About ASSAf

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) was inaugurated in May 1996 by the former President of South Africa and patron of the Academy, Nelson Mandela.

It was formed in response to the need for an academy of science congruent with the dawn of democracy in South Africa – activist in its mission of using science for the benefit of society. 

The mandate of the Academy encompasses all fields of scientific enquiry and it includes the full diversity of South Africa’s distinguished scientists. The Parliament of South Africa passed the Academy of Science of South Africa Act (Act 67 of 2001), as amended, which came into operation in May 2002.

ASSAf is the official national Academy of Science of South Africa and represents the country in the international community of science academies. Since its inception, ASSAf has grown from a small, emergent organisation to a well-established academy.


The benefits that the Academy aspires to bring to South Africa (and the wider world) are the sustainable provision of a professionally managed organisation that can mobilise the best intellect, expertise and experience.

These are used to investigate and provide evidence-based solutions to national problems; inspiration and example in science and technology, applied for the benefit of society; international connectedness at the highest level of knowledge and insight; and facilitation of public understanding of the nature, scope and value of the scientific and technological enterprise.

The mission of the Academy is to:

  • Recognise scholarly achievement and excellence in the application of scientific thinking for the benefit of society;
  • Mobilise Members to ensure that they are available to contribute their expertise in the service of society;
  • Conduct systematic and evidence-based studies on issues of national importance, producing authoritative reports that have significant impact on policy-making;
  • Promote the development of an indigenous system of South African research publications, increasing their quality, visibility, accessibility and impact;
  • Publish science-focused periodicals that will showcase the best of southern African research to a wide national and international audience;
  • Develop productive partnerships with national, regional and international organisations with a view to building our capacity in science and its application within the National System of Innovation (NSI);
  • Create diversified sources of funding for sustainable functioning and growth of a national academy;
  • Communicate effectively with relevant stakeholders through various media and fora.

The relevance of the Academy in the context of national policy frameworks and initiatives is that it strives to achieve the purposes of its enabling Act of Parliament through a public domain, multi-year strategic plan. It subscribes to the intentions and recommendations of the White Paper on Science and Technology and the National Research and Development Strategy, and the Ten-Year Innovation Plan.


The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) aspires to be the apex organisation for science and scholarship in South Africa, recognised and connected both nationally and internationally.

Through its Membership which represents the collective voice of the most active scholars in all fields of scholarly enquiry, ASSAf aims to generate evidence-based solutions to national problems.

Strategic goals

ASSAf, in its unique position as the only national science academy that is officially recognised by the South African government through the ASSAf Act (Act 67 of 2001), as amended, aims to provide evidence-based scientific advice on issues of public interest to government and other stakeholders.

The strategic goals of the Academy are as follows:

  • Recognition and reward of excellence
  • Promotion of innovation and scholarly activity
  • Promotion of effective, evidence-based scientific advice
  • Promotion of public interest in and awareness of science and science education
  • Promotion of national, regional and international linkages 


ASSAf’s strength resides in the quality and diversity of its Membership; internationally renowned scholars elected by peers, who give of their time voluntarily in the service of society. The Members are regarded as the ‘brains trust’ of the nation. ASSAf uses its Members as a collective resource for evidence-based solutions to problems.

Through the well-recognised convening power of academies, ASSAf is able to mobilise the best scientific minds from across the nation, as well as internationally, to provide authoritative advice to government and other stakeholders based on scientifically rigorous analysis of evidence and consensus of diverse experts. As such, ASSAf is an independent, non-biased and credible source of science advice.

The diversity of its Membership, embracing the full disciplinary spectrum, enables ASSAf to focus on issues of a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral nature and to bring the strengths of a fully inclusive approach to bear on the issues of national and international concern.

The further value of the Academy is its promotion of excellence through election to Academy Membership and awards, and the fostering of scholarly activity through the provision of fora for scholarly activities and debate.

Science advisory activities are a common feature of academies around the world, all using an evidence-based approach based on the convening of experts with diverse perspectives to discuss and illuminate issues.

Key universal elements of Academy advice are that it is:

  • Authoritative
  • Independent
  • Objective
  • Free of vested interests
  • Trusted
  • Based on volunteerism
  • Based on rigorous analysis of evidence and peer review
  • Transparent
  • Locally based
  • Multi-disciplinary and able to address complex issues that transcend disciplinary boundaries.


The key objective of the Academy is to promote and apply scientific thinking in the service of society. 

To this end, the Academy shall:

  • Use the common ground of scientific knowledge and activity to remove barriers between people and obstacles to full development of their intellectual capacity;
  • Endeavour in every possible way to inspire, promote and recognise excellence in scientific and technical practice;
  • Investigate and publicly report on various matters, at its own discretion or at the request of government or organisations in civil society, in order to promote and apply scientific thinking in the service of society;
  • Promote science education and a culture of science in the population at large;
  • Maintain strict independence while consulting other organisations and individuals in the widest manner possible;
  • Endeavour to establish and develop close relations with scientific organisations in South Africa and with similar academies in other countries; and
  • Take any other action that it may consider necessary towards the attainment of its key objectives.


The strategic priorities of the Academy are closely matched to those of the nation.

The priorities focus particularly on the need for the greatly enhanced availability of high-level human capital and an increased use of the country’s best intellectual expertise in generating evidence-based science advice in support of policy development.

The Academy is aligned to national policy as dictated in the White Paper on Science and Technology and the National Research and Development Strategy. It also seeks, through its studies and convening activities, to address the triple challenges of the reduction of poverty, unemployment and inequality, as enunciated in the National Development Plan (NDP).