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The CSIRO was established as an independent statutory authority by the Science and Industry Research Act 1949, which has been amended on a number of occasions since then. Its primary role is as an applications-oriented research organisation in support of major industry sectors and selected areas of community interest, with a strong commitment to the effective transfer of its results to users.
Other functions include dissemination and publication of scientific information, international liaison in scientific matters, and provision of services and facilities.
The CSIRO's work is planned and prioritised on a sectoral basis and conducted through core business units - CSIRO Divisions. External advice on research priorities is channelled through Sector Advisory Committees. Each sector represents an industry group, market, or natural resource of national significance. There are 22 sectors covering research in five broad groupings: