological Diversity

Series 7 Visits and reports, 1986-92

This series includes Slatyer’ letters, notes and report to Bob Hawke about his 1986, 1989 and 1991 overseas visits. There are handwritten notes about science initiatives, budgets, and notes relating to Slatyer’s impressions about science matters in different countries.


1-3 Slatyer’s letter and notes to Hawke, 1986, handwritten notes about Science and Technology Initiatives for 1992-93 budget.
Slatyer’s letter and report to Hawke about Asian visit 1991
Notes about Slatyer’s impressions about his visit to the USA, Asia, Korea, UK, France, telex messages, letters about Korea’s Science and Engineering Foundation exchange program in association with the Australian Academy of Science and other correspondence with the Academy, 1990-92

Series 8 Correspondence with other Universities, 1989-94

Series 8 consists of correspondence between university department heads, vice- chancellors and Slatyer. There is correspondence relating to the University of Technology’s proposed Advanced Engineering Centres, funding and research issues, the Waite Agricultural Research Institute (University of Adelaide) report, a meeting outline concerning Macquarie University Cooperative Research Centre issues, and invitations to Slatyer to give speeches and talks at university graduation ceremonies.


1 University of Melbourne, Monash University, Northern Territory University, Bond University, 1989-91

2 Macquarie University, meeting papers, 1990

3 Deakin University, University of Adelaide, Waite Institute, 1990-94

4 University of New England, University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney, University of Sydney, 1989-92

5 University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, 1989-92

Series 9 Speeches and talks, 1985-99

This series includes handwritten notes, drafts, overhead transparencies, graphs and financial figures, a booklet and a university newspaper. Slatyer was guest speaker at many university graduation ceremonies as well as the National Science Forum and the Australian National University. Other speeches include ‘Commitment to discovery’ exhibition, CSIRO Seminar, Business and Consumer Research Seminar, Ecological Society of Australia, and other speeches and talks.


1 Speeches and talks, 1985-90

2 Speeches and talks, 1990-91

3 Speeches and talks, 1989-99 and Bob Hawke’s 1990 speech to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources)

Series 10 Publications, 1969-99

Slatyer has published many articles and books, but only a few are held with his papers. The series also includes three booklets relating to CSIRO and ASTEC issues.


1 ‘Man’s place in nature’, Man and the New Biology, 1969

2 ‘Environmental problems arising from human use of energy’, Science and Industry forum, 1972

3 ‘R & D industrial competitiveness’, Science, Technology and Industrial Development, 1991

4 ‘Innovation through cooperation’, Nuturing Creativity in Research, 1997

5 Ecological Society of Australia, The First 25 Years, 1999 Slatyer and Alison Saunders

About Slatyer

6-7 Ann Moyal, Portraits of Science,1994
J.J. Basinski, I.M. Wood and J.B. Hacker, A history of CSIRO crop research in northern Australia, CSIRO, 1985

Other Publications

8 Review of ASTEC, Canberra, AGPS, October 1992

9 Australia’s role in the nuclear fuel cycle, Canberra, AGPS, May 1984

10 Future directions for CSIRO, Canberra, AGPS, November 1985

Box List

Box Series Folder/Item
1 1 1-7
2 1 8-13
2 2 1-2
1a 2 3-5
1a 3 1
3 4 1-4
4 4 5-12
5 4 13-19
6 4 20-27
7 4 28-34
8 4 35-41
9 4 42-46
10 5 1-8
11 5 9-10
11 6 1-3
12 6 4-9
13 6 10-15
14 6 16
14 7 1-3
14 8 1-4
15 8 5
15 9 1-3
15 10 1-5
16 10 6-10
Finding aid created 2000. Last amended 2006.