Simon Allen

Shocked to have made it to the final two! Worried I might win :-) Still trying to juggle project finances, but today also dreaming up new projects! That is always fun.

Favourite Thing: ( do in science) Spending enough time to really understand a problem.



Churston Grammar School 1976 – 1982


Plymouth Polytechnic 1985 – 1988. B.Sc(Hons.) Nautical Studies. Navigation, Hydrograhy and Naval Architecture

Work History:

1982 -1985 British Naval Officer (under training). 1988 – 1991 Hydrographic Surveyor, Racal Survey overseas. 1991 – 1996 Freelance Hydrographic Surveyor and Outdoor Pursuits Instructor. 1996 – 2001 BP Project Surveyor, Stolt Offshore. 2001 – 2003 Survey Systems integration strategist, Stolt Offshore. 2004 – 2009 Scientific Equipment & Technology Manager, CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research. 2006 – 2011 Technical Director Australian Integrated Marine Observing System.


CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship

Current Job:

Stream Leader for Coastal Systems Research

Me and my work

Leading a team of scientists dedicated to understanding Australia’s coastal environment

80% of Australians live within 50 km of the coast. So 80% of Australians can cycle to the beach, but we don’t! Seriously though, Australia has concentrated so much in the coastal strip, and increasingly in the major urban centres. This concentration puts pressure on the environment and runs the risk of degrading the things of value that made us want to live there. I live 300m from the beach in Hobart, I am part of that pressure.

My teams seek to understand the “Coastal System, ” and help understand what are the important elements in balancing the competing pressures. Increasingly this is required to be done in a quantitative (mathematically defensible  way as we try to integrate (add up, attribute and share) the effects of a variety of things that are affecting a region. So they are the modellers.

But models without data may not represent the real world real well. (understatement). We cannot observe, record and make sense of the movement of every atom. So we accept a subset of this. Finding the right balance of affordable observations and data required to build an accurate  picture of an environment with a defined level of certainty is a daunting task. This involves an iterative discussion between the observationalists and modellers. Finally when we cannot observe something preperly, i.e. at the time or space scales we want then we might try to build a new instrument or develop a new method for obtaining that measurement. Into this space step the technologists.

Karen Wild-Allen Working with a new instrument

I have set up models of the atmosphere to better understand how the air moves, this was for my out of work activity of paragliding, but I have found the experience helps me to talk to the modellers, I spent years taking observations for oil companies and working out better ways to make those observations. So I think of myself as working (in my research) on the science of observation, an observational technologist, if you like.

My Typical Day

Typical Day? There isn’t one.

OK, So I lead a team that is based all over Australia, with projects all over Australia. There’s a lot of time at a desk reading reports, e-mails, on the phone. I also do some research in how to better measure and map our coastal seas. THEN i get to……. sit at a desk analysing data!  But seriously, I have spent seven years, yes seven years actually on the  sea. I now try to persuade people that robots can go to sea for longer, do the job better than us humans, so send them instead.

Farhan Rizwi letting an Ocean Glider loose

What I'd do with the money

Install under our wharf and make available online a web controllable underwater Webcam for school access.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Always asking questions

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Nirvanna (unplugged)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Had a family

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

A long and happy life. To make a difference. AND (of course) World peace!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A Naval Officer

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Oh dear, yes. Reports from high school were not very good. “Fool to himself, rogue,” etc.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Explored the wreck of the Lusitania with Bob Ballard and his team

Tell us a joke.

What did the fish say when he swam into a wall? ……. Dam!

Sports followed

Paraglider pilot. Active participant in many water and mountain sports. Archery. Orienteering. Outdoors stuff.

Favourite team

Australia or England depending on who is the underdog.