The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has just released its ScienceImage library under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

CSIRO has provided permission for anyone to freely use, repost and transform the collection’s 4000+ high definition images and videos. The library represents more than six decades worth of environmental, industrial, agricultural and technological research images.

CSIRO is Australia’s premier public scientific research institute, with a history spanning back to the its first iteration, the Advisory Council of Science, in 1916. This council evolved into the modern CSIRO, which enjoys a far wider scope than the ASC, conducting scientific research into almost all facets of Australian environment, industries, agriculture and technology.

The CSIRO has been responsible for a wide range of projects and inventions, from insect repellents and Polymer Banknotes to Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy and the Parkes Radio Telescope (one of the sources of the Apollo 11 TV broadcast).

By using the free CC BY licence, CSIRO has recognised that unlocking its archives can provide more value to the Australian public than the licence fees it previously collected. Many Australian Government agencies now use CC BY as a default for public sector information. The Australian Government intellectual property rules mandate CC BY as a default for Government agencies, and recommend CC BY as good practice for other Government organisations like the CSIRO.

CSIRO’s library is separated into a variety of categories including Animals, Buildings, Soil Science, Technology and Water. Many of the recently released videos and images are accompanied by details about the research project involved, or the specimen photographed. The library provides great educational insight into Australian scientific research and technology as well as a look into the history of recent Australian society.

The library now joins a number of other scientific image collections released into the public domain or under free licenses including NASA’s Image library, the Open-i Biomedical image search engine, the Public Health Image Library, the US NIH National Library of Medicine’s Images from the History of Medicine archive, and the Wikimedia Commons Scientific Images collections.

These free image archives provide excellent resources for teachers, students, bloggers, journalists, and other content creators. CSIRO had previously charged between $50 and $400 per image for a commercial licence to use these images.

The CSIRO library interface has been optimised for easy exploration. It is now possible to search for images by colour, for example, which could be useful for parents to help their children identify beetles, birds, spiders, flowers and the many other creatures found in the backyard, the outback or underwater.

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