Getting to know the Academy better: ASSAf launches roadshows to meet and greet
The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) was inaugurated in May 1996. It was formed in response to the need for an Academy of Science consonant with the dawn of democracy in South Africa: activist in its mission of using science and scholarship for the benefit of society, with a mandate encompassing all scholarly disciplines that use an open-minded and evidence-based approach to build knowledge.
ASSAf thus adopted in its name the term ‘science’ in the singular as reflecting a common way of enquiring rather than an aggregation of different disciplines. Its members are elected on the basis of a combination of two principal criteria, academic excellence and significant contributions to society. The Parliament of South Africa passed the Academy of Science of South Africa Act (No 67 of 2001), which came into force on 15 May 2002. This made ASSAf the only academy of science in South Africa officially recognised by government and representing the country in the international community of science academies and elsewhere.
The current Membership of ASSAf numbers 591 and consists of experts from various disciplines of science from across the country. Very often we hear people say that they do not know much about ASSAf and its activities; in order to promote the activities of the academy, ASSAf has launched a meet and greet roadshow earmarked to engage with Members and other academics and scientists in different regions nationally.
The first virtual event hosted on 28 May 2021 with engagement with scientists in Limpopo Province was facilitated by Prof Igle Gledhill, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). Prof Himla Soodyall, the Executive Officer at ASSAf, introduced Academy and its activities.
Prof Phuthi E Ngoepe, University of Limpopo (UL) gave the keynote address, followed by Prof Pascal Bessong, University of Venda (Univen) representing ASSAf Members, Marizvikuru Manjoro, Univen, for the Organisation for Women in the Developing World (OWSD), Prof Willie Chinyamurindi, University of Fort Hare (UFH) for the South Africa Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) and Prof Collet Dandara, University of Cape Town (UCT) for the World Academy of Science (TWAS). The take-home message from all speakers was that regardless of circumstances, one should look into turning challenges into opportunities and work towards getting ahead and making relevant contributions to the NSI.
The roadshows aim to promote and encourage diversity (gender, race, discipline and geographic location) among ASSAf Membership. In addition, the roadshows afford ASSAf the opportunity to showcase its work and those organisations affiliated with ASSAf – SAYAS, OWSD and TWAS, and provide guidelines to individuals interested in becoming Members.
The next events in the series will take place in the Eastern Cape (29 July 2021), the Free State (30 September 2021) and KwaZulu-Natal (16 November 2021).