As I prepare to retire from ASSAf after ten years as Executive Officer I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of my experiences and highlights over the past ten years and thank all those who have made my time at ASSAf so memorable.
I would like to pay tribute to the three ASSAf Presidents under whom I have served, namely Profs Robin Crewe, Daya Reddy and Jonathan Jansen. Each has left an indelible mark on ASSAf and the science system in general and I thank each one of them for the privilege of having worked alongside them. I would also like to acknowledge the wise and generous counsel that I have received from my predecessor, Prof Wieland Gevers, over the years. I am hugely indebted to his guidance, so often given in the background without any fanfare or public acknowledgement. He embodies everything there is to ‘service for society’ and I consider myself immensely privileged to have benefitted from his mentorship and support.
It has been wonderful to get to know so many ASSAf Members and stakeholders in many varied capacities. I have especially enjoyed interacting with those who have served on ASSAf’s study panels. The contributions of each person who has served ASSAf in a voluntary capacity is deeply appreciated.
Looking back at some of the highlights, I think that being part of the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI) programme, the US-led academy development initiative was one of the greatest early high points. The close links forged with the US National Academies and the eight African academies in the programme and the annual meetings with the African science academies were wonderful experiences. There was so much to share in those early days and the learning was tremendous. ASADI came at just the right time in ASSAf’s development, allowing us to benefit from the mentorship received and become independent very quickly.
Other highlights have been the hosting of large international academy conferences which have built ASSAf’s reputation and strengthened our international linkages. I think of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) general assembly and conference (2009), two African science academy conferences (2010 and 2016), the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) general assembly and conference (2016), the IAP for Health meeting (2013), not to mention a number of young academy international events and numerous international workshops and symposia.
I am proud of the many initiatives of ASSAf over the past ten years but especially proud of how the staff has given expression to them and in so doing have built ASSAf’s reputation and impact. I think of the founding of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), the hosting of the Organisation of Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) National Chapter by ASSAf, the hosting of the TWAS regional office for sub-Saharan Africa, ASSAf’s role in the African Open Science Platform (AOSP), the ASSAf-Embassy lecture series, the Presidential roundtables, the publication of the book Legends, profiling leading ASSAf Members and so on.
To all the staff of ASSAf, I owe a huge debt of gratitude and I am immensely proud of them. They are enormously invested in the organisation and their enthusiasm and dedication is unsurpassed. I leave ASSAf confident in and very happy with my successor, Prof Himla Soodyall. Himla has been a staunch supporter of ASSAf since she started as a Council Advisor and later as a full Council Member. I wish her great success and fulfillment in this position.