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 RFQ:27/Aug/2021/Admin 10 September 2021 APPOINTMENT OF INTERNAL AUDITORS FOR A PERIOD OF FIVE (5) YEARS Bidding Document

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SAGE Steering Committee Members

7Jerome Amir Singh

Prof Jerome Amir Singh (BA, LLB, LLM, MHSc, PhD) serves as the Principal Investigator of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), which operates under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS). He is Adjunct Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada and Honorary Research Fellow at the Howard College School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. In his role as the Director of the Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues (ELSI) Advisory Services on Global Health Research and Development, Prof Singh serves as an ad hoc Consultant to several United Nation entities, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNAIDS, and UNICEF. He currently serves on several advisory and oversight bodies related to humanitarian and emergency issues, including the International Ethics Review Board of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). He has previously served as a consultant to the WHO on H5N1, XDR-TB, and HIV. In 2017, Dr Singh was appointed by the WHO Director-General (DG) to serve as a member of WHO’s International Health Regulations ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern' Expert Roster. In 2020, he was appointed by the WHO DG to serve as a member of the WHO’s Ad Hoc Research Ethics Review Committee (ERC) for COVID-19. He also serves on the WHO Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator Ethics & Governance Working Group, and the WHO Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for Emergency Use Listing of COVID-19 vaccines. He has served as an advisor to the WHO on identifying and connecting known, new or emerging issues that could significantly impact global health. Singh serves as a member of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) Legal and Human Rights Technical Task Team, the Bioethics Advisory Panel of the South African Medical Research Council (SA MRC), and co-chairs the US NIH-funded Ethics Working Group of the HIV Prevention Trial Network (HPTN). He has previously co-directed the Ethical, Social, and Cultural Issues Advisory Services of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative, and served as the Head of Ethics at CAPRISA. He is an elected Founding Member and inaugural two-term Co-Chair of SAYAS.

Affiliation and research profile:
http://www.dlsph.utoronto.ca/faculty-profile/singh-jerome-a/  
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jerome-Singh


8Caradee Wright

Dr Caradee Wright is a member of the Steering Committee of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), which operates under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS). Caradee Wright is a Senior Specialist Scientist at the South African Medical Research Council leading the Climate and Health Research Programme and with a PhD in Public Health. She is also an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Pretoria, Research Associate at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and Senior Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg. Her research focuses on environmental health in Africa, with a focus on understanding climate change, air pollution and health impacts to inform interventions and prevent adverse health outcomes. Caradee was a recent committee member of the World Health Organization 2021 Air Quality Guidelines Committee. She is currently a Council member of the American Society for Photobiology and an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 6 Africa Chapter author. Caradee has more than 100 research articles in accredited journals. She was recently an author of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Frontiers report on Preventing the Next Pandemic, UNEP Global Environment Synthesis Report and the UNEP Measuring Progress Towards the SDGs. Presently, she is a Chapter Lead Author for the UNEP/SEI/CCAC Africa Assessment on Air Pollution and Climate Change and a lead author of the Network of African Science Academies Protecting Human Health against Climate Change in Africa report. One of her recent research project was a large South African survey during lockdown (conducted online and telephonically) to understand household air pollution changes and impacts on respiratory health, including among people infected with COVID-19. She is an elected Founding Member and inaugural two-term Co-Chair of SAYAS.

Affiliation and research profile:
www.samrc.ac.za
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9608-818X


3Marizvikuru Manjoro Mwale

Dr Marizvikuru Manjoro-Mwale serves in the Steering Committee of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), which operates under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS). She is a member of the prestigious South African Young Academy of Science and currently the SAYAS 2020/2021 co-chair. Dr Manjoro is a Senior Lecturer and coordinator of Postgraduate programmes in the Institute for Rural Development at the University of Venda (UNIVEN), South Africa. She holds a PhD in Animal Science from the University of Fort Hare, South Africa. Her research interests include indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), ethno-veterinary medicine, livestock production, water security, and food and nutrition security for improved rural livelihoods. Currently, she is leading research on village chicken and ethno-veterinary medicine for enhanced food security in rural communities and Water Security and Socio-Hydrological resilience of Rural Small-scale Crop Value Chains co-funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Partnerships for Enhanced Engaged Research (PEER) programme and the Department of Science and Innovation. Dr Manjoro is a member and serves in the Steering Committee of Research Ethics and Integrity Community of Practice for the Northern region, including Gauteng, Limpopo and North-West Provinces, and Botswana. She is a certified Professional Natural Scientist with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP). She is also a member of the International Association for Community Development, South African Society for Animal Science and Society for Medicinal Plants and Natural Products. At UNIVEN, Dr Manjoro serves the Research Advisory Forum and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee for which she is the Deputy Chairperson. She reviews and moderates grant proposals for National Research Foundation (NRF), and manuscripts for various journals, in particular, the South African Journal of Animal Science for which she is a sub-editor. Dr Manjoro is a promising young scientist with a Y2 NRF-rating.


5Keagan Pokpas

Dr Keagan Pokpas is a member of the Steering Committee of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), which operates under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS). Dr. Pokpas serves as a lecturer of NanoElectrochemistry and sensor technologies within the Department of Chemistry at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and research leader in SensorLab and Senergy laboratories. He holds an MSc in Nanochemistry and a PhD in Electroanalytical chemistry specializing in electrochemical sensing systems. He Keagan’s research focuses on the development of environmental monitoring, point-of-care diagnostics and early detection systems relying on low-cost and portable disposable materials to aid impoverished communities. His current research focuses on the creation of rapid diagnostic Covid-19 sensing devices and monitoring of antibody production to evaluate vaccine efficacy. Dr. Pokpas is passionate about educating the broader public on safe Covid-19 practices by disseminating and communicating the often complex science into understandable and digestible formats. He strongly believes in the importance of science to direct legislation and believes that all scientists play a role in directing the future of South African policies regarding Covid-19 and pandemics as a whole. Keagan currently serves on the EXCO of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) and a number of national and international chemistry bodies.  

Affiliation and research profile:
https://www.uwc.ac.za/study/all-areas-of-study/departments/department-of-chemistry/people
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4856-0053
https://www.uwc.ac.za/study/all-areas-of-study/departments/department-of-chemistry/people
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4856-0053


1Adeyemi O. Aremu

Adeyemi O. Aremu is a member of the Steering Committee of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), which operates under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS). Adeyemi serves as an Associate Professor at the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Systems, North-West University, South Africa. He is also an Honorary Researcher with the School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa. He holds a BSc (Hons, 2006) Botany degree from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Nigeria while his MSc (Ethnobotany, 2010) and PhD (Botany, 2013) degrees were obtained from UKZN. Adeyemi is a Y-rated researcher and currently leading a research team focusing on the value-chain of African floras especially those with medicinal, horticultural and nutritional potential. He is a registered Professional Natural Scientist with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP), member of the International Society for Ethnopharmacology (ISE) and Council member of the South African Association of Botanists (SAAB). In recognition of his academic excellence and contribution to science, Adeyemi has received several awards and recognitions such as the Young Affiliate-ship with the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), Executive member of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), Claude Leon Fellowship and fellow of the African Science Leadership Programme (ASLP). He is also on the editorial board of four international journals and regularly review for more than 20 journals and funding organizations including the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Royal Society’s Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) Fellowship Committee. Adeyemi currently serves in the Biosafety and Biosecurity Standing Committee of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the Policy Influence Working Group of SAYAS with various activities relating to the importance of science-based evidence. In recent time, Adeyemi has been actively involved with the Dissemination of policy brief on COVID-19 Non-pharmaceutical interventions in the SADC region as a means of contributing to the on-going debate and vital role by young scientists in Africa.

Affiliation and academic profile
Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Adeyemi-Aremu
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adeyemi-oladapo-aremu-a4a51a109/
Loop: https://loop.frontiersin.org/people/274034/overview
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6602-246X


2 Pradeep Kumar

Prof Pradeep Kumar is a member of the Steering Committee (Health, and Natural Sciences) of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), which operates under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS). Trained as pharmacist, he is currently an Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics at Wits’ Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. He has an experience of over 10 years in academic teaching and research with pharmaceutics as the core subject along with biomaterial design, tissue engineering, and nanomedicine. His PhD thesis was focused on the design and development of polymer-engineered neural devices for potential application in reducing neurological deficits after spinal cord injuries and was awarded the Wits FHS Most Prestigious PhD Degree Award. In addition, he is interested in the in silico mathematical analysis and programming for performance interpretation of drug eluting assemblies and polymer architectures. He holds an NRF Y1 rating. Prof. Kumar is a recipient of several prestigious awards including ALBA-FKNE-YIBRO diversity grant (2020), GYA Membership (2020), INGSA-Africa Science Advice diploma (2020), Wits’ Friedel Sellschop Research Award (2019), SAYAS Membership (2018), ASRT Young African Researcher Award 2018, M&G Top 200 Young South Africans 2018, Claude Leon Foundation Merit Award (2018), African-German Network of Excellence in Science (AGNES) Junior Researcher Grant (2018) and Wits Innovators Forum’s First-time (2013), Prolific (2014) and International (2016) Inventor Awards. Prof. Kumar’s research findings have been published as over 250 ISI publications (H-index: 36), 4 editorials, 3 edited books, and 40 book chapters. Prof. Kumar is an inventor on 22 granted patents across six patent families. He has a keen interest in science policy advice, and evidence informed policy and practice; and is a member of the SAYAS and the Global Young Academy (GYA), and is an active member of the policy influence and science advice working groups in these academies, respectively. https://www.wits.ac.za/staff/academic-a-z-listing/k/pradeepkumarwitsacza/

Related Links
https://www.ingsa.org/covidtag/covid-19-commentary/kumar-at-risk/
https://www.ingsa.org/covidtag/covid-19-commentary/kumar-nutrition/
https://www.ingsa.org/covidtag/covid-19-commentary/kumar-interventions/
https://covidandsociety.com/global-scan-mental-health-policy-responses-long-term-care-home-residents-during-covid-19/
https://covidandsociety.com/online-education-schoolchildren-covid-19-scan-policies-initiatives-around-world/
https://theconversation.com/covid-19-policy-briefs-must-be-realistic-a-review-by-young-southern-african-scientists-152029    


2bAliza le Roux

Aliza le Roux is a member of the Steering Committee of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), which operates under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS). Aliza serves as Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of the Free State, Qwaqwa. She is past co-chair of SAYAS (2018-2019), founding editor of the SAYAS postgraduate blog (https://sayasblog.com/), and current vice president of the Zoological Society of Southern Africa. She has been instrumental in many initiatives to empower women in academia. Currently, Aliza is steering a mentorship program at her rural campus, connecting with an American collaborator to specifically help young female academics grow professionally. As a behavioural ecologist investigating how wild carnivores and primates respond to risks in their environment, Aliza works on the interface between wildlife and anthropogenic change. Disease surveillance in wildlife is currently severely lacking and creates a blind spot in our preparedness for zoonotic disease outbreaks. She was the lead author on a recent popular press article on zoologists’ responses to COVID-19 (https://theconversation.com/what-zoologists-should-learn-from-a-zoonotic-pandemic-137951 ), which subsequently featured on eNCA. As part of the SAGE steering committee, she wants to emphasize the importance of monitoring and understanding processes in the natural world that increases our risk of future zoonotic disease outbreaks.

Affiliation and academic profile
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aliza-Le-Roux  


4Sershen Naidoo

Dr Sershen Naidoo is a member of the Steering Committee of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), which operates under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS).Sershen has a PhD in Plant Biology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and a Post-graduate Diploma in Higher Education. He is a Clinton Democracy Fellow and a fellow of the South African Young Academy of Sciences. He has served as an Associate Professor at UKZN, the Grants and Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the South African Technology Network, and is presently the Executive Director of the Institute of Natural Resources. He is a multi-disciplinarian working across the Natural and Social Sciences on projects focused on plant ecophysiology, water and sanitation, waste management, urban ecology, tourism, climate change, sustainability science and more recently public health. He is a Honorary Research Fellow at the University of the Western Cape and a specialist in curriculum development, research design, and monitoring and evaluation within the Higher Education Sector. He is recognised for his seminal work in several disciplines in the Life Sciences with over 80 publications, several international keynote addresses and multiple high-level commissioned reports (most recently one on priority setting for COVID-19 management) to his name. Additionally, his involvement in numerous community-based projects across the country, has seen him being appointed as an expert consultant at a number of government and higher education events and being asked to serve on councils and boards of a number of influential organisations within the country.

Affiliation and academic profile
Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Naidoo_Sershen


 

Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE)

Background and provenance

To support Africa’s response to COVID-19, the Africa Rapid Grant Fund has supported the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE). The Africa Rapid Grant Fund is supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa, the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Newton Fund, South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), and Fonds de Recherche du Québec (FRQ).

Scope of mandate

In the context of SAGE activities, an “emergency” denotes a serious, unexpected, and potentially dangerous situation that has either already caused loss of life, health detriments, property damage, or environmental damage, or has a high probability of escalating to cause immediate danger to life, health, property, or the environment. Most emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, requires urgent, time-sensitive interventions to prevent or mitigate a worsening of the situation. SAGE aims to provide rapid, independent, multi-disciplinary science advice to relevant stakeholders on emergency issues that require strategic attention. SAGE also aims to undertake engagement with relevant stakeholders to create awareness and facilitate resilience in relation to emergencies. 

Aims and objectives 

SAGE aims to serve as a think-tank on current or potential emergencies.
SAGE aims to base its advisories and other outputs on the best available evidence and related data. Where necessary, SAGE shall issue strategic situational reports and precautionary notices / advisories. These reports and advisories shall be made publicly accessible. Where necessary, reports and advisories will be updated on a rolling basis.
SAGE shall aim to identify knowledge gaps on, and highlight best practices and lessons learnt in relation to current or potential emergencies.
SAGE shall engage in fore-sighting exercises to identify threats that could lead to an emergency.

SAGE Steering Committee Members

SAGE advisories will be driven by members of the SAGE Steering and Coordinating Committee. Where necessary, SAGE shall co-opt relevant experts to co-author advisories. Such individuals shall be drawn from the memberships of ASSAf, SAYAS (including alumni), South Africa’s statutory Science Councils, Higher Education institutions, and independent research institutions. Where necessary, co-option may occur outside these entities and beyond South Africa. SAGE Advisories shall be based on consensus, not necessarily unanimity.

Steering Committee Members

  • Prof Jerome Amir Singh
  • Dr Caradee Wright
  • Dr Marizvikuru Manjoro-Mwale
  • Dr Keagan Pokpas
  • Dr Adeyemi O. Aremu
  • Prof Pradeep Kumar
  • Dr Aliza le Roux
  • Dr Sershen Naidoo
     

SAGE Advisories

 

SAGE Situational Analysis and Strategic Advisory on Farming and Food Security In South Africa in the Aftermath of Widespread Public Violence and Looting in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng between 10-14 July 2021- 30 July 2021 - revised 30 August 2021


SAGE Situational and Strategic Advisory on Social and Political Instability - 14 July 2021  


SAGE Advisory on Foot and Mouth Disease in KZN - 12 July 2021 


Webinars and Events

SAGE Webinar 1: https://youtu.be/G8OPOmQkNCE
SAGE Webinar 2: https://youtu.be/1WuM6XFiZLQ
SAGE Webinar 3: https://youtu.be/M7z61WGk5G8
SAGE Webinar 4: https://youtu.be/WMiYtBZIlv4

Relevant Publications

  

 


Lancet report - 24 July 2021 

 


Pokpas K, Naidoo S, Kumar P, and Singh JA. Vaccine hesitancy: The role of the medical fraternity in debunking vaccine myths. SAMA Insider June 2021: 8-9
SAMA Insider
, South African Medical Association, June 2021: https://hmpgjournals.co.za/issues/si/202106/


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Metric Identifies Coronavirus Hotspots in Real Time
(This article was orginally published on NIH Directors Blog - June 24th, 2021 by Dr. Francis Collins)

New method accurately reflects hotspots in epidemic3 1024x576   CopyDuring the pandemic, it’s been critical to track in real time where the coronavirus is spreading at home and abroad. But it’s often hard for public health officials to know whether changes in the reported number of COVID-19 cases over time truly reflect the spread of the virus or whether they are confounded by changes in testing levels or lags in the reporting of results.

Now, NIH-funded researchers have discovered a clever workaround to detect more accurately where COVID-19 hotspots are emerging. As published in the journal Science, the new approach focuses on the actual amount of virus present in a positive COVID diagnostic test [1], not just whether the test is positive or negative. What’s even better is these data on a person’s “viral load” are readily available from polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests that are the “gold standard” for detecting SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. In fact, if you’ve been tested for COVID-19, there’s a good chance you’ve had a PCR-based test.

Here’s how a PCR test for COVID-19 works. After a person provides a nasal swab or saliva sample, any genetic material in the sample is extracted and prepared for the PCR machine. It uses special nucleic acid primers that, if any genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 is present, will make millions more copies of them and result in a positive test result. PCR is an enzymatic reaction that works by running many cycles of heating and cooling; each cycle results in doubling of the genetic material present in the original sample.

But it turns out that PCR can go beyond a simple “yes” or “no” test result. It’s also possible to get some sense of how much coronavirus is present in a positive sample based on the number of cycles required to make enough copies of its genetic material to get the “yes” result. This measure is known as the “cycle threshold,” or Ct, value.

When a sample is run with lots of virus in it, the PCR machine doesn’t need to make so many cycles to reach detectable levels—and the Ct value is considered low. But, when the virus is barely present in a sample, the machine needs to run more cycles before it will reach the threshold for detection. In this case, the Ct value is high. This makes the Ct metric a bit counterintuitive: low Ct means a high level of infection, and high Ct means a low level of infection.

In the new study, researchers in Michael Mina’s lab, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, including James Hay and Lee Kennedy-Shaffer, wanted to use Ct values to understand better the overall trajectory of the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Their idea was a little out of the box, since Ct values weren’t being factored into a diagnostic testing process that was set up to give people a yes-or-no answer about COVID-19 status. In fact, Ct values were often discarded.

The team members had a hunch that the amount of virus in patient samples would vary based on whether an outbreak is increasing or declining. Their reasoning was that during an outbreak, when SARS-CoV-2 is spreading rapidly through a community, a larger proportion of infected individuals will have recently contracted the virus than when it is spreading more slowly. The researchers also knew that the virus reaches its peak level in humans soon after infection (generally a couple of days before symptoms begin), and then falls to very low but still detectable levels over the course of weeks or sometimes even months. So, when viral load within samples is highest—and Ct values are lowest—it suggests an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 is underway. As an outbreak slows and cases fall, viral loads should fall and Ct values rise.

The researchers found that just 30 positive PCR test results on a single day were enough to give an accurate real-time estimate of the growth rate of SARS-CoV-2 infections based on Ct values. With Ct values from multiple time points, it was possible to reconstruct the epidemic curve and estimate the true number of people infected. They found that even Ct values collected from a single location at a single point in time could provide extremely valuable information about the growth or decline of an outbreak.

The findings suggest that these data can now be captured and put to good use as a key metric for decision-making and gauging the success of the pandemic response going forward. It’s also important to note that the value of these data are not unique to COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic. It appears this can be extremely useful new way to monitor the course of other viral outbreaks, now and in the future, in a way that’s less susceptible to the vagaries of testing. The hope is that this will mean even greater success in capturing viral outbreaks and mobilizing resources in real time to the places where they are most needed.

Reference:

[1] Estimating epidemiologic dynamics from cross-sectional viral load distributions. Hay JA, Kennedy-Shaffer L, Kanjilal S, Lennon NJ, Gabriel SB, Lipsitch M, Mina MJ. Science. 2021 Jun 3.

Links:

COVID-19 Research (NIH)

Michael Mina  (Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston)

NIH Support: Common Fund, National Institute of General Medical Sciences; National Cancer Institute

ASSAf celebrates Youth Day through partnership with the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa
The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) celebrated Youth Day in South Africa by hosting a webinar on 15 June 2021, in partnership with the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa, the South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS). The webinar was intended to encourage young scientists to be key role players in finding solutions to societal challenges and to play a role in advancing the social responsibility of scientists.

Ambassador H.E Fionnuala Gilsenan from the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa opened the event by saying the event is an opportunity to celebrate the limitless potential of young people. Reflecting on their own history, she emphasised the role of young people in advancing the importance of education at various levels of the education pipeline.

DSI Deputy Director-General, Mr Daan du Toit, spoke about a new Irish initiative called “Creating our Future”.  This focusses on a national conversation on research in Ireland. Mr Du Toit said that this is a model that South Africa should embrace. He said that it was timely for the importance and investment in science.

ASSAf Executive Officer, Prof Himla Soodyall, reiterated the value of ASSAf’s relationship with it partners, specifically with the Embassy Lecture Series. She said that ASSAf was committed to build and promote the activities of young scientists. Young researchers are becoming more vocal, and their voices are important in advancing ASSAf activities that use evidence-based science to contribute to societal issues.

Dr Max Paoli from the World Academy of Sciences was the keynote speaker at this webinar and spoke on “Youth Perspectives on Science and Technology for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. His focus was on global challenges and sustainable development, with emphasis on the role of science in addressing SDG related research.

The talk by Dr Max Paoli was followed by a session moderated by Ms Louisa Herenghan from the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa and featured four young scientists: Dr Marica Cassarino and Ms Evelyn Nomayo from Ireland as well as Dr Tozama Qwebani-Ogunleye and Mr Lesetja Mogoba from South Africa.

This discussion centred on young scientists’ expertise and experience using the following questions addressed randomly among the panellists:

  • What inspired them to pursue a career in science and technology?
  • How did the SDGs shape their research focus and agenda?
  • What were the barriers to youth involvement and what policy actions could be implemented to garner further support for them?
  • How could young scientists better engage in, and influence policy processes related to science, technology and innovation?
  • What could be done to facilitate transferable digital skills to empower job opportunities and entrepreneurship?
  • What was the value of science, technology and innovation when leveraging advancement of sustainable development processes more broadly? Related to this, the panellists were asked how they envisaged the digital divide and unequal access to technology in compromising their efforts in advancing the use of science and technology when addressing the SDGs?
  • How could young women and young people from underrepresented communities be encouraged to pursue careers in science and participate in SDG research?
  • How did international collaboration shape their work and how could international collaborative projects be leveraged to create more opportunities for youth involvement?

The panellists responded to the above questions by saying that their inspiration came from their lived daily experiences. These included siblings who are passionate about maths and physics, their interest in digital platforms and being imaginative when visualising science in laboratories. They highlighted some of the barriers to youth involvement in science, including lack of especially female role models with whom the youth can identify with, the digital divide or lack of connectivity and the lack of qualified teachers/professionals in high schools to teach specialised subjects.  Girl children in rural communities especially need to deal with stereotypes that influence their worldviews, such as the assumption that men are better scientists. This, to a large extent, is caused by the lack of mentoring by women scientists. It is clear that there is greater need to promote and profile women scientists in our communities. Moreover, the youth needs to be treated as an essential part of development in science and should be given a platform to express their views on topical issues in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI).

They felt that the youth should be exposed to the many opportunities that are available to them. Governments need to create spaces to allow for a high level of knowledge and skills transfer on a practical level. These spaces should provide platforms for collaboration with like-minded people. The panellists indicated that technology is a big enabler during the pandemic in an effort to deal with societal challenges. Young scientists also need to be made aware of the need for social impact through integrating the SDGs into their research. Working on SDGs needs a transdisciplinary approach that allows collaborative interdisciplinary studies amongst young scientists to contribute to finding science-based solutions that will have an impact on in-country and foreign policies.

Ms Louisa Herenghan closed the session by referring to the change of mindset and perspectives that are naturally brought to the table by young scientists. Science, technology and innovation can empower young people and there should be a focus on mentorship, role models and representation. Young people bring innovation and a broad perspective, and they need support for the system to benefit. She thanked all the partners and concluded that the Embassy of Ireland is looking forward to the next collaboration to address more of these issues.

Successful completion of Associate Editor mentorship
Dr Salmina Mokgehle, Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and Dr Ntombi Mathe, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), have successfully completed the Associate Editor Mentorship Programme of the South African Journal of Science. Dr Mokgehle was mentored by Prof Teresa Coutinho, University of Pretoria (UP), Associate Editor in Agriculture & Forestry, and Dr Mathe was mentored by the late Prof Tania Douglas, University of Cape Town (UCT), Associate Editor in Engineering & Technology.

The South African Journal of Science thanks the mentees and their mentors for their participation in the Programme and for their contributions to the Journal during the mentorships.

New Editorial Advisory Board member for SAJS
Prof Daya Reddy, University of Cape Town (UCT) has accepted an invitation to serve on the Editorial Advisory Board of the South African Journal of Science from 1 July 2021. He will succeed Prof Hassina Mouri, University of Johannesburg (UJ) who has served two 3-year terms. The Board thanks Prof Mouri for her valuable insight and support during her 6-year term and welcomes Prof Reddy.

The Status of Coding and Robotics in South African Schools
The world as we know it continues to rapidly change because of technology.  The careers of the future, across disciplines, are leaning more and more heavily on computer-based skills, with data scientist skills specifically high in demand. The response of the South African Basic Education sector to these developments resulted in the release of the Digital Skills Curriculum for Grades R to 9. According to the Minister of Basic Education, Minister Angie Motshekga, the teaching of this new subject “aims to equip learners to contribute in a meaningful and successful way in a rapidly changing and transforming society”. Since school forms part of a much bigger ecosystem in which we all co-exist, it has the responsibility to prepare and sufficiently equip learners for both post-graduate studies and the world of work, addressing the need for more entrepreneurs and innovators.

A webinar on the Status of Coding and Robotics in South African Schools, hosted by ASSAf on 28 April 2021 - brought together experts from the public and private sector to discuss the teaching of coding and robotics in schools.

Prof Hussein Suleman, Acting Director of the School of Information Technology and Head of Department and Professor in Computer Science at the University of Cape Town (UCT), shared his views on the end goal of teaching coding and robotics on school level, and the foundational skills that are required by industry, universities, and other higher education institutions to sufficiently prepare learners and make the transition between school, those institutions and the world of work, seamless.

Societies all over are changing because of technology. Banks, smart phones, transport (e.g. taxi industry and self-driving cars, self-navigating drones), communication (e.g. the fax machine), medicine, entertainment, and online shopping are all driven by technology. 3D printed houses can address a key developmental need in SA. We need a variety of people with a variety of skills to create the future world and the technology to support this future world, including entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers, engineers, designers and more. To study computer science on tertiary level, the most important requirement is that students have strong mathematical skills, computational thinking skills and also strong language and communication skills. Coding is not a pre-requisite to enrol for computer science since it can be taught. What universities do not want is a whole cohort of students having had bad experiences of coding and technology in high school.

Context is further critical. In the South African environment, transformation is imperative. Diversity in technology skills is something that needs to be addressed now. Whether in a private or public school – all children should be equally exposed, and we need to get good teachers into our schools.

Emma Dicks, founder and director at CodeSpace, agreed that learners should be inspired and have positive experiences so that they will continue their studies in coding. Our country needs more code developers, and it will be of great benefit for our economy. Currently work is outsourced out of the country since we do not have sufficient people with the required skills.

Dicks confirmed that language and mathematical literacy skills are essential to learn coding (indeed for all future learning and problem solving) yet the average primary school child in our country is not proficient in foundational skills. 78% of grade four learners cannot read for meaning in any language, and 61% of grade five children cannot do basic mathematics (Dicks, 2020). She is of the opinion that many schools will not be able to cope, detracting from basic foundational skills. A good approach would be to focus on foundational skills/literacies at primary schools, and to only make technology laboratories available at secondary school level. We are in a crucial moment in our education system and should take a sober look at how robotics and coding are introduced in schools. We should avoid entrenching further inequality in our education system.

Prof Jean Greyling, Associate Professor in Computing Sciences at Nelson Mandela University, Gqeberha, shared experiences from the TANKS coding project, through which they also encourage schools to start their own planning and coding clubs. Skills required for the 4IR are directly linked to coding and robotics. There are however a few challenges that should be addressed:

  • Not all schools are ready to adopt the new curriculum. 16 000 out of 25 000 schools lack technology laboratories.
  • Teachers are not sufficiently trained to offer coding and robotics.
  • Schools do not have technical staff to maintain laboratories. There are many dysfunctional laboratories across our country.
  • Learners, parents, teachers, and headmasters experience FOMO - the fear of missing out. While they see what is happening at other schools, they are concerned since their schools do not have the necessary resources.

Prof Greyling suggested the following when implementing the new digital literacy curriculum:

  • Teaching coding and robotics in schools should not be dependent on technology laboratories.
  • School days should not be lengthened.
  • Get rid of some content from the current draft curriculum.
  • Keep it fun – learners should enjoy coding and robotics.

Mr Jonathan Freese, Chief Education Specialist (Technology), Department of Basic Education, Western Cape Government, shared that the ultimate aim of teaching coding and robotics in schools is to assist learners to be globally relevant and employable.

The Digital Skills Curriculum design started in 2017. The orientation of pilot teachers began on 26 April 2021, which included a 40 hour course completed at the end of May. The new curriculum will be implemented as follows:

2021: Foundation Phase (200 schools) and Grade 7 (1 000 schools)
2022: Intermediate Phase (200 schools) and Grade 8 (1 000 schools)
2023: Grade 9 (1 000 schools)
2024: Coding & Robotics compulsory as a stand alone subject for gr R-9

As far as teacher training concerns: teachers will receive 160 hours training through UNISA, and a blended approach will be followed.

Freese emphasised that coding is essential since every career will involve some level of coding. Coding and robotics can support language and mathematics competency. “We have to do things different to get different results”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMHgnEY-41U&t=15s

Jan H Marais Prize for Prof Hennie van Coller
Prof van Coller has been awarded the Jan H Marais Prize by Die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. The prestigious prize recognises his outstanding contribution to Afrikaans as scientific language. Prof van Coller is Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Fellow of the University of the Free State and North-West University.

Prof Jennifer Thomson at the steer of OWSD
Prof Thomson has been re-elected for a second term as President of the Organisation for Women in Science in the Developing World (OWSD). Since first elected in 2016, Prof Thomson has been tirelessly leading OWSD, travelling around the globe to talk about women, science and development on behalf of the organisation but also taking additional opportunities whenever she can (as a respected international keynote speaker) to raise awareness about the incredible scientific work that OWSD members are doing around the world and the essential contribution that women from developing countries make to scientific endeavours. Prof Thomson is Emeritus Professor of Microbiology in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Team Award for Prof Priscilla Reddy
Prof Priscilla Reddy has been awarded the Team Award by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Universities South Africa (USAf). Prof Reddy and her team have been recognised for being at the forefront of South Africa's social sciences research response to COVID-19. Prof Reddy is the Deputy Executive Director, within the Population Health, Health Systems and Innovations (PHHSI) Research Programme at the HSRC.

Prof Diane Grayson receives International Recognition
Prof Diane Grayson has been awarded a Principal Fellowship by the Advance HE Institute, United Kingdom (UK). Through this fellowship, Prof Grayson has been recognised for her commitment to teaching excellence and through this fellowship she has been ranked as one of the leaders in the teaching and learning community. Principal Fellow is the highest award, held by only 1360 of the 143,000 fellows in the UK and internationally. Prof Grayson is Senior Director: Academic Affairs at Wits.

Prof Lynn Morris now Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at Wits University
Prof Morris has been appointed as Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at Wits. A National Research Foundation A-rated scientist, Prof Morris is one of a handful of the most highly cited scientists in the world. She is internationally recognised for her work in understanding the antibody response to HIV and is responsible for conducting validated end-point assays for HIV vaccine clinical trials. Her appointment acknowledges her extensive research leadership and management experience, as well as her impressive research record and globally recognised scholarship. Prior to her appointment, Professor Morris headed the HIV Virology Section at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Prof Daya Reddy honoured
Prof Reddy, past President of the Academy, has been awarded an honorary doctorate - the degree Doctor of Science (DSc), honoris causa by Stellenbosch University (SU). With this doctorate, Prof Reddy has been honoured for his research leadership and scientific breakthroughs for his exceptional contribution in strengthening and advancing science at a national and international level and for his generosity in sharing his knowledge and expertise to develop students in the field of computational and applied mechanics. A globally renowned mathematician, Prof Reddy is Distinguished Professor, University of Cape Town and he is the current President of the International Science Council.

In Memorium
It is with sincere condolences to their family and friends that we record the passing of two ASSAf Members: Profs Robert (Bob) Scholes and Vishnu Padayachee who passed away on 28 April 2021 and 29 May 2021, respectively.

Prof Scholes was one of South Africa’s top climate change experts and an internationally recognised scientist. He was a strong supporter of the Academy and actively participated in its activities. An A-rated scientist and Professor of Systems Ecology at Wits, Prof Scholes served as the Director of the Global Change Institute (GCI). He was among the top one per cent of environmental scientists worldwide, based on citation frequency, and published widely in the fields of savanna ecology, global change, and earth observation. His students describe him as a ‘giant savanna tree providing shade in the heat, shelter in the rain, and a point of reference to navigate by’.

Prof Padayachee was Distinguished Professor and Derek Schrier and Cecily Cameron Chair in Development Economics, in the School of Economic and Business Sciences also at Wits. Elected to ASSAf in 2017, he was world renowned for his research in economics, economic history, economic transformation, and development, having written around 10 books and monographs. He is remembered for his leading role in the Macro-Economic Research Group (Merg) that developed Keynesian proposals for the ANC for a post-apartheid South Africa. According to Wits, he was a sought-after supervisor and served as a mentor to many postgraduate students. He was currently working with postgraduate students on research related to economic policy debates, macroeconomic and monetary policy issues in post-apartheid South Africa, democratic politics and economic policymaking in South Africa, and business, corporations and society in the Global South in the 21st Century.

Consensus Study on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technologies kicks off
The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) has launched a consensus study entitled A Review of Research, Development and Innovation of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technologies in South Africa. The study was approved by the ASSAf Council in March 2021 and officially commenced on 10 June 2021 with the inaugural meeting of the seven-member panel, chaired by ASSAf Member Prof Mike Sathekge from the University of Pretoria.

The study is to assist the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in deliberations on the high-level agreement between South Africa and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by providing a solid foundation upon which to draft a national strategic framework of RDI on peaceful uses of nuclear technologies in South Africa.

The final deliverable is anticipated in the second half of 2022.

Discussions on POPIA in SAJS
Two new contributions have been added to the Discussions on POPIA series published by the South African Journal of Science: The Protection of Personal Information Act and data de-identification by Lee Swales and Why POPIA does not apply to DNA by Donrich Thaldar. Other contributions in the series are the Discussion Document POPIA Code of Conduct for Research by the Drafting and Steering Committees of the Code of Conduct for Research, Drafting a Code of Conduct for Research under the Protection of Personal Information Act No. 4 of 2013 by Adams et al. and Protecting personal information in research: Is a code of conduct the solution? by Thaldar and Townsend.

New contributions to the Discussion are welcome. For enquiries or submissions, email the SAJS Editor-in-Chief, Prof. Leslie Swartz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ASSAf commended for supporting SADC Member State Academies
Support of national science academies in order to provide evidence-based science advice on matters of national and regional interest, was one of the key messages at the Joint Meeting of Ministers responsible for Education and Training, Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Various Ministers congratulated Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho and Malawi on the establishment of national academies of science. They also commended the UN Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries (UNTBLDC) and Network for African Science Academies (NASAC) for supporting Member States in the region with establishment of these academies.

The Ministers from Malawi and Eswatini also commended the role of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) in supporting academies in the region.

The various secretariats were urged to work closely with existing national, regional, continental and global networks and UN Agencies such as UNTBLDC to support the region with knowledge production and scientific evidence-based policy advise towards implementation of the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020 - 2030, Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO), Industrialisation Strategy (SISR) 2015 - 2063; SDG Agenda 2030, and Agenda 2063.

The secretariat was further urged to work together with partners such as the Network of African Academies of Science and existing national academies to develop a regional framework and guidelines for establishing and strengthening of science academies in the region and report at the next meeting in June 2022.

The meeting was virtually hosted by Mozambique from 14 - 16 June 2021. The meeting reviewed the progress on the implementation of the 26 decisions of the 2019 Joint Education and Training, Science, Technology and Innovation (ET-STI) Meeting that was held in Windhoek, Namibia.

ASSAf at the Fourth International Symposium on One Health
The 4th One Health International Symposium was held on 28 April 2021. The event was organised by the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and the Don State Technical University as part of the RAS international scientific and technical-scientific cooperation projects.

The online symposium hosted leading specialists in medical, biological, veterinary, and environmental sciences from China, Georgia, India, Paraguay, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, the United States and Uzbekistan.

The forum featured scientific sessions on Antibiotics Resistance and Biosafety and Cross-Border Cooperation. The opening ceremony was moderated by Vice-President of RAS, Academician, Prof Irina Donnik, DSc in Biology.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, President of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), thanked RAS for the opportunity to participate in the opening ceremony. “Currently, the Academy of Science of South Africa has approved the study connected with the One Health concept. We are already amending our research with account for various pandemic-related restrictions. We particularly emphasise R&D, biomedical strategies. It is very important for all our academies to ensure that specialists in medicine and biology sit down together with sociologists, that they are with us,” he said.

In his welcome address, the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Academician Alexander Sergeev noted that recent events in vaccine development and the response to the COVID pandemic demonstrated scientists’ capabilities of uniting to respond to global challenges. This pandemic has also shown that the ‘One Health’ concept is now relevant like never before. According to Alexander Sergeev, there are three principal dimensions to this concept - antibiotics resistance, zoonoses, and food security. “Over the last few decades, we have noted a significant increase in emergencies and in epizootics. The health of people and animals is threatened by antibiotics resistance, new pathogens, and natural disasters. Studying the interconnections between the health of people and animals requires a multidisciplinary approach. We need experts in public health, animal health, the environment,” Alexander Sergeev also noted. The RAS President emphasised that the Symposium assembled eminent scientists, decision-makers, and leaders in the relevant fields; he thanked the participants and wished them a productive conference.

Dr Melita Vujnovic, the World Health Organization’s representative in Russia, noted the importance of creating a stable protective environment for sustaining people and animals on Earth.

Oleg Kobiakov, Director of FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation, greeted the attendees of the 4th One Health International Symposium and said, “Just like politicians the world over have long learned that security is single and indivisible, so doctors have arrived at the same conclusion regarding health. That’s how ‘One World – One Health’ concept was born. This year, the United Nations Environment Programme has joined this cooperation project since the events of the last few months showed that wild nature, our environment, the waters, are a reservoir of microorganisms, including highly pathogenic ones.”

Hou Jianguo, an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and of the World Academy of Sciences, said that today’s situation with the epidemic stresses the importance of bolstering international scientific and technical cooperation in public health. In order to combat the global pandemic, great importance is attached to cooperation with the international scientific community.

The Symposium recording is available

 

 

 

 

Quality of Research should be Continuously Improved
It is in the interests of the higher education system and society in general that the quality of research conducted in the system should be continuously improved. The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) recently published a Report on Peer Review of Scholarly Journals in History, Philosophy and Politics aimed at improving the quality of the journals in higher education system, thereby influencing the standard of research conducted in the respective fields.

This report is the eleventh in a series of reports resulting from an ambitious programme of peer reviewing, in broad discipline groups, of all accredited scholarly journals published in South Africa. The reviews had their origins in a report on the  Report on a Strategic Approach to Research Publishing in South Africa, published by ASSAf, in 2006. The 2006 report highlighted the need for a system of quality assurance for South African journals accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). The ASSAf project of systematically subjecting locally published journals to independent peer review is intended to improve their quality, visibility and impact.

This Consensus Report should be of value to the various stakeholders in the disciplines concerned, as well as policymakers, publishers, editors, prospective authors (new and established) and peer reviewers within the scholarly publishing community.

Response to the G7 Leaders’ Summit Communique
In response to the G7 Leaders’ Summit Communique issued on 13 June, Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said, “We are delighted to see the focus G7 Leaders have placed on ensuring that recovery from the current pandemic is resilient and sustainable, that it looks to the needs of people in the context of sustaining the planet on which we depend, and that the three themes of the S7 science academies’ recommendations – net zero, biodiversity loss and data for international health emergencies – are all given prominence. The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) was one of the signatories that supported the recommendations.

“It is welcome that the G7 has recognised the need to establish principles for well-governed access to international health data in emergencies. This can be a major step toward better preparedness. COVID-19 exposed the weaknesses in our global data systems, and the need to build trusted and trustworthy systems before the next emergency strikes. Ensuring data that can inform behavioural insights, or global disease surveillance will require commitment from a range of partners. The S7 academies are ready to support this work and we look forward to hearing how this will progress in practice.

“We are also pleased to see ambitious targets for net zero and further support to middle- and low-income countries to help them achieve net zero.  We continue to believe that evidence-based transparent technology road maps which set out technologies to deploy, develop and research are needed to demonstrate how countries will meet those targets, and to drive efficient public and private investment.

“It is also good to see recognition of the inherent links between health, climate change and biodiversity loss; and that their impacts create greater inequalities.

“We are however disappointed that the G7 communique does not acknowledge the S7 academies’ recommendation highlighting the need to develop new approaches to valuing and accounting for biodiversity. We strongly believe that G7 nations should drive new approaches that result in biodiversity being addressed in national and corporate accounting procedures and that ensure that the long-term sustainability of the biosphere becomes embedded as a central consideration of economic growth in ways which reduce economic, social and health inequalities associated with the impacts of biodiversity loss. We accept this is a challenge and hope that, whilst not in this communique, that G7 governments will continue the dialogue on this.”   

COVID-19 in Africa: The Role of African Science Academies
The United States National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine (US NASEM) hosted a webinar on COVID-19 in Africa: The Role of African Science Academies. The key objective of the webinar hosted on 8 June 2021, was to take stock of Phase One of a project funded by the Partnership for Evidence-Based Response (PERC) to COVID-19.

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), represented by Ms Phyllis Kalele, Senior Liaison Officer - African Collaboration, participated in the project and coordinated five national academies in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region namely Botswana, Kingdom of eSwatini, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Ms Kalele was a panellist on the webinar where she reported the key impacts and outcomes realised through the project. These included strengthening of relations among South Africa and the five neighbouring participating countries; enhancement of capacity to provide science advice to policymakers; science engagement; and multidisciplinary interrogation of policy briefs.

The project focused on the dissemination of policy briefs compiled by Resolve to Save Lives (a member organisation of PERC) on non-pharmaceutical interventions to COVID-19 through several national academies of science in Africa.

Other national academies represented on the panel were Nigerian Academy of Science, Uganda National Academy of Sciences, and Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. The panel was facilitated by Prof Keith Klugman, Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a Member of US NASEM.

How to reduce poverty and inequality in South Africa
What should be done to reduce poverty and inequality in South Africa? This topic came under the spotlight at the first of three webinars on poverty and inequality reduction in South Africa. ASSAf, in partnership with the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII), hosted the webinar that focussed on what the data says about the various potential of social grants and expanded public works programmes to meet this objective.

Co-hosted by Ms Isobel Frye, Director of SPII, webinar presenters included Dr Reza Daniels of the School of Economics from University of Cape Town (UCT), Ms Grace Bridgman from Stellenbosch University (SU) and Ms Shirin Motala from the Inclusive Economic Development (IED) Programme of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Discussions focussed on the evidence from the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) data of impact of the social grants during the advent of the Covid pandemic and the evaluation of impact of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

The key reflections from the presenters include:

  1. Cash transfers had a direct impact upon recipients, with the child support grant and the old age grant being the most targeted. Women, however, had less emergency support despite being worse affected by the Covid pandemic and taking on the burden of care.
  2. There are three outcomes that public employment programmes are expected to achieve: sustainable household livelihoods, skills development and provision of assets and services. The EPWP had a measurable impact on participants' lives with more than 56% reporting that more than 50% of their gross household income came from the programme. However, EPWPs are temporary, and thus the impact on people's quality of life after cessation is limited.

The webinar was attended by over 65 individuals representing academia, government, civil society and the media. The webinar recording and presentations can be accessed here.

Subsequent webinars will focus on how to fund interventions to reduce poverty and what is to be done if the state is to be capable of poverty and inequality reduction.

The webinar series is an initiative of ASSAf’s Standing Committee on the Science for the Reduction of Poverty and Inequality, a response to a mandate issued by the ASSAf Council to focus on poverty and inequality in respect to the pandemic, and to consult interdisciplinary science in the consideration of how to reduce poverty and inequality.

Workshop on Writing for a Scholarly Journal
The South African Journal of Science (SAJS) hosted a workshop on Writing for a Scholarly Journal for early career researchers with little or no experience in writing and publishing journal articles. The workshop was held on 10 June 2021 virtually on Zoom and was also livestreamed via YouTube to accommodate over 3 500 registrants.

Presenters included Prof. Leslie Swartz, SAJS Editor-in-Chief, Stellenbosch University (SU), Prof. Chrissie Boughey, SAJS Associate Editor, Rhodes University (RU), Dr Linda Fick, SAJS Managing Editor, ASSAf, Louise van Heerden, SciELO SA Operations Manager, ASSAf, Susan Veldsman, Director of Scholarly Publishing, ASSAf and Nadia Grobler, SAJS Online Publishing Systems Administrator, ASSAf.

The workshop is available via YouTube.

Embassy series update: ASSAf supports the Italian Research Day in the World
“This event opened a window to the roots, mystery and beauty of our common origin as human beings and the exceptional cultural and scientific value of the Sterkfontein caves – the world heritage site next door”, said participants of the Italian Research Day in the World.

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in partnership with the Italian Embassy in South Africa, South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement(SAASTA), and the University of the  Witwatersrand (Wits), hosted this event at the Origins Centre at Wits on 15 April 2021 to mark the occasion of the Italian Research Day. 

Prof Lynn Morris, newly appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, welcomed all to the Origin Centre and Wits. His Excellence Paolo Cuculi, Ambassador of Italy to South Africa, opened the event that focussed on The Origin and Evolution of Humankind.

Prof Himla Soodyall, Executive Officer, ASSAf, addressed the learners on the Phylogenetic Tree of Humans and Prof Dominic Stratford, Wits, followed with a session on the Sterkfontein Caves: a Cultural Heritage Site for the World. 

Under the theme of remote sensing and cultural heritage and specifically at the Cradle of Humankind, Dr Stefania Merlo, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, spoke on Modern Surveying Techniques in Archaeology, while Prof Giuseppe Salemi, University of Padua, Italy, focussed on Surveying and digitalisation of the Sterkfontein Caves.

The Italian Research Day in the World was concluded with the learners following In the Footprints of Ms Ples - a tour of the Origin Centre.

The event was attended by learners from Mamelodi High School, Ivory Park High School and Edward Pathudi Secondary School. These learners indicated that they have an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.  SAASTA arranged for the students to attend and all COVID-19 protocols were followed.

This engagement also contributed to ASSAf’s science engagement strategy of communicating science to young learners and given them the opportunity to engage with scientists in the field.

Gold Medal presented to Profs Marwala and Patel
Prof Himla Soodyall, ASSAf Executive Officer had the pleasure of honouring Profs Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor, and Leila Patel, DSI/NRF South African Research Chair in Welfare and Social Policy and Professor of Social Work, both from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), at a small ceremony.

ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medals for outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society and the medals and certificates are usually handed-over at the ASSAf Annual Award ceremony. Due to Covid-19, this event did not take place in 2020.

POPIA Public Consultation Forum and Stakeholder Engagement with the Research Ethics Committees (RECs)
With a deadline of 1 July 2021 looming, the pressure is on for all public and private bodies that are processing personal information to ensure that they are compliant with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) No 4 of 2013. The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) is facilitating the process to develop a Code of Conduct for Research under the Act.

 The Steering Committee was established to oversee the process of developing a Code of Conduct for Research, as well as a Drafting Committee who is drafting the document.

ASSAf hosted two stakeholder events which were attended by scientists and researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. During these meetings, stakeholders were given an opportunity to share insights and provide comment on the development of the Code of Conduct.

The Public Consultation Forum was held on 3 May 2021 and was attended by 654 participants. At this forum, presentations were offered on the process of developing a Code of Conduct, as well as on thematic areas of interest, including consent, genomics research, information matching programmes and the use of social media data in research. The forum was facilitated by Prof Michele Ramsay, Professor of Human Genetics, Wits. The presenters included Dr Rachel Adams, Senior Research Specialist of the Impact Centre, Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Prof Jerome Singh, Honorary Research Fellow University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Prof Jantina de Vries, Professor in the Department of Medicine and Bioethics, University of Cape Town (UCT), Prof Alan Christoffels, Director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute, University of the Western Cape (UWC), Dr Dominique Anderson, Senior Researcher at the South African National Bioinformatics Institute at UWC; and Dr Antonel Olckers, CEO of DNAbiotec.

The Stakeholder Engagement with members of the RECs was co-hosted with the National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC) on 18 May 2021 and was attended by 280 participants. The meeting was aimed at taking a deeper dive into the impact of the POPIA Code of Conduct for Research on Ethics Committees. The Discussion document published on 3 May in the South African Journal of Science provided a background on the deliberations of the Committees and to be consulted for further information. The intention of the meeting was to better understand the concerns of REC members and what would be most useful to their work in understanding the risks related to personal information from research participants and assuring compliance with POPIA. The forum was facilitated by Prof Michele Ramsay and Prof Mamello Sekhoacha, Chair of the NHREC. The presenters included Dr Rachel Adams, HSRC and Dr Harriet Etheredge, Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre.

In Conversation with……
Initiated in February 2021 and hosted by ASSAf Executive Officer, Prof Himla Soodyall, the In Conversation with… series features ASSAf Members and specialists on various topics including issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Held on 4 May 2021, the first webinar in the series featured Prof Keymanthri Moodley, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicine and Director of the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. The conversation with Prof Moodley explored how we have fared with pandemic ethics, interrogating how history will judge us for how we have responded.

In the second webinar, titled Origins and Destinations Known: Learning from the Tracer Study of International African Doctoral Graduates, we heard Prof Michael Kahn giving feedback on the findings of a study that explores the mobility of the highly skilled, specifically what happens to the thousands of international African doctoral graduates of our universities. Prof Kahn is a policy analyst and evaluator in the fields of research and innovation.

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).

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) aims to make all information available to stakeholders and interested parties. In this endeavour, ASSAf records all webinars and make them available on the website.

chales picVan Onselen is a Research Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria (UP). He holds a B.Sc. and University Education Diploma (UED) from Rhodes University, a B.A. Hons. (Wits), a D.Phil. from Oxford University and a D.Lit. (Honoris Causa) from Rhodes University.  On 20 April 2021, Prof Jonathan Jansen, President of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), presented Prof Charles van Onselen with the 2021 ASSAf Humanities Book Award for his book titled The Night Trains: Moving Mozambican Miners to and from South Africa, circa 1902-1955. Click here to view the virtual event

POPIA: A Code of Conduct for Research

The Academy of Science of South Africa is facilitating the process to develop a Code of Conduct for Research under the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), having hosted two stakeholder events that were attended by scientists and researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. We have set up a Steering Committee to oversee the process of developing a Code of Conduct for research, as well as a Drafting Committee who are drafting the document.

MEMBERS OF COMMITTEES
Steering Committee
Drafting Committee

EVENTS/MEETINGS

18 May 2021
ASSAf and NHREC POPIA Stakeholder Engagement with the RECS
Invitation and Programme
Link to Presentations
Link to Recording

3 May 2021
POPIA Public Consultation Forum
Invitation and Programme
Link to Presentations
Link to Recordings

10 December 2020
POPIA Session at SFSA
Invitation and Programme
Link to recording

21 October 2020
Virtual Forum Meeting
Invitation and Programme
Link to recording 

NOTIFICATIONS & DOCUMENTS
Letter of thanks
Announcement of progress on the POPIA Code of Conduct for Research and Call for Submissions of Issues to be addressed by the Code
-  Call closed on 12 February 2021
Commentary https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2021/10935
Discussion Document https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2021/10933

USAf CODE OF CONDUCT
Link to USAf Code of Conduct

CONTACT DETAILS
Susan Veldsman, Director, Scholarly Publishing Unit, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mmaphuthi Mashiachidi, Project Administrator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Science Engagement Series

The aim of the series is to ignite conversations around policy, projects and activities that shape science engagement. It is to look at roles played by different stakeholders in the national project of promoting science and supporting education in general. 

15 to 18 March 2021

Day 1 - Space science and Astronomy in science engagement
Read more about this session
Access video Passcode: DSp^t?7v

Day 2 - The benefits of engaging different publics in science festivals
Read more about this session
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Day 3 - Leadership and management in science engagement
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Day 4 - Science communication
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ASSAf launches Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings - South African Alumni Narratives 

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) launched a publication on the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings - South African Alumni Narratives on 26 March 2021. This publication reflects  on the journey and experiences of some of the Alumni that attended the life-changing Lindau Nobel  Laureate  Meetings in Lindau, Germany. The publication is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).

Ordinarily held in June/July each year, the Lindau Meetings serve to promote networking among scientists of different generations, cultures, and disciplines, and have evolved into a unique international forum for scientific exchanges. About 30 to 50 Nobel Laureates attend the annual Meetings together with about 500 to 600 postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and emerging researchers from all over the world.

In 2015, the DSI partnered with ASSAf to coordinate and oversee the activities associated with the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Through this arrangement, the DSI funds a travel grant to enable young scientists to participate in these Meetings.  ASSAf is the nominating partner. Since then, South Africa has sent groups of the next generation of scientists to the Lindau Meetings, in a more supported way, to enhance their contributions to the growth of South Africa’s science community and to advance networking opportunities for these scholars.

Danielle Douglas-Henry says that for a young scientist, to be selected to attend the Lindau

Meeting is the equivalent of winning the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. “You are surrounded by hundreds of people who share your passion and on top of that you get to meet, interact with, and learn from the world’s best in your field,” he concluded.

According to Itumeleng Monageng, “the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was an unreal experience that any young, emerging scientist ought to experience. Not just for the details of the scientific content, but for inspiration to change the world, however big (or small) the impact of the change is!”

Read more about these and other scientists and their experiences here.

ISC ROA Agreement comes to an End 

The hosting agreement between the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the International Science Council (ISC) Regional Office for Africa (ROA) comes to an end on 31 March 2021. ISC ROA reports directly to the ISC Head Office in Paris and is hosted by ASSAf. It receives strategic guidance from the Regional Committee for Africa (RCA).

ASSAf hosted the ISC ROA from 1 May 2015.  Not only did ISC ROA have an excellent working relationship with ASSAf, but the staff became part of the ASSAf family. ISC ROA also has a close relationship with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).

As an ex-officio member of the RCA and the ASSAf Executive Officer, Prof Himla Soodyall, wishes the Dr Daniel Nyanganyura, Dr Richard LK Glover, Ms Nomasomi Gasa and Mr Bongani Mahlalela all the best with their future endeavours.

The mandate of ISC ROA is to ensure that the views of African scientific communities are taken into account in the development of the Council’s strategic priorities and to promote/implement actions in line with these priorities. It is also focused on ensuring that Africa scientists and regional scientific organisations are fully involved in research programmes and activities and show African scientists as visible players in SETI for sustainable development in Africa (& their success stories). ISC ROA further aims to ensure that science is integrated into international policy development and that relevant policies take into account both scientific knowledge and the needs of science.

ISC ROA supports ISC African members and programmes and ICS’s international programmes in Africa. Integration of science into policy development and fostering information sharing and networking form a significant part of the activities.

 

We wish all the staff from the ISA ROA a successful onward journey.

 

Congratulations, Dr Maphosa

Dr Stanley Maphosa graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Science degree from the University of Fort Hare in December 2020.  The title of his thesis is “Transformation of Youth Participation in Decision-Making at Local Government Level: Contestation and Paradoxes at Mogale Local Municipality”. 

He started his studies in 2017 with the support of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the Govan Mbeki Research and Development Centre. His supervisor was Prof Philani Moyo, a University of Leeds alumnus, Director of the Fort Hare Institute for Social and Economic Research (FHISER) and the former co-Chair of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS). Dr Stanley Maphosa is the International and National Liaison Manager at ASSAf and is also the Regional Coordinator of The World Academy of Sciences sub-Saharan Africa Regional Partner (TWAS SAREP). His work involves strategic partnerships within South Africa, the rest of the continent and the rest of the work. He works with governments, science academies, universities, civil society, private sector, parliament, bilateral and multilateral organisations in the science community. He is a science diplomat, science advisor, science communicator and science advocate.

COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions in the SADC region: collaborative engagement on policy briefs

The South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) published an article based on the output of a webinar that was held on 29 September 2020 on the Dissemination of Policy Briefs on Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions on Covid-19 by SADC National Young Academies of Science. The article is titled COVID-19 Non-pharmaceutical Interventions in the SADC Region: Collaborative Engagement on Policy Briefs and was written by SAYAS members, Profs Pradeep Kumar, Puleng Segalo, and Adeyemi O. Aremu. Access the article here: https://www.ingsa.org/covidtag/covid-19-commentary/kumar-interventions/ via the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA) website.

DOAJ included as an accredited DHET List from 2021

A recent development in the South African scholarly landscape was the addition of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) by the SA Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), as part of its accredited lists. This is in addition to six other lists already accredited by the DHET (DHET List, Norwegian List Level 1, Web of Science, Scopus, SciELO SA, IBSS and now also DOAJ). The adoption of DOAJ as an accredited list is regarded as a huge milestone for Open Access and the advancement thereof in South Africa. According to the DHET Research Outputs policy of 2015, DHET will subsidise articles published in journals listed in the approved lists.

The DOAJ is a website that hosts a community-curated list of open access journals, and is maintained by Infrastructure Services for Open Access. High quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals are indexed through this directory, following a strict evaluation process by scholarly publishing and subject experts.

The DOAJ website was recently updated, and new features and functionalities were highlighted during this webinar, presented by Dr Tom Olijhoek, DOAJ Editor-in-Chief, on 25 February 2021. The webinar was attended by 231 of the 500 registrants, and the recording was shared globally.

The recorded webinar can be accessed here, while the slides can be accessed here. Read the media release by the Directory of Open Access Journals, and also an article by University World News.

Academia (scientists, researchers), authors and journal editors are encouraged to consult with their institutional librarians, or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for any DOAJ related inquiries.

Connecting the Dots: The Role of African National Academies of Science in Informing the COVID-19 Response

This article was published in Science & Diplomacy by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and authored by Phyllis Kalele and Stanley Maphosa, both from ASSAf. 

As the year 2020 was still in its infancy, science came under the spotlight as the world began to grapple with COVID-19. The disease was new, social media was awash with fake news, and finger pointing was rampant. With the World Health Organization (WHO) at the forefront of monitoring the disease, the Director-General declared on March 11 that COVID-19 was a pandemic. The normal that the world was used to, which can be likened to a vehicle moving on cruise control mode, was just about to be turned on its head. COVID-19 dared science. The incorporation of scientific advice1 into policymaking and scientific collaboration across national borders were not optional but necessary. Using various structures, science had to present the known and the unknown.

In Africa, one of these structures was the academy of science and its role in providing credible, independent, and evidence-based scientific advice came into sharp focus. Academies of science possess a unique strength that stems from the disciplinary diversity of their distinguished Fellows, scientists who have been recognized nationally and internationally for scientific contributions to their respective disciplines, as well as their involvement in science advice and science diplomacy. The regional academy of the continent, the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) led a number of activities that assisted in coordinating African scientists’ responses to the pandemic. For instance, in February 2020, the AAS participated in a global forum organized by the WHO in partnership with the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response (AAS is a member). The objective of the forum was to speedily identify and prioritize research activities for disease prevention, diagnosis, and high-quality care. Also, at the end of March 2020, the AAS hosted a webinar attended by over 250 African scientists, to brainstorm ideas for a research plan and support the continent’s response to the pandemic using science. The outcomes of this meeting assisted the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (an organ of the African Union) in directing the continent’s response to the pandemic. Although the regional academy has been very active in its response to COVID-19,2 this article is focused on national academies of science, as they are the bodies charged with providing science advice to policymakers in their respective countries.

There are currently 27 national academies of science in Africa. All are members of the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC),3 the umbrella organization for national academies of science in Africa that coordinates members to foster collaboration. Operating with different institutional models, different human and financial resources, and different degrees of national recognition, collaboration with other academies and partners, the national academies were tested by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some national academies of science were not accustomed to providing rapid science advice to policymakers, even as speed and innovation were of the essence in the early days of uncertainty. Others were unfamiliar with science diplomacy as a tool in responding to pandemics. Despite these obstacles, many national academies of science rose to the challenge and independently undertook various activities or became involved (directly or indirectly) in the national, regional, and global response efforts of their governments.

These response efforts and activities were highlighted during a webinar organized by NASAC in July 2020 under the title Response of African Science Academies to the COVID-19 Pandemic.4 Of the 27 existing national academies in Africa, at least thirteen played a role in supporting their respective countries’ responses to COVID-19. For example, in early March, the Nigerian Academy of Science produced a press statement titled COVID-19 pandemic: Containment is possible5 and the Senegal National Academy of Science and Technology disseminated another, titled Communiqué sur la Pandémie du COVID-19.6

One of the academies that participated in the webinar was the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), which is the lead academy in southern Africa. ASSAf was one of the first African academies to release a press statement on COVID-19, Implications of the Novel Coronavirus (March 2).7 This statement was followed by others on Academic freedom and the values of science (May 25) and The unanticipated costs of COVID-19 to South Africa’s quadruple disease burden (July 2).8 In addition, ASSAf was on the steering committee for the Rapid Grant Fund, which provided researchers and science engagement practitioners from selected African countries a total of US$4.7 million for projects related to COVID-19. The academy was part of the team that compiled the call for applications, reviewed the applications, and selected the grantees. The consortium, a brilliant example of science diplomacy in action was composed of South Africa’s National Research Foundation and the Department of Science and Innovation, Canada’s International Development Research Centre, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Newton Fund, Fonds de Recherche du Québec, and participating councils of the Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa.

The ASSAf, in collaboration with the United States National Academy of Sciences (US NAS), also led a project in which other academies in southern Africa hosted virtual events to disseminate policy briefs with recommendations for policymakers, on COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions. The policy briefs were produced by Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL), a member organization of the Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to COVID-19 (PERC). The national academies of science, both senior and junior, that participated in the project included the Botswana Academy of Sciences (BAS), Kingdom of eSwatini Academy of Sciences (KEAS), Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology (MAST), Zambia Academy of Sciences (ZaAS), Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences (ZAS), South Africa Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), Zimbabwe Young Academy of Science (ZIMYAS), Mauritius Young Academy of Science (in the process of being established), and the Democratic Republic of Congo Young Academy of Science. This project enhanced the capacity of the participating academies to provide science advice to their respective policymakers while strengthening relations among South Africa and the five neighboring countries in southern Africa.

Lastly, ASSAf has partnered with diplomats based in Pretoria to host an embassy lecture series and mobilize scientists in the South African diaspora to support their host countries in research and development. In July 2020, ASSAf co-hosted a webinar with the Embassy of Italy in South Africa on the Social, Psychological and Health Impact of COVID-19 on the Elderly,9 further strengthening relations between the two countries in scientific research.

Although ASSAf’s science advice and science diplomacy are to be applauded, a significant number of other national academies of science in Africa are neither recognized nor supported by their national governments. Instead, many of these academies operate as non-governmental organizations with nonfunctional or nonexistent facilities (some even lack websites) and they can only undertake activities sporadically due to their lack of funding. Even more unfortunately, half of the continent’s 54 countries do not have national academies of science. Hence, as nations prepare for a post-COVID future and strategize to address other national and global challenges, they should invest in and strengthen their respective national academies of science as critical institutions at the nexus of science, society, and foreign policy. 

Endnotes

  1. Science advice refers to the mechanisms and structures through which scientists inform policy by explaining options to policymakers on matters of national interest.
  2. African Academy of Sciences, “Global Health Security: COVID-19 in Africa,” www.aasciences.africa/covid-19-updates.
  3. Network of African Science Academies, http://nasaconline.org/en/index.php/2018/11/30/member-academies.
  4. Network of African Science Academies, “The Response of African Science Academies on the COVID-19 Pandemic: Webinar Report,” July 22, 2020, https://nasaconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/COVID-19-webinar4.pdf.
  5. The Nigerian Academy of Science, “COVID-19 Pandemic: Containment is Possible,” March 13, 2020, https://nas.org.ng/2020/03/13/press-statement_covid-19-pandemic-containment-is-possible
  6. www.ansts.sn/communique-sur-la-pandemie-du-covid-19.
  7. Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), “ASSAf Statement on the Implications of the Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2; COVID-19) in South Africa,” March 2020, www.assaf.org.za/files/2020/ASSAf%20Statement%20Corona%20Virus%202%20March%202020%20web.pdf.
  8. Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), “Statement on Academic Freedom and the Values of Science,” May 25, 2020, http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11911/168; Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), “Statement on the unanticipated costs of COVID-19 to South Africa’s quadruple disease burden,” July 2, 2020, www.assaf.org.za/index.php/2-uncategorised/672-the-unanticipated-costs-of-covid-19-to-south-africa-s-quadruple-disease-burden
  9. Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the Embassy of Italy in South Africa, “Social, Psychological and Health Impact of COVID-19 on the Elderly: South African and Italian Perspectives (virtual panel discussion)” July 7, 2020,www.assaf.org.za/index.php/about-assaf/council-members/2-uncategorised/670-social-psychological-and-health-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-elderly-south-african-and-italian-perspectives.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Ms Phyllis Kalele is the head of the African Collaboration sub-programme at the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), and the Africa regional coordinator for Gender in Science Innovation Technology and Engineering (GenderInSITE), an international initiative that promotes the role of women in science, innovation, technology, and engineering. She holds a BSc. degree in Botany and Zoology, a MSc. degree in Environmental Sciences and is a doctoral candidate in Science and Technology Studies.

Dr Stanley Maphosa is the International and National Liaison Manager of the Academy of Science of South Africa; the Regional Coordinator of The World Academy of Science’s sub-Saharan Africa Regional Partner; and leads ASSAf’s Strategic Partnerships, Member Liaison, Transformation, Overseas Collaborations, African Collaborations, Gender in Science, Technology, and Innovation as well as Young Scientist Liaison. He holds a master’s degree in Development Studies and a doctorate in Social Sciences from the University of Fort Hare, South Africa.

As published in Science & Diplomacy by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: GenderInSITE

Phyllis Kalele describes how family responsibilities, a lack of mentorship, and ‘old boys’ clubs’ are some of the challenges faced by women working in science across the African continent.

GenderInSITE is a global initiative that aims to promote the role of women in science, innovation, technology and engineering (SITE). The organization works with policy-makers and researchers to ensure that women’s voices and experiences are incorporated into how SITE is used in sustainable development, to tackle issues such as climate change, inequality and environmental degradation. Here we talk to Phyllis Kalele, who is the coordinator of the GenderInSITE focal point in Africa, senior liaison officer (African Collaboration) for the Academy of Science of South Africa, and a PhD student at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

Can you tell me about your own experiences of being a woman in science?

People are often surprised when I tell them I’m a scientist – it’s as if being a woman in science is still an anomaly, which seems crazy to me in this day and age. I remember the first scientific conference I attended, I was shocked to discover that there were only five other female scientists there. Even worse, at another conference I remember being asked to take notes because the male scientists had assumed I was the secretary and not a ‘bona fide’ meeting participant. These experiences showed me how attitudes towards women in society and lack of representation are creating this male-dominated view of science. So, when I was offered the role of Coordinator for the Africa focal point at GenderInSITE at the start of 2019, the decision was a no-brainer. I feel privileged to be part of an initiative that is working to improve gender equality and equity in science and am proud to be a role model to my daughter and other girls, so they can see that women belong in science just as much as men.

How do you think the working environment of female scientists in Africa has changed over the course of your career?

There have been pockets of improvement, but I’m sad to say that African female scientists still face a lot of the challenges that their counterparts faced many years ago. During my career I have met and worked with female scientists from all across the continent who are at different stages in their career or come from different backgrounds, and they all report the same challengesbalancing work and family responsibilities, limited networks compounded by ‘old boys’ clubs’, a lack of mentorship opportunities, and biases based on negative stereotypes. Sometimes it can feel like listening to a broken record. But, more importantly, it shows that past and current interventions are just not working or their effect is limited, and that we need new ideas and strategies to address these challenges.

How do you think gender equality in Africa compares to other regions?

Globally, gender equality in science, innovation, technology and engineering (SITE) is still a long way from being achieved. But when you take a closer look at different regions, Africa – where the representation of women in research is around 32% – lags behind other regions such as Southeast Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Central AsiaThis gender inequality is particularly evident when you attend scientific meetings within the African continent because there are always more men than women in attendance.

In your experience, what have universities got right and got wrong when it comes to promoting gender equality?

There has been an obsession with ‘fixing the number’ of female academics to improve gender equality in universities. However, little attention has been paid to the fact that increasing the number of women does not automatically mean that female academics will have access to the same opportunities and experiences as their male colleagues. If universities really want to solve this problem, they need to work on changing the practices and cultures that shape their institutions. Encouragingly, many universities are becoming aware of the gendered nature of the higher education system and have started implementing various interventions to address these injustices from both an equality and equity perspective.

Can you tell me about some of the projects you are working on at GenderInSITE?

We recently put together a video highlighting the aims of the program and why it is important to empower female scientists. The video also includes a case study demonstrating how applying a ‘gender lens’ to research and innovation can help us build a more sustainable future that benefits everyone. We also recently collaborated with START, an organization based in Washington DC, to host a webinar series on ‘African Women in Science Leadership’, which brings together the diverse perspectives and voices of female scientific leaders from across Africa.

eLife magazine (eLife is a non-profit organisation created by funders and led by researchers). https://elifesciences.org/

African Scientists Directory growing from strength to strength

The African Scientists Directory was launched less than a year ago, and since then, it has been widely used to identify scientists (across natural and human/social sciences) to participate in research projects, act as external examiners, review research papers/other publications, identify potential authors for invited papers, present during events, media interviews and many more. We constantly try to enhance the functionality of the directory, and currently all content (incl. the profile submission form and the profiles themselves) can be translated to selected languages, including Arabic, basic Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Sesotho, Shona, Somali, Spanish, Sudanese, Swahili, Xhosa and Zulu. Scientists are most welcome to submit their details in their native language.

Register your scientific profile
Do this in a few easy steps:
Register by entering your information at https://africanscientists.africa/register-2/ (once-off process).

  1. Check your email Inbox/Junk folder – please verify your email.
  2. Then Login and go to Submit. Complete the online form up to the end and submit.

Keeping your profile current
Each and every profile submitted is reviewed, proofread and edited where needed, and information verified before being published. Please help keep the directory current by visiting your profile and updating the information where required. If you spot outdated data, you are most welcome to notify us: login and then click on the button for “Flag Listing”. To update your data:

  1. Login at https://africanscientists.africa/log-in/ using your Username and Password. If you have lost your password, you can reset it by clicking here.
  2. While logged in, Search for your profile.
  3. Once you have found your profile, click on your surname to open the expanded view for your profile.
  4. Click on Edit. Then update your details. Click on Complete Listing once done.

ASD in a Nutshell
Please continue to help grow this directory by inviting other scientists to also join. The current status of the directory, in a nutshell:

  • 4,187 individuals globally subscribe to the directory, and 1,459 African scientist profiles were reviewed and successfully published this far. 250 new profiles are pending review.
  • The profiles of scientists indicate that the majority (486) are aged between 41-50.
  • The vast majority hold PhDs (817), of which 658 are Professors.
  • The majority of scientists with profiles are from Southern Africa, and then from West Africa.
  • Scientists from 39 African countries are registered on the directory, with the top countries as follows:

South Africa

525

Nigeria

492

Other (non-African doing research on Africa)

146

Kenya

74

Zimbabwe

64

Uganda

32

Ghana

31

Cameroon

30

Ethiopia

21

Botswana

20

Egypt

17

 

 
  • Selected disciplines and the number of scientists per discipline can be accessed here. Below a summary according to broad areas:
    • Life Sciences & Biomedicine (866 scientists)
    • Technology (396)
    • Social Sciences (387)
    • Physical Sciences (378)
    • Arts & Humanities (90)

Access to the directory

Professional information is available as open access for all interested parties. Use Advanced Search to conduct targeted searches and to combine search criteria.

For further information or questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you in advance for your continued support.

Mental Health in Times of Covid-19 under the spotlight

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina published a proceedings report on The Hidden Crisis:Mental Health in Times of Covid-19 during February 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic is most notably a physical health crisis, but it strongly affects mental health as well. Social isolation, job and financial losses, uncertainty about the real impact of the crisis, and fear for physical well-being affect the mental health of many people worldwide. These stressors can increase emotional distress and lead to depression and anxiety disorders.

At the same time, there are enormous challenges on the health care side. People in need of mental health support have been increasingly confronted with limitations and interruptions of mental health services in many countries. In May 2020, the United Nations already warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has the seeds of a major mental health crisis if action is not taken.

Proceedings Report on Neonicotinoid Insecticides published

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) recently published a proceedings report from a virtual event on Neonicotinoid Insecticides, held on 18 November 2020. The report is titled Neonicotinoids and Their Impact on Ecosystem Services for Agriculture and Biodiversity in Africa: A Review and Recommendations to Policymakers.

Agriculture is critically important for African societies and economies but ensuring food security for Africa’s growing population is a major challenge. One particular concern are pesticides called ‘neonicotinoids’, which render all parts of a plant toxic to all insects and contaminate the soil and water bodies.

By exposing all organisms to the toxins, neonicotinoids also harm beneficial insects that provide many important ‘ecosystem services’, such as pollination, soil development, and natural pest control, which are an integral part of sustainable agriculture. Neonicotinoids have contributed to the loss of ecosystem services from pollinators and other insects in Europe and elsewhere, and several of them have been banned in the (European Union) EU and other countries due to their harmful effect on beneficial insects. Africa, with its rich biodiversity and heavy reliance on agricultural production, is one of the fastest-growing pesticide markets in the world, so protecting it from the harmful effects of neonicotinoids is vital to ensuring a sustainable agriculture that provides food security.

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in collaboration with the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) has recently completed a project exploring the use and effects of neonicotinoids in African agriculture. This project brought together experts from 17 African countries, reviewed the relevant African scientific literature, and analysed the state of knowledge on neonicotinoids and their impact on ecosystem services for agriculture and on biodiversity in Africa.

The resultant report ‘Neonicotinoid insecticides: use and effects in African agriculture. A review and recommendations to policymakers’ (NASAC, 2019) has collated an unprecedented amount of information, identified gaps in scientific knowledge and research relating to neonicotinoids in Africa, and developed key recommendations from science to policymakers to ensure the sustainability of African agriculture and thus food security. One year after the launch of the NASAC report, the purpose of this virtual event was to introduce the report, including an update on recent global scientific and African policy developments regarding neonicotinoids, and to discuss its implications with a wide range of stakeholders, with the aim of stimulating policy and research action on this important issue. The target audience and participants included South African and Southern African Development Community (SADC) policymakers, regulatory agencies, government departments, agricultural associations, extension-service providers, research institutes, international development agencies, representatives of embassies, and other interested stakeholders.

ASSAf publishes report on Building Profitable and Sustainable Community Owned Connectivity Networks

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) published a proceedings report on Building Profitable and Sustainable Community Owned Connectivity Networks  following the Innovation for Inclusive Development (IID) seminar that was held on 31 August 2020.

The 2019 White Paper on science, technology and innovation (STI) recognises the pivotal enabling role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in realising an inclusive and prosperous information society and knowledge economy. One of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)’s key role is to catalyse the digital ecosystem and develop scalable models for community owned connectivity networks to replicate in other areas.

Rural areas provide a challenging environment to implement communication infrastructure for data and Internet based services, including high cost of network implementation and lack of customer base, low-income streams, highly scattered and low population density.

The DSI has thus partnered with the University of Western Cape (UWC), the Mankosi Village community, with support from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) to scaleup the Zenzeleni Community Owned Connectivity Networks (COCN). The Zenzeleni COCN has been in existence since 2012 and provides timely, reliable and affordable Wi-Fi connectivity to the remote rural areas of Mankosi and Zithulele in Mthatha. The webinar, facilitated by Ms Ellen Fischat from Story Room aimed to look at how rural and township wireless connectivity models, including Zenzeleni COCN can be scaled-up to increase the number of people connected in the rural settings, more so in light of the COVID-19 crisis. It is evident from the proceedings that community networks provide access to connectivity and also more importantly, what connectivity enables. Subsequent discussions would need to focus on the users and owners of these community networks to understand how their lives have improved through the deployment of the technology.

Report on Provider Core Competencies for Improved Mental Health Care of the Nation launched

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) launched a consensus study report on Provider Core Competencies for Improved Mental Health Care of the Nation on 9 March 2021.

ASSAf has recognised the significant impact that mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders have on the health of the South African population. Research conducted in South Africa has shown that approximately one in six South Africans suffer from such disorders at any one time.

Research has also demonstrated a significant treatment gap with less than 25% of people who suffer from such conditions receiving treatment. South Africa has a shortage of specialist mental health care providers to meet the treatment need. National policies for the promotion of health, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of ill-health and disability due to MNS disorders, therefore, promote the concept of task shifting to address the treatment gap. This means that lay and general health care providers need to be equipped with the necessary skills and specialist support to be able to address some of the burdens of MNS disorders. For this policy to be successful, training and support programmes need to be appropriate to the South African context.

Since 2012, the Academy of Science of South Africa has engaged in several processes to address this issue. In 2012, ASSAf attended and contributed to an Institute of Medicine Workshop and Report: Strengthening Human Resources through development of candidate core competencies for mental neurological and substance use disorders in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, the Academy organised a South African workshop, which produced a report on the proceedings of the workshop on the implementation of core competencies for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.

A key recommendation of this workshop was that an audit of existing training curricula be undertaken in South Africa to determine whether these training programmes are preparing providers for the needs of the South African population.

In 2015, the Academy established a multi-professional expert panel to undertake a consensus study on Provider core competencies for improved mental health care of the nation. This report is the outcome of these activities. While working within significant time and resource constraints, the emphasis has been on the formal health sector. However, the panel recognises that addressing MNS disorders requires a multisectoral approach and an attempt has been made to reflect this in the report.

The members of the panel were Prof Rita Thom, panel chairperson, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Dr Robin Allen, University of Cape Town (UCT), A/Prof Madeleine Duncan, UCT, Prof Crick Lund, UCT, Prof Bronwyn Myers, South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Prof Inge Petersen, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Prof Solomon Rataemane, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU), Ms Bharti Patel, South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) and Dr Gayle Langley, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) (now retired).

The study presents a vision for a workable and appropriate system of health promotion, prevention, treatment, care and rehabilitation for people with MNS disorders, which is in line with national policies, including those addressing the social determinants of mental health and human development. Key findings and recommendations of the systematic review of training curricula of a range of health service providers, from community health workers, to generalist health care providers, allied health professionals and specialist mental health (and neurologist) providers include:

  1. Community health workers and emergency medical service providers are trained in generic skills but lack sufficient appropriate mental health content knowledge and treatment-specific skills. It is recommended that specific training in general screening for mental disorders and management of chronic mental disorders (specifically around adherence to medication as well as how to access recovery-oriented rehabilitation) be included in community health worker training, Emergency service providers should be trained in recognition and management of acute psychiatric emergencies, including methods of de-escalation, calming and restraint.
  2. Traditional healers play an essential role in the lives of many people with MNS disorders but have not yet been formally integrated into the healthcare system. Ongoing dialogue between traditional healers and formal health service providers should be encouraged to ensure collaboration between the two approaches for the benefit of people with MNS disorders.
  3. There is an emerging nursing crisis in South Africa, and serious deficiencies in the proposed new nursing curriculum will result in graduates not being equipped to play their role in implementing the national policies around MNS disorders. However, the addition of mental health into the Adult Primary Care Manual will equip primary care nurses with some of the recommended competencies to provide adult primary mental health care, if there is training and mentoring to enable nurses to implement the guidelines. It is recommended that the new curriculum be reviewed in light of the significant treatment gap for MNS disorders in South Africa.
  4. It is possible for lay/community health workers with appropriate training, mentoring and supervision to be able to provide task-shifted psychosocial interventions such as basic behavioural counselling, recovery-orientated rehabilitation and inclusive development for persons with disability arising from MNS disorders. However, necessary scope of practice and medico-legal issues of accountability need to be addressed. Staff in various categories would have to be audited in order to establish and certify their basic competencies, the missing essential skills addressed in their initial training and a programme of continuing education be afforded to all workers to maintain, refine and upgrade these skills. Supervision of their clinical practice by the mental health team and re-certification on a regular basis (5 yearly) is recommended. Where Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has been mandated by the professional body, these competencies could be included in the CPD requirements. A standardised curriculum with appropriate oversight mechanisms must be developed for this cadre of worker with due consideration of the limits of their scope of practice, including quality assurance.
  5. While undergraduate and post-graduate medical training curricula for general medical practitioners and specialists such as Family Physicians, Psychiatrists (and subspecialist Psychiatrists) and Neurologists are of an appropriate and high standard, there is a lack of emphasis on equipping specialists to play the significant training and mentoring role required in a task-shifting environment. Specific training in this regard is recommended.
  6. Across all categories of provider training curricula, there is insufficient training in the effective prevention and management of substance use disorders. Evidence-based interventions which include non-judgemental medical approaches as well as psychosocial interventions are recommended.

More detailed recommendations are made, as well as an outline of areas for further study, including addressing the particular needs of children, adolescents, the elderly and persons with intellectual disability. The report notes the need for significant societal and health-system transformation to realise the implementation of the recommendations.

Exploring the Prospects of Using 3D Printing Technology in the South African Human Settlements

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) hosted the second virtual IID seminar on Exploring the Prospects of Using 3D Printing Technology in the South African Human Settlements, on 1 March 2021 on Zoom.

South Africa is a country with significant socio-economic development challenges, with the majority of South Africans having limited or non-existent access to basic infrastructure, services, housing and socio-economic opportunities etc. The urban housing backlog currently exceeds 2.4 million houses, with many families living in informal settlements. The Breaking New Grounds Policy, 2014 for the creation of sustainable human settlements, acknowledges the challenges facing human settlements, such as, decreasing human settlements grants allocation, increasing housing backlog, mushrooming of informal settlements and urbanisation.

The White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), 2019 notes that South Africa has not yet fully benefited from the potential of STI in addressing the socio-economic challenges and seeks to support the circular economy principles which entail a systematic change of moving to a zero or low waste resource-efficient society. Further to this, the Science and Technology Roadmap’s intention is to unlock the potential of South Africa’s human settlements for a decent standard of living through the smart uptake of science, technology and innovation. One such novel technology is the Three-Dimensional (3D) printing technology, which has produced numerous incredible structures around the world. 3D printing is a computer-controlled industrial manufacturing process which encompasses additive means of production to create 3D shapes. The effects of such a technology have a potential to change the world we live in and could subsequently pave the roadmap to improve on housing delivery and reduce the negative effects of conventional construction methods on the environment.

The webinar presented preliminary findings from a study conducted by the University of Johannesburg, addressing the following topics:

  1. 1. The viability of 3D printing technology
  2. 2. Cost comparison of 3D printed house to conventional construction
  3. 3. Preliminary perceptions on 3D printing of houses

There was a unanimous consensus that collaborative efforts from all stakeholders are key to take advantage of this niche technology. Speakers included Dr Jennifer Mirembe (NDoHS), Dr Jeffrey Mahachi, Mr Refilwe Lediga, Mr Khululekani Ntakana and Dr Luxien Ariyan, all from UJ. There were over 100 participants in attendance.

SAJS in 2020 in numbers

In 2020, 550 manuscripts were submitted to the South African Journal of Science, of which 420 were desk rejected and 130 were peer reviewed. A total of 660 peer reviewers were invited to review, with only 250 completing reviews; an average of 5 reviewers were approached for each submission. In total, 65 peer-reviewed articles and 90 non-reviewed articles were published. The published articles were distributed across multiple disciplines – with most falling within the biological, archaeological, agricultural and environmental sciences – and contributed to 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDGs 13 and 14, Climate Action and Life Below Water.

asssaf newsletter sajs mar21

ASSAf Members in the News

Honorary awards/accolades

Prof Andrew Forbes

Prof Andrew Forbes has been awarded the 2020 Gold medal by the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP). The medal recognises his world-leading research in photonics as well as his significant contribution in science education and development of internationally recognised laser-based technologies. He is Distinguished Professor in the School of Physics at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). 

Two ASSAf Members have been presented with awards at the North-West University’s (NWU) Faculty of Health Sciences Research and Innovation Awards that recognise the efforts and achievements of its faculty members:

Prof Marius Smuts

Prof Marius Smuts has been presented with three awards, namely the:

  • Most productive senior researcher
  • Most sustainable productive researcher over a five-year period (2015–2019)
  • Most significant contribution to community-engaged research (in 2020)

He is currently Director and Professor in Nutrition at the Centre for Excellence in Nutrition at NWU.

Prof Salome Kruger is also recipient of the Most sustainable productive researcher award over a five-year period (2015–2019). She is Professor of Nutrition at the Centre of Excellence for Nutrition at NWU.

Two ASSAf Members have been presented with the 2020 Wits Vice-Chancellor’s Awards. They are:

Prof Karen Hofman: Social Impact Award

She is Research Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits.

Prof Johnny Mahlangu: Research Award

He is a full Professor in Haematology and Head of School of Pathology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits.

Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim

Prof Quarraisha Abdool Karim has been honoured with a Doctor of Science (DSc), honoris causa by Stellenbosch University (SU). The Honorary Doctorate recognises her pioneering research in the field of HIV and for advocating for the rights of people living with and affected by HIV; her commitment to advancing the health of young women in Africa and globally; her research leadership and scientific breakthroughs; and her generosity in sharing her knowledge through scientific and citizen-centred endeavours in Africa and beyond. She is Associate Scientific Director Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA).

Prof Jimmy Volmink

Prof Jimmy Volmink has been awarded the 2020 Chancellor's Award by Stellenbosch University (SU), in recognition for his contributions to Evidence-based Health Care in Africa. He is currently the Dean in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at SU.

Prof Tahir Pillay

Prof Tahir Pillay and his team have won the first prize in the Biosciences category of the Innovation Hub’s Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) Innovation Competition. They have won the prize for producing nanobodies directed against SARS-CoV2 proteins and they have been recognised for their research that aims to develop both low-cost biosensors and rapid lateral flow immunoassays that work on saliva rather than the uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swabs currently used in COVID-19 tests. Prof Pillay is Head of the Department of Chemical Pathology and the Division of Clinical Pathology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP).

Twelve ASSAf Members have been presented with awards at Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Research Output Awards for researchers who have made the biggest contribution to accredited publications (based on audited publication statistics of the 2018-output year) and doctoral graduates (December 2019/March 2020 graduations). They are:

Prof Ashraf Kagee is Distinguished Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at SU.

Prof Lesley Le Grange is Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Education at SU.

Prof Dave Richardson is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Botany and Zoology and the Director of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology at SU.

Prof Umezuruike Linus Opara is a Distinguished Professor and holds the DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Postharvest Technology at SU.

Prof Mark Cotton is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Head of Division of Paediatric Infectious Diseases and Director of the Family Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital (TCH) at SU.

Prof Aslam Fataar is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies at SU.

Prof Soraya Seedat is Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, the Executive Head of Department of Psychiatry, and the South African Research Chair in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder at SU.

Prof Johann Mouton is Professor and Director of the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology at SU.

Prof Leslie Swartz is Distinguished professor of psychology at SU.

Prof Mark Tomlinson is Professor in Department of Global Health at SU.

Prof Yusef Waghid is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy of education at SU.

Prof Cherryl Walker holds a DST/NRF South African Research Chair in the Sociology of Land, Environment and Sustainable Development at SU.

Prof Herman Wasserman

Prof Herman Wasserman has been awarded with the prestigious 2020 University of Cape Town (UCT) Book Award for his second monograph, Media, Geopolitics and Power: A view from the Global South. The purpose of the UCT Book Award is to recognise outstanding and/or influential books written by UCT staff members. He is Professor of Media Studies and Director of the Centre for Film and Media Studies at UCT.

Prof Maxim Finkelstein

Professor Maxim Finkelstein has been awarded an A-1 rating in Probability, Statistics and Operations Research by the National Research Foundation (NRF). This is the country’s first A-1 rating in this field of research. A-ratings are awarded to researchers who are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their respective fields for the high quality and impact of recent research outputs. Prof Finkelstein is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Mathematical Statistics at the University of the Free State.

Seven ASSAf Members have been presented with awards at the South African Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC) Scientific Merit Awards. They are:

Prof Mpiko Ntsekhe: Silver Award

He is Professor and Chair of Cardiology at University of Cape Town and Head of the Division of Cardiology at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Profs Graeme Meintjes and Michele Ramsay: Gold Award

Prof Graeme Meintjes is Professor of Medicine and SARChi Chair of Lung Infection and Immunity in Poverty-Related Disease at the University of Cape Town and Professor Michele Ramsay is the director of the Sydney Benner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (SBIMB) at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Profs Heather Zar and Linda-Gail Bekker: Platinum Award

Prof Heather Zar is Professor and Chair in the Department of Paediatrics & Child Health at Red Cross Children’s Hospital and Prof Linda-Gail Bekker is Deputy Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at the University of Cape Town.

Profs Jimmy Volmink and Mike Sathekge: Presidential Award

Prof Volmink is currently the Dean in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University and Prof Mike Sathekge is Professor and Head of Nuclear Medicine Department at the University of Pretoria. The SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards recognise scientific excellence and contributions by outstanding medical scientists “whose work has made an indelible impact in advancing the lives of South Africans”.

APPOINTMENTS

Prof Saurabh Sinha

Prof Saurabh Sinha has been elevated to a Fellow by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE). An IEEE Fellow is the highest distinction only reserved for select IEEE members in recognition of their extraordinary contributions in any of the association's fields of interest. He is Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Internationalisation at the University of Johannesburg. 

Prof Hester Klopper

Prof Hester Klopper has been inducted as a Fellow Ad Eundem of the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). The Fellowship Ad Eundem is a prestigious award that is conferred on individuals in recognition of their work and achievements in nursing and midwifery, as well as their contributions to nursing, midwifery, healthcare, education, and research. She is Vice-Rector of Strategic Initiatives and Internationalisation at Stellenbosch University.

Prof Shabir Madhi

Prof Shabir Madhi has been appointed as the Dean of the Faculty Health of Sciences at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits). He is a Professor of Vaccinology in the School of Pathology at Wits and Director of the world-renowned Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (VIDA).

In Memoriam

It is with sincere condolences to their family and friends that we record the passing of two ASSAf Members. Profs Bangilizwe Mqeke and Lourens du Plessis passed away in January 2021 and February 2021 respectively.

Prof Bangilizwe Richman Mqeke, Professor of Law and former Dean of Law at Rhodes University. 

In the 1990s, Richman took up the position of Registrar at the then University of Transkei. However, he found the life of an administrator sterile and unfulfilling, and was drawn back to academia, this time taking up a chair at Rhodes University in 1997: the first black Professor of Law in Rhodes’s history. He remained at Rhodes until his retirement at the end of 2013, serving also as the first black Dean of the Law Faculty (or any Faculty at Rhodes, for that matter) from 2001 to 2003, and again in 2008.

Richman’s research interests lay in customary law, property law and jurisprudence, in which he published a wide range of articles in many of the leading law journals in South Africa. He published two books, Basic Approaches to Problem Solving in Customary Law (1997) and Customary Law and the New Millennium (2003). He was also an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa. He was a member of a number of journals’ editorial boards and was a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa. In 2001/2, Richman held office as the first black President of the Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa, and later in his career he represented the Society of Law Teachers on the Council of the South African Judicial Institute. After taking retirement, he served on the South African Law Reform Commission’s Project Committee on Traditional Courts and was involved in the preparation of the Traditional Courts Bill. (https://buff.ly/38DRn8j)

Prof Lourens Marthinus du Plessis, an accomplished legal academic known for his gentleness and humility.

Du Plessis worked with the now President Cyril Ramaphosa and produced the nation’s draft Constitution in 1996 and the Bill of Rights. He was professor, head of the Department of Jurisprudence and retired a few years ago as a Research Professor from the Faculty of Law at the North-West University. He remained actively involved. He received a NRF B1 rating while he was at the North-West University. He was professor extraordinaire of Comparative and Public International Law at the University of the Western Cape. He was also founding editor of the Stellenbosch Law Review and a former president of the Southern African Law Teachers Association. He was subsequently appointed as a professor in Public law at the University of Stellenbosch and was the founding director of the University of Stellenbosch/University of the Western Cape’s Research Unit for Legal and Constitutional Interpretation.

Du Plessis received various awards and honours and was a visiting professor and research fellow at the University of Florida (College of Law) (1994 and 1998), the University of Hannover (1995), Stanford University (School of Law) (1997), the University of Melbourne (School of Law) (2002), University of Trier (2003/2004), Max-Planck-Institut für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, Heidelberg (2008). He was actively involved in the Multi-Party Negotiating Process drafting South Africa’s first democratic Constitution as Chairman of the Technical Committee on Fundamental Rights during the Transition that drafted South Africa’s first Bill of Rights in 1993. His publications are numerous. His book Re-interpretation of Statutes is still the locus classicus in the field of the interpretation of law in South Africa.

He gave rise to a new generation of academics and practitioners in South Africa and influenced the thoughts and ideas of many young prominent South Africans.

(NWU Faculty of Law - Home | Facebook)

Spirit of Abdus Salam Award for ASSAf Foreign Associate

Prof Mohamed Hassan has been awarded the Spirit of Abdus Salam Award in recognition for his lifelong dedication to building sustainable science in the developing world through research, education, policy and diplomacy. He is Co-chair of the Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) and Foreign Associate at the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).

Prof Salim Abdool Karim recognised

Prof Salim Abdool Karim has been jointly awarded the prestigious 2020 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science for the remarkable manner in which he has been ‘Standing up for Science’ in his engagements with the South African Government, policymakers and the general public on the COVID-19 pandemic in the South African context. He shares the award with Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States. Prof Abdool Karim is Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA).

Hildebrandt recognised for contributions to Hebei Province

Prof Diane Hildebrandt has been awarded a Yanzhao Friendship award by the Hebei Provincial Government. This prestigious accolade recognises those who have made outstanding contributions to the economic and social development of the Hebei Province, and who have promoted extensive exchanges and cooperation with foreign countries in fields such as the economy, science and technology, education, and culture. She is Director of the Institute for the Development of Energy for African Sustainability (IDEAS) and Professor of Chemical Engineering at Unisa.

ASSAf President awarded 2020/21 Medal for Social Sciences & Humanities

Prof Jonathan Jansen, President of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), received the 2020/21 Medal for Social Sciences & Humanities from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Universities South Africa (USAf) on 18 March 2021.

The 2020/21 Medal is unique in that it celebrates the contributions of social scientists, researchers and academics to South Africa’s fight against COVID-19. South Africa’s efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus through, amongst others, behaviour and attitude change, will have been ineffective without the work of this cohort. The Medal is awarded on an annual basis to scholars who have made outstanding contributions through their research in the social sciences and humanities.

Other ASSAf Members nominated for the Award are:

  • Ashraf Kagee is Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University.
  • Leslie Swartz is Distinguished Professor at the Psychology Department at the University of Stellenbosch.
  • Mark Tomlinson is Professor in Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University.
  • Christof Heyns is Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria.
  • Thaddeus Metz is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria.
  • James Ogude is Director: Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria. 
  • Priscilla Reddy is the Deputy Executive Director, within the Population Health, Health Systems and Innovations (PHHSI) Research Programme at the HSRC.
  • Kate Alexander is Professor of Sociology and NRF SARChI Chair in Social Change at the University of Johannesburg. 

ASSAf congratulates all these Members and thank them for their contribution.

Science, Technology and Innovation Diplomacy Forum with a focus on Health Diplomacy within the Covid-19 pandemic

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) hosted a Regional STI Diplomacy Forum on 11 December 2020 during Science Forum South Africa titled Science, Technology and Innovation Diplomacy Forum with a focus on Health Diplomacy within the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health diplomacy embodies intergovernmental negotiations aimed at managing and shaping the global policy sphere for health. Global health diplomacy has over the years gained traction as a practice by which governments and non-state actors attempt to coordinate global policy solutions to improve global health. Many African nations have embedded STI into their foreign policies and international relations activities.

The Covid-19 pandemic is transboundary and global in context and has threatened/collapsed health systems in many countries. The forum explored STI diplomacy’s role in public health and the management of outbreaks of infectious diseases in Africa and took stock of STI diplomacy as a tool to support foreign policy and strengthen health systems’ response to pandemics through health diplomacy. Deliberations during the forum demonstrated that effective STI diplomacy with a focus on health diplomacy is driven by both science and policy to improve collaboration between countries and promote health systems development in Africa.

Key speakers in the space of health diplomacy and science advice in Africa that added valuable contributions to the forum included among others Mr Cecil Masoka, DSI, Prof Himla Soodyall, ASSAf, Prof Jeffrey Mphahlele, SAMRC, Prof Oyewale Tomori, Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof Steven Friedman, University of Johannesburg, Dr Philani Mthembu, Institute for Global Dialogue, Prof Charles Nhachi,  Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe, Ms Jackie Kado, Network of African Science Academies and Mr Thabo Dikgale, National Research Foundation.

ASSAf Forum on Just Transition

In January 2021, the ASSAf Council endorsed the proposal for a new ASSAf Forum on Just Transition in South Africa. The Forum is to bring together thought leaders and scientists to educate and engage one another in robust discussions. The Forum will provide a neutral, though not value-free, space for engagement by the Academy with labour, communities, business and government across all tiers. The concept was initiated by an introductory meeting of potential members of steering committee on 22 February.

The Committee of seven members, chaired by Prof Harald Winkler of the University of Cape Town (UCT), is tasked with identifying members of the broader Forum to ensure balanced participation (among 20 - 30 members) and to develop a number of founding questions and issues which the Forum is to debate.  As the Forum evolves, it may undertake workshops, consensus studies and other activities, subject to approval by Council. The next meeting of the Steering Committee is being planned for April 2021.

Civil Society Organisations in Conversation with Science

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) hosted a stakeholder engagement webinar with NGOs/Civil Society Organisations on 15 March 2021. The title of the webinar was Civil Society Organisations in Conversation with Science: Synergies aimed at addressing developmental challenges for the societies we serve. 

The objective of this webinar was to establish and enhance engagements between civil society organisations and ASSAf with the aim of identifying avenues to address the various challenges that South African societies face daily.

An indispensable requirement that one should possess to inform or influence policy and promote development is access to evidence-based information. Civil society organisations (CSOs) have strong links with the communities at grassroots level. ASSAf has access to the country’s best scientists who offer their time to conduct studies which are used to provide science advice to government and society. This has been most evident during this time that the globe battles with COVID-19. The White Paper on Science Technology and Innovation (2019) emphasises on grassroots innovation which civil society organisations are exposed to all the time in communities across South Africa. Civil society organisations besides community development work, conduct local level and high-level advocacy which can benefit from the work of ASSAf. This demonstrates that ASSAf and civil society organisations can work together for mutual benefit and most importantly for the benefit of the South African population.

The session was facilitated by Dr Stanley Maphosa, ASSAf and the speakers comprised of Prof Igle Gledhill, University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), Dr Anthony Bouwer, National Development Agency (NDA), Ms Itumeleng Indiphile Mothlabane, Equal Education, Mr Vinayak Bhardwaj, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Dr Caradee Wright, Medical Research Council (MRC).  

ASSAf hosts Science Engagement Week

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) hosted a science for society week, from 15 to 18 March 2021. The aim of the week was to ignite conversations around policy, projects and activities that shape science engagement. It looked at roles played by different stakeholders in the national project of promoting science and supporting education in general.

Day one was dedicated to Space Science and Astronomy in Science Engagement. The seeming tensions between the scientific, societal, and economic worth and contribution of Astronomy and Space science in the public discourse requires attention. The impact astronomy has had on our society historically, and at present, in terms of cultural, technological, and economic benefits. This webinar focused on why these benefits are so difficult to quantify in terms of the contribution made by basic science. The webinar also looked at the contribution made by space science in science engagement and the national activities of South African National Space Agency (SANSA) in this space nationally. The speakers were Mr Dan Matsapola, SANSA and Mr Simphiwe Madlanga, South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO).

Day two focussed on the benefits of engaging different publics in science festivals. As a form of public engagement, science festivals have rapidly expanded in size and number over recent years. However, as with other domains of informal public engagement that are not linked to policy outcomes, existing research does not fully address science festivals' impacts and popularity (Jensen et.al, 2012). The webinar investigated how visitors value the opportunities afforded by the science festival to interact with scientific researchers and to encounter different types of science engagement aimed at adults, children and families. The webinar further investigated the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in engaging publics and bringing some of its benefits to relevance, The speaker was Mr Bushy Moabelo, Eding International Science Festival.

On day three, leadership and management in science engagement were discussed. South Africa has a young population with roughly 21.85 million people 19 years or younger. This young population is mostly in schools. Science education has a pivotal role to play reaching the publics and promoting literacy. This webinar provided guidance on assembling science engagement teams to engage society and how the platforms can be used for professional development. The webinar also examined institutional and organisational structures and policies to support science engagement and looked at science education and its support of the nation agenda of NSI. The speakers were Mr Moloko Matlala, South African Agency of Science, Technology Advancement (SAASTA) and Mr Livhuwani Masevhe, Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). The webinar looked at policy and strategic intents in driving science engagement and the support provided by both the DSI and SAASTA to entities and organisations in this space. Furthermore, the webinar explored the relationship between science engagement and science education and the national programmes managed by SAASTA on the two.

Day four focussed on Science Communication. Strategic aim 3 of the of the Science Engagement Strategy (SES) states that empowering public science engagement necessarily requires effective communication about science, which in turn requires that (a) the content and medium of the communication delivers on its purpose, and (b) the skills of the communicators are adequate to the task. This webinar looked at the work already done by SAASTA in this regard and how it can be used to direct science engagement in South Africa and beyond. The speaker was Mr Michael Ellis Manager: Science Communication, National Research Foundation (NRF): South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement: SAASTA.

Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) elects Honourary Foreign Associate Members

ASSAf recently elected three Foreign Associates to serve as Members. These Members are outstanding scientists/scholars, currently based in a foreign country, who were either born in South Africa, and/or have performed a significant part of their work here, and/or have contributed significantly to science and scholarship in the country, especially where this has been turned to public benefit. They are nominated by an ASSAf Council member.

The newly elected Foreign Associates are:

Prof James Gibson, Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government, Washington University, St. Louis, United States of America and Extraordinary Professor, Stellenbosch University

Prof Mahouton Norbert Hounkonnou, President of the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC), Full Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Abomey-Calavi, Republic of Benin

Prof Lehana Thabane, Interim Chair: Department of Health Research, Evidence & Impact, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada

 

ASSAf currently has four Foreign Associates, the fourth being Prof Mohamed Hassan. Prof Hassan is the Past-President of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and NASAC and current Co-chair of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP). 

No Paraffin! Campaign

Based on an increasing accumulation of evidence of the impact of paraffin, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in collaboration with the University of South Africa (UNISA) Institute for Social and Health Sciences (ISHS), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and North-West University (NWU) launched the No Paraffin! Campaign, through a three-part series of national roundtable discussions that were held on 18, 25 February and 4 March 2021.

The Campaign was initiated through deliberations between key decision-makers, civil society activists, industry and worker union interests, and local and international experts, that deliberated on transformative energy solutions for the under-resourced communities, as well as government strategies for universal and safe energy access for all.

Illuminating paraffin is the primary cooking fuel for approximately 3.6% of South African households (600 156 ≈ 2 million people), with concentrations in impoverished communities. This fuel is often burnt in poorly made stoves that are prone to malfunctions and associated with fires, burns and poisonings. However, the fuel continues to be used as it is widely available in neighbourhood outlets, is easily decanted and perceived as affordable, and thus often the only available option for many. The paraffin problem is especially manifested in urban informal settlements that are the site of glaring socio-economic inequalities, manifested through limited access to safe energy services, inferior home structures and high levels of household congestion. Every year South Africa’s emergency services respond to over 5000 shack fires that leave a trail of destruction and destitution across settlements. Survivors of these tragedies and related injuries may be scarred with long term physical, psychological, socio-economic and occupational consequences. The economic impact is huge, with significant resources spent in treatment, long-term care of disabilities and replacement of razed structures.

The national roundtable discussions sought to evaluate information and evidence needed for the national policies and strategies to inform the energy transition; explore the strategies that may be implemented to deal with economic, workforce and other consequences of the transition; indicate specific policy support that may be required to manage the transition from paraffin; and foster the building of what is intended to develop into broad-based civil society-science-policy advocacy. It is envisaged that the Campaign extend beyond the initial seminar series, as a multi-stakeholder process that will seek to mobilise scientists, policy makers, civil society and communities in support of the No Paraffin! Campaign.

Challenges lying ahead with COVID-19 vaccines in South Africa

To engage the voice of science on the many issues circulating regarding the COVID-19 vaccines, Prof Shabir Madhi was invited to give a talk on COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the roll-out thereof in South Africa.

A Member of ASSAf, Prof Madhi is the Dean: Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Executive Director of the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (VIDA) also at Wits, and the principal investigator in the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trial in South Africa. 

Prof Madhi’s very topical presentation highlighted the current vaccine development landscape and furthermore addressed the matter around vaccine efficacy and what we have experienced in South Africa.

Prof Wolfgang Preiser participated as the respondent to the talk to provide his analysis. Also a Member of the Academy, Prof Preiser is a medical virologist and is the current Head of the Division of Medical Virology at Stellenbosch University (SU) and NHLS Tygerberg.

The webinar that took place on 15 February 2021 was moderated by the Chair of the ASSAf Standing Committee on Health, Prof Mosa Moshabela, and attracted a diverse audience of some 170 attendees.

The discussions underlined the rapid development and licensing of effective vaccines as a remarkable scientific success.

On 15 March 2021, Lesotho launched the Lesotho Academy of Science and Technology (LAST). The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) supports LAST and looks forward to close co-operation between the two academies, Prof Himla Soodyall, ASSAf Executive Officer, said during the launch. Scientists from Higher Learning Institutions, The National University of Lesotho (NUL), Botho University, Lerotholi Polytechnic and diaspora through the support of UN Technology Bank and facilitated by Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, came together in this landmark event.

MarwalaProf Tshilidzi Marwala is an engineer and AI Professor who has made a distinguished contribution to the development of artificial intelligence and its various applications at the highest academic levels of research and postgraduate supervision. Prof Marwala has used his position as an academic expert and science communicator to allay the fears and concerns expressed by the public toward artificial intelligence. Through Professor Marwala's outreach activities, he has become a role model to University students and an inspiration to high school learners. Professor Marwala's personal journey is inspiring and captures the imagination of young and old. Prof Marwala's unwavering commitment to excellence, which he attributes to his family, ensures that colleagues and students strive to be excellent. Prof Marwala is a Fellow of the Academy of Science of South Africa, the Third World Academy of Sciences, the African Academy of Science and the South African Institute of Electrical Engineering. Professor Marwala is a Distinguished Scientist of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). This acknowledgement from the ACM is reserved for the top 10% of ACM members who have made a significant impact on the computing field. In 2004, at the age of 33, Prof Marwala became the youngest recipient of the Order of Mapungubwe for his "inspirational achievements in the field of engineering science". Prof Marwala has made significant contributions to the international policy on Open Data in a Big Data World for the International Council of Science (ICSU). In South Africa, Prof Marwala is the Deputy Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The purpose of the commission is to assist the government to develop strategies to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital industrial revolution. Prof Marwala is has shown that he is more than just a spokesperson for AI and 4IR; he is an influencer, motivator and commentator who engages with problems facing society at large. 

PatelProf Leila Patel is not only recognised as a leading scholar in the field of social development internationally, she is also deeply committed to using science to effect the betterment of society both in South Africa and in wider developing contexts. She is recognised as a global leader in the field of social development, having refined social development theory and developmental social welfare theory and practice for developing contexts. She has applied this thinking to informing social policy, and developing and testing innovative programmes that aim to promote better social and economic outcomes for vulnerable groups. This ethos, which emerged in her PhD research, continues to infuse her scholarship. Her PhD, further developed in her book Restructuring Social Welfare Options for South Africa published in 1993 by Ravan Press provided the conceptual basis for the social development approach to social welfare in South Africa and later informed the White Paper for Social Welfare that was adopted by parliament in 1997. This policy document, until very recently, was the guiding document for the country’s welfare approach. It fundamentally shifts thinking about social welfare from being a state-led top-down colonial system to one of developmental social welfare; that is, a policy approach that recognises the roles of all actors to support communities and people through economic strengthening and social welfare services to best meet their needs and achieve their goals. In her role as Director General of Social Welfare in the Mandela-led government she brought scientists and policy makers together in the Lund Commission to conceptualise and promulgate the Child Support Grant (CSG). Her research continues to assess the important effects of the CSG – which now reaches over 11 million children – and to consider innovative mechanisms to enhance the outcomes of children who are recipients. In all of the above work there is clear evidence of the ways in which Prof Patel has used scientific knowledge and activity – her own and that of others that she recognises as playing a critical scientific role – as a common ground to inform social policy and practice in South Africa and to serve society. This continues to be a core value of her ongoing research. Prof Patel’s career has been an inspiration to many researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Her own energy, ideas and enthusiasm have inspired countless researchers who have worked at the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) - a research centre that she founded and built over 14 years to promote cutting-edge basic and applied social development research to better address complex development challenges. The CSDA has flourished under her leadership to become a unit that now employs 18 staff members. Part of the CSDA’s mission has been to train social development researchers. Many of these researchers and students have gone on to play leading roles in national government departments, academic institutions, civil society organisations, and corporate social responsibility units in the private sector.

In 2014 Prof Patel received the Woman in Science Award in recognition of the work she has done in promoting the field of social development and developmental welfare, and the impact it has had on development practice in the country. Earlier this year she won the Katherine A Kendall Memorial Award from the International Association of Schools of Social Work, in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of social work education internationally. These awards recognize the immense contribution she has made to research excellence, teaching, and inspiring the next generation of social development scholars, policy makers and practitioners.  Prof Patel has published prolifically, won many awards, and held distinguished positions during her career to date. But as was written by Prof Michael Sherraden, George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor at Washington University St Louis, in 2014 “from the outset, Dr Patel’s career in social welfare and social development was deeply engaged in the community and committed not just to effective practice, but also to applied scholarship, and to the larger goal of freedom. Her grounding in communities and in scientific inquiry became a strong foundation.” That foundation has led to ongoing and significant impacts that demonstrate how science can serve society, and that is perhaps her greatest achievement to date.

DAY 4: Science communication

Rationale:

Strategic aim 3 of the of the SES states that, Empowering public science engagement necessarily requires effective communication about science, which in turn requires that (a) the content and medium of the communication delivers on its purpose, and (b) the skills of the communicators are adequate to the task. This webinar will look at the work already done by SAASTA in this regard and how it can used to direct science engagement in South Africa and beyond.

Objectives:

To define science communication and explain the added value of communication to science.

Participant(s):

Michael Ellis

Mr Michael Ellis Manager: Science Communication, National Research Foundation (NRF): South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA)

 

Mr Michael Ellis currently serves as the science communication manager at the SAASTA, a business unit of the NRF. He leads a dynamic team who are responsible for the development of science communication strategy and the coordination of various science communication programmes in South Africa. He is passionate about communicating science and has over a decade of experience in implementing science engagement and communication initiatives. He has served on the management teams of the Cape Town Science Centre and Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg. He has experience in human capital development through his involvement in the national network of science centres and more recently, inspiring and training students and researchers to become even more societally engaged. Ellis is responsible for driving various national programmes through SAASTA, including a youth science journalism internship programme, the priority area public engagement programmes, the South African Science Lens and FameLab SA competitions and the national science debating initiative, amongst others. He has an MSc (Entomology), BSc Hons, a BSecEd (Sci) from the University of Pretoria and has recently completed a Strategic Management Development programme through the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

DAY 3: Leadership and management in science engagement

Rationale

Since 1996 there has been a dramatic increase in the scale and complexity of science engagement in the many entities of the DSI and other Departments. The growing scale of science engagement has been accompanied by a shift toward collaborative research, referred to as "team science" (Cooke et al, 2001).  Scientific research is increasingly conducted by small teams and larger groups rather than individual investigators, but the challenges of collaboration can slow these teams' progress in achieving their scientific goals. How does a team-based approach work, and how does the science engagement strategy support a collaborative as opposed to individual efforts in community engagement with science? South Africa is a young population, almost over 26% of the population is young. This young population is mostly in schools. Science education has a pivotal role to play reaching the publics and promoting literacy. This webinar will provide guidance on assembling science engagement teams to engage society and how the platforms can be used for professional development. The webinar will also examine institutional and organizational structures and policies to support science engagement. The webinar will also look at science education and its support of the nation agenda of NSI.

Objectives:

To define the role of leadership and management in science engagement. 

Participant(s):

Moloko Matlala

 

Mr Moloko Matlala, South African National Space Agency (SANSA)

 

Mr Moloko Matlala is currently employed by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), a business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF). He is employed as a manager for the Science Education Division responsible for several science engagement projects/programmes targeting leaners and educators. He has been a teacher, lecturer, and education specialist in mathematics, science and technology. He participated extensively in curriculum development including mathematics, mathematical literacy, technology subjects as well as recently with the development of technical mathematics and technical science grades 10 - 12. His qualifications include technical qualifications, National N-Diploma (Mechanical), National N-Diploma (Electrical), BSc (Mathematics & Physical Electronics), MSc (Electronics) and currently engaged in a comparison study on the employment prospects of learners taking electrical engineering technology subjects in technical high school and in TVET colleges. 

Livhuwani Masevhe

 

Mr Livhuwani Masevhe, Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)

Mr Livhuwani Masevhe is Deputy Director: Science Promotion at the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).

DAY 2: The benefits of engaging different publics in science festivals

Rationale

As a form of public engagement, science festivals have rapidly expanded in size and number over recent years. However, as with other domains of informal public engagement that are not linked to policy outcomes, existing research does not fully address science festivals' impacts and popularity (Jensen et.al, 2012). This webinar will seek to elucidate the perspectives of a large science festival organiser in Limpopo and the North-West. The webinar will investigate how visitors value the opportunities afforded by the science festival to interact with scientific researchers and to encounter different types of science engagement aimed at adults, children, and families.

Objectives:
To show the value of science festivals in science promotion and popularisation.

Participants:
Mr. Moabelo

Mr Bushy Moabelo, Eding International Science Festival

 

Mr Moabelo holds a BSc (Physics and Chemical Sciences) and a B Com (Quantitative Management). He was involved in initiatives from 2005 - 2008 such as excursions, career expos in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, one of such was Kgothe-Kgothe that reached over 50 000 learners. From 2008 - 2013 he successfully ran a commercial-management-law expo. In 2008 till present, commissioned a successful Eding International Science Festival with the assistance of SAASTA.

DAY 1: Space science and Astronomy in science engagement

Rationale:

The seeming tensions between the scientific, societal, and economic worth and contribution of Astronomy and Space science in the public discourse requires attention. The impact astronomy has had on our society historically, and at present, in terms of cultural, technological, and economic benefits. This webinar will focus on why these benefits are so difficult to quantify in terms of the contribution made by basic science. The webinar will show that science communicators and practitioners need to do what they can to promote the worth of their work in the wider world. The webinar will also look at the contribution made by space science in science engagement and the national activities of SANSA in this space nationally.

Objective(s):

To show how space science and Astronomy can be used in engaging different publics. 

Participants:

Mr. Dan Matsapola

Mr Dan Matsapola, South African National Space Agency (SANSA)

 

 

Mr Dan Matsapola is the African Space Scientist whose academic training background includes three post-graduate qualifications in Physics, Satellite Engineering and Business Management. Dan has also studied entrepreneurship and investing for 5 years with his Wealth Creators mentor, Dr Hannes Dreyer, from September 2005 when he was still tracking Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) remote sensing satellites at the DENEL Overberg Test Range in the Western Cape Province to September 2010 while promoting the use of Earth Observation data in developing countries at the CSIR Satellite Application Centre in Hartebeeshoek (Gauteng Province). Dan is the founding member of SANSA and the inaugural Science Advancement Manager at SANSA Earth Observation division. He has vast experience in the global space industry, having worked with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) since July 2008 and is the SANSA representative on the CEOS Working Group on Capacity Building and Data Democracy (WGCapD) that conducts training in the use of Earth Observation for sustainable development in developing countries. He is the Science Engagement Manager at SANSA Earth Observation division in Pretoria and actively manages the national space awareness portfolio targeting African youth to support STEM education for the knowledge economy. Dan has traveled the world on space missions and is passionate about human capital development. Dan is the author of the book Thriving in the 4th Industrial Revolution – Beyond Survival, the Facebook edition of which is available for free from the author to share his inspirational journey in the space industry and beyond.

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Simphiwe Madlanga, SARAO

 

 

Simphiwe Madlanga is a qualified geologist, SACNASP-registered earth scientist, science communicator, workshop facilitator & trainer, presenter & motivator. He is an avid reader and passionate about studying. Madlanga is currently the Science Engagement Coordinator for the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) –a business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF). In this role, he is responsible for implementing and fulfilling the objectives of science engagement of SARAO as per the NRF-SARAO mandate flowing from an overarching mandate by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI – formerly DST). 

SARAO is an amalgamation of the then Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) and the Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA).

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Science for Society Week

The Science Engagement Strategy champions science literacy for national development and human advancement. This strategy looks at how science can be promoted and how this can improve science literacy nationally and showcase local science globally. The challenge has always been that organisations including entities of the Department of Science and Innovation work in silos and the messaging is different. This science engagement week program seeks to bridge the gap between what needs to be done and what is currently done at community level and to show that there are very strong efforts to lead a successful science engagement programme nationally. The programme will be a platform for practitioners, academics, and various other stakeholders to share their understanding and experiences in what science engagement is and what they do.

DAY 1:  Space science and Astronomy in science engagement

Date: 15 March 2021 
Time: 11:00 – 13:00
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DAY 2: The benefits of engaging different publics in science festivals

Date: 16 March 2021
Time: 11:00 – 13:00
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Day 3: Leadership and management in science engagement                                                                              
Date: 17 March 2021
Time: 11:00 – 13:00
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Day 4: Science communication                                                                                                                             
Date:18 March 2021
Time: 11:00 – 13:00
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Read more about this session

'No Paraffin! Campaign' National Roundtable Discussion Webinar Series
Dates: 18 and 25 February and 4 March 2021

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in collaboration with The University of South Africa (UNISA) Institute for Social and Health Sciences (ISHS), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), and North West University (NWU)  invite you to a series of webinars on the No Paraffin! Campaign.

Bruno brings 1647 shipwreck story to life

Opening public lectures for the first time since lockdown, the Academy and the Royal Society of South Africa held participants spellbound this month with the tale by maritime archaeologist Dr Bruno Werz in Cape Town.

Fingering shards of lead from what is believed to be the wreck of the Haarlem (which went under the waves in Table Bay in 1647) as well as a copper thread, which lecture participants failed to identify as a necklace, used in bartering with local people, were part of the excitement of the day, when 25 people took a risk to attend (masked up for the 45-minute lecture, temperature checked, rostered and socially distanced) while others stayed home for the digital experience.

Bruno brought to life his passion for finding the Haarlem, one of 35 wrecks in Table Bay, using a Treasure Map, an oil painting of the scene (complete with waving palms, immortalised in canvas based on eye witness accounts and part fantasy), diaries and journals from the survivors. Not a pin was heard dropping as he told his tale.

On the 25th of March 1647, shortly after five o’clock in the afternoon, the United Dutch East India Company ship Haarlem wrecked in Table Bay. The events that followed had far-reaching consequences, and this incident can be regarded as the catalyst that created one of the roots of modern South Africa. Since 1989, a project has been underway to search for Haarlem. This presentation provided a brief overview of work undertaken to date. This has resulted in the location of a site based on currently available evidence close to the Dolphin Beach hotel in Blaauberg.

Originally from the Netherlands,  Dr Bruno Werz was once the youngest diver on the world famous ‘Mary Rose project’. He  introduced scientific maritime archaeological research to southern Africa in 1988. Previously a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town, he is currently CEO of the African Institute for Marine & Underwater Research, Exploration & Education (AIMURE) (http://www.aimure.org), as well as research associate at the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, University of Pretoria. In 2010, he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London for his services to maritime archaeology and history.

ASSAf Annual General Meeting 2020

In terms of its Constitution, it is mandatory for the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) to hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) where Council reports back to the ASSAf Members on its annual activities, strategies and annual financial statements and audits.

This year, the AGM was held virtually on 14 October 2020 and was attended by some 70 Members. Given the role that ASSAf Member, Prof Shabir Madi has played with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact that at the time the country was entering Level 1 of lockdown, Prof Madhi was invited to give this year’s AGM keynote lecture. He was given the opportunity of the AGM to hear his views on the pandemic and where the country stands with respect to a vaccine and some of the public debates around these issues. His talk was titled, “The changing course of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa - hope or despair?”

Prof Madhi is a Professor of Vaccinology in the School of Pathology at the University of the Witwatersrand and Director of the world-renowned Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (VIDA). He is also the lead researcher on the COVID-19 vaccine trial that has started in South Africa,

The AGM is a valuable forum for Members to engage with the ASSAf leadership and it provides a vital discussion and information sharing platform. Members are entitled to ask questions and to raise for discussion any matter relevant to the business of the Academy. Although it is a formal meeting, it can also be a good opportunity to communicate with fellow Members.

Sixth Presidential Roundtable Discussion - Frankensteins or Gods?

The sixth of a series of ASSAf Presidential Roundtables moderated by ASSAf’s President, Prof Jonathan Jansen, took place virtually on 25 November 2020.The discussion titled, “Frankensteins or Gods? The Impact of the New Technologies on What It Means To Be Human”, featured Prof Margaret Levi, Director: Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, as the guest speaker.

The guest lecture put the human question in and the societal implications of artificial intelligence (AI) under the spotlight and addressed the questions that we face, as machine learning and algorithmic decision become more deeply embedded in the processes that guide our information sources, our governing and criminal justice system, our shopping, and so much more.

Prof Levi was joined by local scholars, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor, University of Johannesburg and one of the world’s foremost thinkers on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR); Dr Asheel Singh, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Johannesburg and Dr Mpho Tshivhase, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Pretoria.

Although AI can improve some of our decision making well beyond human capability, it can control our lives and our choices in ways we do not want, would never want, and yet do not fully perceive until too late.  The alternative to either of these extreme scenarios is to think of how best to establish a partnership, where humans and machines work together to construct a better world for us all.  This requires recognising the contribution of each to a reimagined division of labour, ensuring that each does its part within proper domains and according to appropriate standards, and nourishing each of the partners as we evolve together. 

African Women in Science Leadership Webinar

Under-representation of women across different levels of the global scientific system is a widely recognised barrier to more equitable and effective scientific solutions to global problems.

In 2018, GenderInSITE published the report Pathways to Success: Bringing a Gender Lens to the Scientific Leadership of Global Challenges. This report explores success stories of women scientists who have reached the top echelons of their fields, illuminating key lessons for other women scientists. It also offers important insights for policymakers and institutions for making progress toward a more open and equal equitable scientific system. To this end, START and GenderInSITE resolved to convene diverse perspectives and voices of scientific leaders from across Africa on supporting pathways to success for African women scientists through a series of webinars in order to:

  • Learn more from one another about what scientific leadership looks like for women working in African contexts and what unique challenges and opportunities are found along the pathways to scientific success;
  • Explore ideas on how, and what kind of strategic capacity development could help further gender equality and equity in scientific institutions and policy in African countries; and
  • Critically examine challenges that could plausibly arise for these strategic capacity development efforts and what could be done to mitigate those.

The first webinar titled “African Women in Science Leadership” was held on 29 October 2020. The webinar was structured as an exploratory discussion based on GenderInSITE’s report and a presentation on the report’s findings and recommendations was made by Prof. Roseanne Diab, Director, GenderInSITE. Thereafter, the participants discussed in breakout groups pre-prepared questions and rapporteurs provided feedback during a plenary session. The discussion questions were mainly:

  • What are the top barriers and enablers that should be considered in supporting African women’s pathways to success in scientific leadership?
  • How and what types of capacity strengthening could help support the identified enablers and overcome the barriers to success?

Participants were drawn from various African and overseas countries including Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Germany, Italy and the USA.

‘One Health in South Africa’ brings together two Standing Committees

One Health is an example of a multi-disciplinary approach. It is through this multi-disciplinarity that on 18 November 2020 some members of the Standing Committee on Health and the Standing Committee on Biosafety and Biosecurity virtually met. The experts discussed issues, challenges, gaps, and opportunities that fall under the umbrella of One Health in South Africa. Potential projects and a way forward were agreed upon as important. The meeting was also attended by some members of ASSAf Council who have expertise in One Health and serve in such platforms.        

Dr Khutso Legoale-Phalane has taken over the responsibility for Humanities and Science and STEM education inclusive of her responsibility for health and related sciences. The appointment is effective from 1 October 2020. 

Mr Kholani Mbhiza is acting in the position of Young Scientist Liaison Officer, responsible for young scientists and related activities. Kholani’s acting responsibilities has been effective from 1 October 2020. 

Ms Mmaphuthi Mashiachidi will be promoted to Project Officer, with effect from 1 November 2020 and will be responsible for peer reviews and projects within the scholarly publishing program. 

Mrs Renate Venier will be promoted to Governance Coordinator with effect from 1 January 2021.

Ms Phakamile Mngadi, Senior Programme Officer for SAP, resigned effective 31 December 2020.  Phakamile has been an employee with ASSAf for an extended period of time and it is truly a great loss for the organisation.   

We take this opportunity to wish these employees every success in their new/promoted roles and endeavours and thank them for their support. 

Standing Committee on Health deliberates on multi-disciplinary projects to undertake

The Standing Committee on Health held a meeting on 17 November 2020 where projects and initiatives that had been proposed by members were extensively discussed. The committee’s commitment to projects of a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary nature was evident in the project topics that received endorsement. Project topics ranged from environment health, research, public health to health economics. The issue impact of projects was also a key part of the discussion - an area that is of importance to ASSAf.    

At the meeting, the 15-member committee also bid farewell to three members whose terms of office in the committee are ending. Prof Steve Reid (University of Cape Town), Prof Linda Richter (University of Witwatersrand) and Prof Solomon Rataemane (former Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University) have made a huge and invaluable contribution to the during their tenure and the Academy is greatly indebted to them and wishes them all the best. Prof Steve Reid concurrently also served as a panel member for the ASSAf consensus study on Reconceptualising Health Professions Education in South Africa released in 2018. His commitment to ASSAf endeavours is applauded.    

SAJS Board member is first African woman elected VP of IUGS

Hassina Mouri, a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of SAJS and professor of medical geology at the University of Johannesburg, has been elected Vice-President of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) for 2020–2024. The IUGS is one of the world’s largest scientific bodies and Mouri is the first African woman to be elected to this role. Mouri was nominated by the National Research Foundation and received 38% of the votes in the IUGS Council meeting. ASSAf congratulates Prof Mouri on this impressive accomplishment and wishes her well in this role.

Prof Rolf Stumpf, known for his commitment to the higher education principles of inclusivity and broadening access, passed away on 26 October 2020.

He was Vice-Chancellor at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, Vice-Rector: Operations and Vice-Rector: Teaching at Stellenbosch University (SU) and President of the Human Sciences Research Council. From 2019 until shortly before his death, he worked with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation at SU on a norms-and-standards model for the university.

The Academy salutes him for his remarkable contribution and commitment to South Africa’s higher education community and the research and higher education policy environment are the poorer for his loss.

Our sincere condolences to his wife, Adrianne (Adie), his children, family and friends.

It with great sadness that we received word of the passing of Lerato Mmatloa, Lerato passed away on Saturday, 24 October 2020, after being involved in a motor vehicle accident. 

As a qualified and accredited personal assistant with a national diploma in project management from Boston City Campus, Lerato was formally appointed as Administrative Assistant in October 2016 at International Science Council Regional Office for Africa (ISC ROA).

Lerato was not only a colleague to the ISC ROA and ASSAf staff, she was a dear friend and a kind soul. She will be missed by all. 

Our condolences to her children, Hlompho and Musa and her family.

Read the tribute by ISC here

Honorary awards/accolade 

Prof André Boraine has been recognised among 500 top insolvency lawyers globally in the 2020 LawDragon 500 Leading Global Restructuring and Insolvency Lawyers list, in recognition for his insolvency law and restructuring expertise. Prof Boraine is Professor in the Department of Private Law at the University of Pretoria.

Prof Tshilidzi Marwala has been awarded the 2020 Golden Eagle Award by St John's College. The award recognises and celebrates the valued, lasting contributions of Old Johannians who have made a difference in their community, industry, arena of life or field of study. He is currently Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg.

Prof Daya Reddy will be awarded the Degree Doctor of Science (DSc) (Science), honoris causa by Stellenbosch University in 2021. The honorary doctorate recognises outstanding individuals who have made valuable contributions in the fields of medicine, literature, the performing arts, business, science, education, and community development. Prof Reddy is Director: Centre for Research in Computational and Applied Mechanics, Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, and South African Research Chair in Computational Mechanics at the University of Cape Town.

Prof Ramashwar Bharuthram has been awarded the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation Special Recognition Award in Innovation and Achievement by the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The award recognises those whose research efforts have made a difference at the highest levels.  He is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the UWC.

Prof Ernst Conradie has been awarded the Faculty Book Prize Award by the University of the Western Cape (UWC), in recognition of his book called ‘T&T Clark Handbook of Christian Theology and Climate Change’ for contributing to scholarly work and environmental activism. He is Senior Professor in the Department of Religion and Theology at the UWC.

Prof Robert Morrell has been awarded the 2020 Distinguished Alumni award by Rhodes University. The award recognises Old Rhodians whose actions and achievements have enhanced the institution’s reputation. He is the director of the University of Cape Town’s New Generation of Academics Programme (nGAP) and the Next Generation Professoriate (NGP) initiative in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, both major transformation projects to nurture new cohorts of young and mid-career black and female researchers.

Dr Phil Mjwara has been awarded the National Annual Batho Pele Excellence Award (NBPEA):  Best Director General (National) of the Year. This year’s award is dedicated to all public servants who died of Covid-19 in the public service space. Dr Mjwara is currently the Director-General of the Department of Science and Innovation.

International awards 

Prof Jimmy Volmink will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Belgian university, KU Leuven in February 2021. The Honorary Doctorate recognises his work in the fight against inequality to promote human dignity, and his contribution to both science and practice to improve health and wellbeing. He is currently the Dean in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University.

Appointments

Prof Deresh Ramjugernath has been appointed as the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching at Stellenbosch University (SU) from 1 January 2021. He is currently the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Three ASSAf Members have been appointed as Distinguished Professors by SU. The title of ‘Distinguished Professor’ was created in recognition of SU academics who have reached the pinnacle of achievement in their university careers. They are:
Prof Guy Midgley is a leading expert in the field of biodiversity and global change science at SU.
Prof Keymanthri Moodley is Director of the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law at SU.
Prof Taryn Young is the Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care and the Head of Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at SU.

Eleven ASSAf Members have been re-appointed as Distinguished Professors by SU. They are:
Prof Ashraf Kagee is currently serving on a working group of the World Health Organisation to decide on diagnostic criteria for stress-related disorders for the forthcoming edition of the International Classification of Diseases.
Prof Amanda Gouws is the SARChI Chair in Gender Politics at SU.
Prof Lesley Le Grange is a Member of Council on Higher Education in South Africa.
Prof Yusef Waghid is the Editor-in-Chief of South African Journal of Higher Education.
Prof Dave Richardson is the Director of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology at SU.
Prof Kathryn Myburgh is a Council Member of the Royal Society of South Africa and is an expert in integrative human biology and exercise physiology at SU.
Prof Leon Dicks serves on the Advisory Board for Probiotics (Copenhagen, Denmark), and the probiotic entiroTM.
Prof Willem (Emile) van Zyl is DST/NRF Senior Chair of Energy Research in Biofuels at SU.
Prof Linus Opara is the DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Postharvest Technology at SU.
Prof Mark Cotton is Head of Division of Paediatric Infectious Diseases and Director of the Family Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital (TCH), SU.
Prof Soraya Seedat is the Executive Head of Department of Psychiatry and the South African Research Chair in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder at SU.

Two ASSAf members were elected as fellows of The African Academy of Sciences (AAS).They are:
Prof Collet Dandara is Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Cape Town. 
Prof Yahya Choonara is Chair and Head of the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of the Witwatersrand. 

Dr Renosi Mokate has been appointed by Rhodes University to serve on its Institute of Social and Economic Research Advisory Board. She currently serves on President Ramaphosa’s Economic Advisory Council.

New Peer Review Panel Established: Other Disciplines Journals

A new Panel for the Other Disciplines journals was officially appointed and met for the first time virtually on 02 October 2020. Prof Robin Crewe, Chair of the Committee on Scholarly Publishing (CSPiSA), chaired the orientation meeting.

The meeting began with an orientation on the peer review process, followed by an in-depth discussion, led by Prof Robin Crewe and the Scholarly Publishing Programme Director, Mrs Susan Veldsman. Roles and responsibilities of panel members were clarified; and the format of the report was explained to panellists. The panel discussed the process and cleared any potential conflicts of interest. Chair and Vice-Chair were appointed for the panel and conveners were appointed for each sub-group within the disciplinary groupings. The sub-groups include: Geography & Population, Gender, Health, Social Sciences, Humanities, Law and Other fields. The sub-groups were tasked with providing names of potential reviewers for the journals. Each group will produce a consolidated list of reviewers. ASSAf’s secretariat will check that there are no potential conflicts of interest before inviting and appointing three reviewers to review each journal. 

Peer Review Panel of Journal Applications for DHET Accreditation

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) requested the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) to assist in constituting a Peer Review Panel to evaluate the new and re-applications of journals for DHET accreditation. A panel of 13 expert scholars were selected from ASSAf Membership, SAYAS and the National Research Foundation (NRF) databases. There were 13 journals under review from various fields of Economics and Public Administration, Education, Health, Humanities, Law and Politics. The panel met virtually on 20 November 2020. Reports from the meeting will be sent to the DHET in the last week of November.

The State of Laboratory Biosafety and Biosecurity in SADC Study Panel plans to deliberate

The 10-member multi-country panel had a virtually meeting on 24 November 2020 where they discussed the data collection process from the SADC Member States. These discussions included the possible addition of COVID-19 related study objectives as it falls within the field of the study (i.e. disease outbreaks).

Eliminating Barriers to Women’s Participation in Science – A study of the African Research Universities Alliance

At the beginning of 2020, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) in collaboration with the Gender in Science Innovation Technology and Engineering (GenderInSITE) Africa focal point were selected by the International Development Research Centre of Canada as part of 11 research teams around the globe to receive grants under the call for proposals Breaking barriers: Understanding obstacles facing women in STEM in the Global South.

ASSAf’s project Eliminating barriers to women’s participation in science: A study of the African Research Universities Alliance studies 16 of sub-Saharan Africa’s research-intensive universities (of which 6 are South African ) with a focus on three interlinked aspects: the institutional culture (the recruitment, retention, and inclusion of women in STEM); the STEM research environment (promotion of diversity in STEM research teams); and university leadership (the gathering of statistics on women in senior leadership and management positions and the preparation of women for such positions). The principal researchers of the project include Ms. Phyllis Kalele, Senior Liaison Officer-African Collaboration, Mr Stanley Maphosa, International and National Liaison Manager and Prof Roseanne Diab, Director of GenderInSITE. At present, the project is at varying phases for each of the universities including applications for research licenses and ethical clearance and data collection through a survey in other universities. It is intended that the study’s findings, lessons learned, and examples of best practice will be widely disseminated, towards the broader objective of enabling women to contribute to addressing Africa’s many development challenges.

ASSAf to contribute to the UK Academy of Medical Sciences Project Review

Starting in 2016, ASSAf has partnered with the UK Academy of Medical Sciences (UK AMS) in policy workshops. Some of these were co-hosted in South Africa while other were hosted in the UK – when hosted in the UK the Academy sent representatives. These policy workshops have been funded through the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and they have been valuable to ASSAf.  

In November 2020, the UK AMS’ GCRF policy workshop project is coming to its conclusion and UK AMS is developing some materials and outputs that will help bring the project together as a whole.  ASSAf, as a valued partner for their workshops in the past, have been requested to participate in this process and has agreed.    

ASSAf celebrates Open Access week

Open Access week is a global event now in its tenth year, during which ASSAf, along with research organisations worldwide, took stock and explored opportunities to increasingly make Open Access the norm for conducting science, research and publishing.

Also, through better understanding who our audiences include when promoting Open Access. This linked to the theme of this year’s International Open Access Week, from 19 to 25 October, which was “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion.”

ASSAf hosted 4 webinars during that week. All of them included lively question and answer sessions.                     

The series of webinars kicked off with a presentation by Prof Cameron Neylon from Curtin University, Australia on 20 October, providing a regional perspective through his presentation on “Global Open Access to Scholarly Literature: Progress and Evidence of African Leadership”. According to Prof Neylon, there is accumulating evidence of large-scale global progress towards open access, with most current estimates placing the proportion of scholarly content that is freely available to read at around 50%. This progress has been accompanied with significant debate on the most efficient, most affordable, and most equitable routes towards a goal of 100%. Relatively little attention has been paid to how different regions and countries are achieving open access and the different routes they are taking. In this talk Prof Neylon discussed global progress, and evidence that far from following that progress, many African institutions are leading it, with measured open access levels amongst the highest in the world. Access the slides and recording (DOI: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4107133). 

The above regional perspective of the leadership role Africa plays in terms of Open Access was followed by a session on the South African Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act. On 22 October Professor Himla Soodyall, the Executive Officer of ASSAf, chaired a Forum on the topic “The POPI Act (POPIA) - The need for a single Code of Conduct for Research and a discussion of key issues to be addressed in the Code”. Access the slides.

Still focusing on South Africa, Professor Ahmed Bawa from Universities South Africa (USAf) on 23 October 2020 presented on “The Open Science Agenda and Framework for South Africa/South African Open Science Adventures” on 23 October 2020. He shared progress made on an Open Science Policy for South Africa, a process driven by the SA Department of Science and Innovation, of which the White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (2019) was a major outcome. Access the slides.

The activities for the week were concluded with an overview of the African Scientists Directory, presented by Dr Richard Glover (International Science Council: Regional Office for Africa) and Ina Smith (ASSAf). The directory fulfils the need for showcasing the cream of African scientists and their research with the rest of the world. At the same time it also aims to advance collaboration among north-south and south-south. African scientists are invited to register their profiles on this directory. Once registered, a profile can be created, which will be reviewed for publication in the directory. Also refer to an article by University World News: Africa Edition, for an account of the webinar: African Scientists Directory fosters collaboration, counters populism. Access the slides.

The four ASSAf OA Week 2020 webinars were collectively attended by more than 600 participants.

We would like to make use of this opportunity to thank all our presenters and attendees for making ASSAf Open Access Week 2020 a huge success.

SAJS welcomes new Editorial Advisory Board Chair

Prof Stephanie Burton (University of Pretoria) has succeeded Prof Johann Mouton (Stellenbosch University) as Chair of the Editorial Advisory Board of the South African Journal of Science. Prof Mouton served as Chair of the Board from 2013.

The Moral Imperative of Money

The moral imperative of money: what investments in science say about a nation’s priorities and ethical compass

Biologia Futura, a Springer/Nature publication, 23 October 2020

by Mohamed H. A. Hassan & Daniel Schaffer

The global scientific community has experienced fundamental irreversible change over the past several decades. The meteoric rise of China as a scientific and technological powerhouse, growing challenges to US supremacy in global science, and a significant narrowing of the North-South gap in scientific capacity have all shaken – and reordered – the liberal, rules-based international order that has framed and shaped global science since the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent demise of the Soviet Union.

While there is a much truth to the notion that the global scientific community has entered a new era, one enduring legacy of times past remains firmly in place: Scientific and technological capacity continues to reside largely within the domain of just a few countries. For example, China, the United States and the Europe Union (with 27 countries) account for two-thirds of the annual global US$2 trillion investment in research and development. Similarly, scientists in the US, China, and EU account for two-thirds of all scientific and engineering articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

In short, scientific investments and scientific output remain nearly as concentrated today as they were 30 years ago. We should be encouraged by a narrowing of the North-South divide in science. But we should also be concerned about a growing South-South divide in science. Deep inequities in scientific capacity continue to be a defining characteristic of global science, a disturbing characteristic that is most evident in sub-Saharan Africa.

The enduring elements of marginalisation and inequity that persist within the rapidly changing landscape of global science demand both attention and action. The article, “The moral imperative of money: what investments in science say about a nation’s priorities and ethical compass,” examines the global scientific community at the dawn of a new era that in some significant ways resembles the old one. It calls on national governments, especially in poor countries, to expand their investments in science and technology and to more closely integrate these expenditures into their national plans for economic development. The article also calls on international organizations to renew their commitments to scientific capacity building, especially among countries that have yet to fully benefit from advances in science and technology or to fully participate in global research efforts designed to address common global challenges. The article is based on the notion that inclusive international science requires strong scientific and technological capabilities in each and every nation.

For additional information about the article, please contact Mohamed H.A. Hassan, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Daniel Schaffer, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Forum Meeting on POPIA

In South Africa (SA) the use of personal information for research is regulated by the National Health Act No 61 of 2003 and its 2012 regulations, the Department of Health Ethics in Health Research: Principles, Processes and Structures Guidelines and the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) No 2 of 2000. This changes with the coming into force of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) No 4 of 2013 on 1 July 2020 [ https://www.justice.gov.za/inforeg/docs/InfoRegSA-POPIA-act2013-004.pdf]. All public and private bodies that are processing personal information have until 1 July 2021 to ensure that they are compliant with the law.

To guide the application of POPIA to research, the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf) considers it essential to develop a POPIA Code of Conduct for Research. This will ensure certainty, transparency and clarity in the use of personal information for research. ASSAf also considers that it is imperative that there is one Code to guide the use of personal information for research in all sectors (including health, social science, genomics, etc.).

ASSAf hosted a virtual forum meeting on 21st October 2020 during the Open Access Week, which was attended by over 290 participants. The aim of the meeting was to consider the development of a POPIA Code of Conduct for Research. It was proposed at this meeting that ASSAf facilitate the development of the Code by engaging a wide spectrum of stakeholders including researchers, ethicists and legally trained people to ensure inclusivity with multiple stakeholders prior to the submission of the Code to the Information Regulator for approval.

The meeting was facilitated by Prof Himla Soodyall, Executive Officer of ASSAf. The presenters included Dr Rachel Adams, Senior Research Specialist of the Impact Centre at the HSRC; Prof Michele Ramsay, Professor in the Division of Human Genetics at the National Health Laboratory Service and University of the Witwatersrand; Dr Harriet Etheredge, Ethics and Regulatory at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre; Dr Antonel Olckers, CEO of DNAbiotec; Prof Tobias Schonwetter, Associate Professor and the Director of the Intellectual Property Unit at the University of Cape Town's Law Faculty; and Prof Collet Dandara, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Cape Town.

Prof Iqbal Parker appointed ASSAf representative in the IAP BWG

Prof Iqbal Parker, Chair of the Standing Committee on Biosafety and Biosecurity, is the official ASSAf representative in the IAP Biosecurity Working Group (BWG). The BWG’s terms of reference are aligned with some of the Standing Committee’s objectives and we look forward to meaningful and fruitful engagements. The committee and ASSAf also wishes Prof Parker well in this role.  

A sub-group of the committee met in October 2020 where they explored some available funding opportunities but also suggested ways of reviewing funding opportunities for relevance to ASSAf projects.  

In December 2020, the 16-member committee says goodbye to two members whose terms of office in the committee comes to an end. Dr Chandré Gould (Institute for Security Studies) and Dr Rachel Chikwamba (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) have contributed immensely to the committee over the years and ASSAf extends its deep gratitude to both. Dr Chandré Gould also concurrently served as a panel member for an ASSAf study released in 2015 (The State of Biosafety and Biosecurity in South Africa) and several other ASSAf initiatives, her dedication is thus much appreciated.     

ASSAf and NAS on COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions: A case of the SADC region

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in collaboration with the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS), undertook a SADC-wide project to disseminate policy briefs that were published by Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL), which is a member organisation of Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to COVID-19 (PERC). The policy briefs sought to profile the regional and country-specific non-pharmaceutical COVID-19 interventions aimed at curbing the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

The project engaged experts and policymakers on key messages and recommendations of select policy briefs, through the five senior national academies of science in the SADC region namely, the Botswana Academy of Sciences (BAS), Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology (MAST), Kingdom of eSwatini Academy of Sciences (KEAS), Zambian Academy of Sciences (ZaAS), Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences (ZAS), together with the Zimbabwe Young Academy of Science (ZIMYAS) and ASSAf. The South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) also collaborated on the project with three senior academies, namely the Zimbabwe Young Academy of Science (ZIMYAS), the Mauritius Young Academy and the Democratic Republic of Congo Young Academy. The senior as well as young academies hosted webinars that served as a platform to localise the policy briefs to the contexts of their country, with presentations from experts deliberating and presenting on what has worked and providing recommendations for future implementation.

ASSAf continues to play its role as the champion academy in the southern Africa region. This project was part of its continued efforts to capacitate academies in the SADC region to undertake activities aimed at utilising evidence-based scientific advice to influence policy as well as to raise awareness on the value of academies of science.

ASSAf and SANSA seal collaboration

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish joint collaboration activities that ensures policy formulation is scientific and evidence-based, and that science engagement is advanced to increased science awareness in our communities.

This collaboration is a result of both Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) entities endeavouring to increase the reach and impact of their respective work in the country. According to Stanley Maphosa, Manager: International and National Liaison at ASSAf, “policy for science, science for society and science for policy has the potential to transform South Africa into a knowledge economy in line with the new White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation”. Asanda Sangoni, Manager: Partnerships at SANSA, indicated that the “partnership would contribute to inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers needed for South Africa to address national challenges and nurture a knowledge economy”.

ASSAf and SANSA agree that valuable contributions could be made by scientists and experts in the drafting of policy briefs and position papers. Both these organisations have access to the top scientific minds in the country. The partnership was sealed by Dr Valanathan Munsami, Chief Executive Officer: SANSA, and Prof Himla Soodyall, ASSAf: Executive Officer, in Pretoria.

“We appreciate this partnership. We have worked with SANSA on a number of activities that we should pull together to reach government, researchers, young scientists and communities to enhance the growth of science in South Africa” said Prof Soodyall.

“Working together through science engagement, research, scientific advice and other associated activities will enable the two entities to contribute significantly to the National Development Plan and to shape the future of our youth.” said Dr Munsami.

Through the MoU, the two entities endeavour to support Government at all levels through evidence-based policymaking.

ASSAf elects new Office-bearers and Council members

ASSAf recently elected new office-bearers and Council members to serve the Academy. ASSAf is governed by a Council, comprising 12 elected Members and a 13th Member appointed by the Minister as a representative of the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI). The Academy is pleased to announce its new office-bearers and Council members for the 2020 – 2024 term.Office-bearers and Council members may serve two consecutive terms of four years each.

Newly elected Office Bearers and Council Members 

Vice-Presidents       

Prof Stephanie Burton is Professor in Biochemistry, and Professor at Future Africa, at the University of Pretoria. From 2011 to 2020, she was the Vice-Principal for Research and Postgraduate Education at the University of Pretoria.  She holds an MSc in Organic Chemistry (1990) and a PhD in Biochemistry (1994) from Rhodes University.  Professor Burton’s academic career started in Biochemistry and Biotechnology at Rhodes University, and then as Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town. She served as Director of Postgraduate Studies and Director of the Biocatalysis and Technical Biology Group at Cape Peninsula University of Technology before her current appointment.  Her research interests are in sustainability, applied biochemistry and biotechnology, and she has held a National Research Foundation B rating. She has published widely and supervised numerous postgraduate students.

Prof Sabiha Essack is the DST-NRF SARChI Research Chair in Antibiotic Resistance and One Health and Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the UKZN. Prof Essack also continues to serve as ASSAf General Secretary.

Council members 

Prof Irvy (Igle) Gledhill is Visiting Adjunct Professor in Flow Physics at the University of the Witwatersrand. She holds a PhD in plasma physics from the University of Natal. She did her post-doctoral work at UCLA on thermonuclear fusion, and at Stanford on Space Shuttle physics. For 30 years, she specialised in transonic computational fluid dynamics at the CSIR, South Africa. She also contributed as a computational physicist within diverse multidisciplinary collaborations including rational drug design, ocean engineering, and mine safety. Her current research interest is in unfolding and exploiting the aerodynamics of accelerating objects. She serves on the executive of the Gender Gap project of the International Science Council and 11 international unions.  She is a Member of Sigma Xi, a Past President of the South African Institute of Physics, and a council member of the SA Council for Natural Scientific Professions. She has served as a member of the World Cultural Council Interdisciplinary Committee. She is currently as Editor-in-Chief of African Physics Newsletter and serves as one of three Vice-Presidents of the Network of African Science Academies.

Prof Evance Rabban Kalula is Chairperson of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA). He is also Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Cape Town (UCT), as well as Honorary Professor at the University of Rwanda, fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Studies (STIAS) and ad hoc Executive Policy Advisor to the University of Lusaka (UNILUS). He held various positions at the University of Cape before going into active retirement in 2017, among them as Director of the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO) and the Confucius Institute. He was a holder of a personal chair as Professor of Employment Law and Social Security. He holds several degrees in law, including a PhD. He was educated at the University of Zambia School of Law; Kings College, London; Balliol College, Oxford (where he was a Rhodes Scholar) and the University Warwick School of Law. His academic, policy and research interests are in international and comparative labour law, international trade, regional integration and social protection. He previously served as Chair of the South African Employment Conditions Commission (ECC), member of the ILO Commission of Inquiry on Freedom of Association in Zimbabwe, and Chair of the University of Lusaka Council (UNILUS). He was until recently a member of the Ministerial Advisory Panel of the then South African Department of Economic Development Department (EDD). He is a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and serves on its Governance and Nominations Committee (GNC), advisor on Council of the South African Academy of Science (ASSAf) and is a member the Institute of African Alternatives (IAA) Board. He serves on the editorial boards of a number of leading local and international journals, including the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Press Editorial Board.  He is a past President of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA).

Prof Julian May is the Director of the Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape. He has worked on options for poverty reduction including land reform, social grants, information technology and urban agriculture in Southern, East and West Africa and in the Indian Ocean Islands.  He has also worked on the development and use of systems for monitoring the impact of policy using official statistics, impact assessment and action research.  He has been an associate research at Oxford University, the University of Manchester and the International Food Policy Research Institute. In 2009 the National Research Foundation awarded him a Tier One South African Research Chair in Applied Poverty Reduction Assessment. He has edited 4 books and published over 60 papers in books and academic journals.

Prof Christian Pirk is a Professor and heads up the Social Insects Research Group (SIRG) in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria.  Born in Berlin, Germany, he studied Biology and Mathematics at the Technical University Berlin before finishing his PhD at Rhodes University in 2002. His research focuses on the behavioural and chemical ecology of social insects, in particular honeybees. He is involved in international networks with an interest in pollinator and honeybee health and collaborates with colleagues in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. He provides a base for students interested in behaviour, chemical ecology, mathematical modelling, nutrition and social insects in general.

Office bearers and Council Members who continue to serve: 

President  

Prof Jonathan Jansen is Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Stellenbosch. He is President of the Academy of Science of South Africa and in 2020 will be a Knight-Hennessey Fellow at Stanford University.  He started his career as a Biology teacher in the Cape and holds a PhD from Stanford as well as honorary doctorates from Edinburgh, Vermont, Cleveland State and the University of Cape Town. He is the author of the award-winning book, Knowledge in the Blood (Stanford University Press) and his 2019 books include Inequality in South African schools (with Nic Spaull, Springer Publishers) and Decolonization in universities (Wits U Press), His 2020 books include Race, Science and Society (SUN MEDIA) and Who gets in and why: the politics of admission in South Africa’s elite schools (with Samantha Kriger, UCT Press). He was recently elected as a Fellow of the International Academy of Education. 

Treasurer                   

Prof Thomas Eugene Cloete is Vice-Rector, Research and Innovation at SU. He is a former recipient of the ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medal award. He is the Founding Director of the SU Water Institute.

Members 

Prof Wim de Villiers is Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, Vice-Chairperson of Universities South Africa (USAf) and a Council Member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

Prof Norman Duncan is Professor in Psychology and Vice-Principal: Academic at UP.

Prof Refilwe Nancy Phaswana-Mafuya is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Research and Innovation at North-West University (NWU). She is one of the few qualified black female epidemiologists in South Africa. She is an ASSAf member, AAS Fellow and NRF rated scientist. She is also member of the International Panel on Infectiology of the German Research Foundation where she represents the African Continent, technical health expert (HIV/Chronic NCDs Scientist)on Higher Health Board, member of USAF Research & Innovation Strategy Group, and also serves on the NRF Board. She chaired the 9th SA AIDS Conference in June 2019, the second largest medical meeting in the world. Prof Phaswana-Mafuya was awarded the NSTF TW Nkambule Science Award IN 2016/2017, for Research and its outputs 15 years after obtaining PhD. Her passion is to contribute towards closing science disparities in South Africa through developing research capacities among emerging scientists. In this regard, she has been involved in the NSTF Share & Dare Programme, NSTF Young Brilliants, SAYAS, SAYSP as well as media talks to motivate young people to choose science careers.

Prof Mary Scholes is a Professor in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences at Wits. She serves as Vice-Chairperson for the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Committee, Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry and the Secretary-General for the Standing Committee of Public Enterprise. She succeeded Prof Shireen Hassim who resigned to accept a position abroad.

Council Advisors 

Prof Stella Nkomo

Prof Thokozani Majozi 

The Ministerial appointment of the 13th member, a NACI representative, is pending.

We express our sincere appreciation for the contribution and for the service of the following Council members whose terms have come to an end and who cannot be considered for re-election:

Prof Johann Mouton

Prof Zeblon Vilakazi

Prof Brenda Wingfield (Vice-President) 

We also extend our appreciation to Prof Barney Pityana who signalled his intention to step down as Vice-President and Council member due to personal commitments.

We wish the newly elected Council members both a successful and rewarding tenure.

 

Wits Chancellor addresses attendees of ASSAf Annual Awards Ceremony

Dr Judy Dlamini, Chancellor: of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) was the guest speaker at the virtual Annual Awards Ceremony of the Academy, held on 14 October 2020.

In her address she complimented ASSAf on the diversity of Members, not in a limited sense of race and gender, but at many levels; the different fields of science that the Members represent, the different universities from University of Venda (UNIVEN) in the North to the University of Cape Town (UCT) in the Southern tip of the country, diversity of age.

She said that diversity matters in all its forms. Diversity if used correctly enables a holistic approach to problem identification and solution. The resulting solutions are as good as the approach and process which ensures the incorporation of the intersection of all social identities.

On evidence-based solutions to national problems, she stated that it is important to understand whose evidence we are talking about and on what and/or on who it is based? For instance, the evidence basis of medicine may be fundamentally flawed because there is an ongoing failure of research tools to include sex differences in study design and analysis. Though it has improved, there is still a gap. For example, research funding for coronary artery disease in men is far greater than for women, yet the at-risk population of women, which is an older age group, suffers more morbidity and mortality. The lack of funding for women's disease in effect maintains women's lower economic status. It goes beyond gender - racial and social class differences also need to be factored in. Evidence based on one race and/or gender may not necessarily apply across all social identities. Failure to recognise this and mitigate against it exacerbates inequality at a cost to our economies. 

According to Dlamini, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities, especially when it comes to gender. Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. An analysis that looked at 13 medical journals found that the proportion of female authors for COVID-19 papers is lower than the average for all studies published in 2019 in the journals. Various reasons are suggested for this decrease including disproportionate allocation of childcare responsibility; disproportionate load of teaching by female academics, a pre-existing anomaly globally. The teaching workload was worsened by the change to online teaching and the curriculum adjustment that it required. Failure to recognise this and address it will compromise our national agenda to diversify academia. Diversity of perspectives enables an inclusive application of scientific thinking for the benefit of all society.

She referred to an article where Prof Tshilidzi Marwala identified the missing segment in spatial planning, namely, the forgotten informal settlements. Whilst there is technology that can map informal settlement, as alluded to in the article, the vast informal settlements in our country, need to be at the centre of our planning.

Dlamini said that this reminded her of Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s assertion, that when you solve for the weakest in the value chain, you solve for the whole society. Population, within countries and across the globe, is not homogenous, research should benefit all people, especially the most disadvantaged. Protective policies may exclude the people most at risk and benefit the privileged few that are close to power. Exclusion accords a lower status to those that are excluded and thus perpetuate inequality. It is for this reason that she is encouraged by the diversity of membership of ASSAf, stating that it is important that no social identity is left outside the net if inequality is to be eradicated.

She is also encouraged by the different initiatives by ASSAf to make science accessible to the general public. What she would add as another important ingredient in addressing our serious challenges as a country is an inclusive culture. Diversity is wasted if different cultures are expected to assimilate to the dominant culture. Embracing different ideologies, different perspectives within a common value system is the differentiator between institutions that thrive to those that retain the status quo in spite of bringing different groups around the table. An inclusive culture is driven by servant leadership.

It is during challenging times that the best and the worst of each one of us is exposed. The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us how interconnected we are within countries and globally and the importance of collaboration. Though we encountered and continue to encounter many challenges, many positives came from this reality.

In her conclusion she identified three things that in her view will enable leaders in different areas of society to achieve an inclusive and prosperous South Africa. At the core of the three things is ethical selfless leadership with humility. The first one is leadership that genuinely believes and embraces diversity; the second one is leadership that believes in collaboration and lastly, leadership that has the integrity to do what’s right at all times, regardless of the consequences to self. She believes that if each one of us tries to lead with integrity wherever we are; allow diverse voices to be heard and seek collaboration across disciplines, institutions and indeed sectors, we’ll achieve more as society. 

Top Scholars in South Africa Honoured

Thirty-one of the country’s leading scholars and scientists were inaugurated as Members of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) at the annual Awards Ceremony held virtually on 14 October 2020. As the official Academy of South Africa, ASSAf has as core function to honour the country’s most outstanding scholars by electing them to Membership of the Academy.

ASSAf Members are drawn from the full spectrum of disciplines. New Members are elected each year by the full existing Membership. Membership of the Academy is in recognition of scholarly achievement. Members are the core asset of the Academy and give of their time and expertise voluntarily in the service of society. The 31 new ASSAf Members bring the total Membership of ASSAf to 597.

At the same time ten new members of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) were inaugurated. SAYAS was launched in October 2011 as a means to enable South Africa’s young scientists to fully participate in local and internationally relevant research and development agendas. It provides a national platform where leading young scientists from all disciplines in the country can interact, and also access international networking and career development opportunities. SAYAS members are young scientists below the age of 40, have PhDs and are deemed excellent in their fields of expertise. SAYAS members come from all disciplines including pure and applied sciences, humanities, social sciences and the arts.

The new ASSAf Members are:

Prof Lucy Allais is Professor of Philosophy at Wits; Director: Wits Centre for Ethics and Henry Allison Chair of the History of Philosophy, University of California.

Prof Roumen Anguelov is the Head of the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at UP.

Prof Linda-Gail Bekker is a physician-scientist who, as Deputy Director, co- leads the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at UCT and is also the Chief Operations Officer and Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation.

Prof David Bilchitz is full Professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Law at UJ and Director of The South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC) at the same university.

Prof Petra Brysiewicz is full Professor, School of Nursing and Public Health at UKZN.

Prof Linda Chisholm is Professor in the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation at UJ.

Prof Alan Cornell is Professor of Physics at UJ.

Prof Shakila Dada is Professor and Director: Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, UP.

Prof Collet Dandara is Professor: Division of Human Genetics, Department of Pathology & Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, UCT.

Prof Amaboo (Ames) Dhai is Visiting Professor of Bioethics and Health Law at the School of Clinical Medicine, Wits.

Prof Anthony Figaji is a full Professor of Neurosurgery at UCT and holds the only DST/NRF SARChI Chair currently occupied by a surgeon.

Prof André Ganswindt is a behavioural endocrinologist, Professor and Director, Mammal Research Institute, UP.

Prof Thirumala Govender is Head: NanoHealth Pillar, UKZN and Specialist Evaluator at the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

Prof Sheryl Hendriks is Head of Department for Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development, UP.

Prof George Janelidze is Professor of Mathematics at UCT.

Prof Tien-Chien Jen is Professor and Head of Department: Mechanical Engineering Science at UJ. He is also Director: UJ-Nanjing Tech Joint Research Centre.

Prof Lizette Koekemoer is Co-Director: Wits Research Institute for Malaria and Research Professor at the same university.

Prof Janice Limson is Professor in Biotechnology at Rhodes University and holds the DSI/NRF South African Research Chair (Biotechnology Innovation & Engagement).

Prof Marlize Lombard is Professor and Chair of Archaeology at the UJ Palaeo-Research Institute.

Prof Johnny Mahlangu is Head of the School of Pathology at Wits as well as Clinical Haematologist at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Johannesburg Hospital and NHLS.

Prof Felix Maringe is full Professor in Higher Education and Head of the School of Education at Wits.

Prof Johannes Meyer is Senior Professor and Head of the Department of Pure and Applied Mathematics, UFS.

Prof Kavilan Moodley is Full Professor and Director: Astrophysics Research Centre at UKZN.

Prof Caroline Ncube holds a SARChI Chair in Intellectual Property (IP), Innovation and Development, UCT.

Prof Mpiko Ntsekhe is the Helen and Morris Mauerberger Professor and Chair of Cardiology at UCT and Head of the Cardiac Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Prof Innocent Pikirayi is Deputy Dean for Postgraduate Studies and Research Ethics, UP.

Prof Christa Rautenbach is full Professor in the Faculty of Law, NWU.

Prof Guy Richards is Emeritus Professor Departments of Critical Care and Pulmonology, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Wits.

Prof Hussein Solomon is Senior Professor in the Department of Political Studies and Governance, UFS.

Prof Linda Theron is an educational psychologist by training and is full Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, UP and an Extraordinary Professor in Optentia Research Focus Area, NWU.

Prof Ambroise Wonkam is a Professor of Medical Genetics, Director of GeneMAP (Genetic Medicine of African Populations), and Deputy Dean Research at the Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT. 

The ten new SAYAS members are:

Prof Aletta Millen is Associate Professor in the School of Physiology, University of the Witwatersrand.

A/Prof Dustin van der Haar is Associate Professor at the University of Johannesburg’s Academy of Computer Science and Software Engineering.

Prof Emma C Lubaale is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at Rhodes University and holds an NRF Y2 Rating.

Dr Hlumani Ndlovu is a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Chemical & Systems Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town and holds an NRF Y Rating.

Prof Jennifer Fitchett is Associate Professor of Physical Geography, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand and holds an NRF Y1 Rating.

Dr Lembe Magwaza is Associate Professor, School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal and holds an NRF Y2 Rating.

A/Prof Mmaki E. Jantjies
is Associate Professor in the Department of Information Systems, University of the Western Cape.

Dr Olanrewaju Oladimeji
is Senior Lecturer/Epidemiologist, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences at Walter Sisulu University.

Prof Sarah Skeen is Co-Director and Associate Professor, Institute for Life Course Health Research, Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University.

Dr Vhahangwele Masindi is Research Scientist at Magalies Water, Research Fellow at UNISA and a part-time Lecturer at the University of Venda.

ASSAf Recognises Outstanding Achievement

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) recognised two of South Africa’s foremost scholars with gold medals at its virtual Annual Awards Ceremony held on 14 October 2020. ASSAf annually awards ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medals for outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society. This year the awards were presented to Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, and Prof Leila Patel, the DSI/NRF South African Research Chair in Welfare and Social Policy, and Professor of Social Work.

Prof Tshilidzi Marwala is an engineer and AI Professor who has made a distinguished contribution to the development of artificial intelligence and its various applications at the highest academic levels of research and postgraduate supervision. Prof Marwala has used his position as an academic expert and science communicator to allay the fears and concerns expressed by the public toward artificial intelligence. Through Prof Marwala's outreach activities, he has become a role model to University students and an inspiration to high school learners. Prof Marwala's personal journey is inspiring and captures the imagination of young and old. Prof Marwala's unwavering commitment to excellence, which he attributes to his family, ensures that colleagues and students strive to be excellent.

Prof Marwala is a Fellow of the Academy of Science of South Africa, the Third World Academy of Sciences, the African Academy of Science and the South African Institute of Electrical Engineering. Professor Marwala is a Distinguished Scientist of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). This acknowledgement from the ACM is reserved for the top 10% of ACM members who have made a significant impact on the computing field. In 2004, at the age of 33, Prof Marwala became the youngest recipient of the Order of Mapungubwe for his "inspirational achievements in the field of engineering science". 

Prof Marwala has made significant contributions to the international policy on Open Data in a Big Data World for the International Council of Science (ICSU). In South Africa, Prof Marwala is the Deputy Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The purpose of the commission is to assist the government to develop strategies to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital industrial revolution. Prof Marwala is has shown that he is more than just a spokesperson for AI and 4IR; he is an influencer, motivator and commentator who engages with problems facing society at large. 

Prof Leila Patel is not only recognised as a leading scholar in the field of social development internationally, she is also deeply committed to using science to effect the betterment of society both in South Africa and in wider developing contexts. She is recognised as a global leader in the field of social development, having refined social development theory and developmental social welfare theory and practice for developing contexts. She has applied this thinking to informing social policy, and developing and testing innovative programmes that aim to promote better social and economic outcomes for vulnerable groups. This ethos, which emerged in her PhD research, continues to infuse her scholarship.

Her PhD, further developed in her book Restructuring Social Welfare Options for South Africa published in 1993 by Ravan Press provided the conceptual basis for the social development approach to social welfare in South Africa and later informed the White Paper for Social Welfare that was adopted by parliament in 1997. This policy document, until very recently, was the guiding document for the country’s welfare approach. It fundamentally shifts thinking about social welfare from being a state-led top-down colonial system to one of developmental social welfare; that is, a policy approach that recognises the roles of all actors to support communities and people through economic strengthening and social welfare services to best meet their needs and achieve their goals. In her role as Director General of Social Welfare in the Mandela-led government she brought scientists and policy makers together in the Lund Commission to conceptualise and promulgate the Child Support Grant (CSG). Her research continues to assess the important effects of the CSG – which now reaches over 11 million children – and to consider innovative mechanisms to enhance the outcomes of children who are recipients.

In all of the above work there is clear evidence of the ways in which Prof Patel has used scientific knowledge and activity – her own and that of others that she recognises as playing a critical scientific role – as a common ground to inform social policy and practice in South Africa and to serve society. This continues to be a core value of her ongoing research. Prof Patel’s career has been an inspiration to many researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Her own energy, ideas and enthusiasm have inspired countless researchers who have worked at the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) - a research centre that she founded and built over 14 years to promote cutting-edge basic and applied social development research to better address complex development challenges. The CSDA has flourished under her leadership to become a unit that now employs 18 staff members. Part of the CSDA’s mission has been to train social development researchers. Many of these researchers and students have gone on to play leading roles in national government departments, academic institutions, civil society organisations, and corporate social responsibility units in the private sector.

In 2014 Prof Patel received the Woman in Science Award in recognition of the work she has done in promoting the field of social development and developmental welfare, and the impact it has had on development practice in the country. Earlier this year she won the Katherine A Kendall Memorial Award from the International Association of Schools of Social Work, in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of social work education internationally. These awards recognize the immense contribution she has made to research excellence, teaching, and inspiring the next generation of social development scholars, policy makers and practitioners.  Prof Patel has published prolifically, won many awards, and held distinguished positions during her career to date. But as was written by Prof Michael Sherraden, George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor at Washington University St Louis, in 2014 “from the outset, Dr Patel’s career in social welfare and social development was deeply engaged in the community and committed not just to effective practice, but also to applied scholarship, and to the larger goal of freedom. Her grounding in communities and in scientific inquiry became a strong foundation.” That foundation has led to ongoing and significant impacts that demonstrate how science can serve society, and that is perhaps her greatest achievement to date.

 

 

COVID-19 and Human Rights

The International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies and the Academy of Science of South Africa have collaborated to organise a virtual event on 7 December 2020, highlighting key rights-related challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introductory Remarks

Jonathan Jansen, President, Academy of Science of South Africa

COVID-19 and Human Rights: Perspectives on Socio-economic COVID-19 and Human Rights: Perspectives on Socio-economic Rights and Violence

South Africa, like other countries worldwide, was forced to impose lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19 since March 2020. While the measures taken by the government aided in slowing down the spread of the pandemic, they have had far-reaching consequences for a range of socio-economic rights, such as the rights to education, food, and work. They have also had serious consequences for civil and political rights, including through a rise in the levels of domestic violence, and because of the use of force by law enforcement officials in imposing these measures. This panel discussion will explore the impact of COVID-19 on socio-economic human rights and violence faced by citizens.

Click here to access recoring of the discussion

Christof Heyns (Moderator), Professor of Law, University of Pretoria, MASSAf and Member of the U.N. Human Rights Committee

Rachel Jewkes, Executive Scientist: Research Strategy, South African Medical Research Council

Sandy Liebenberg, HF Oppenheimer Chair in Human Rights Law, University of Stellenbosch and Vice- President, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Christopher Mbazira, Professor of Law, Makarere University, Uganda

International Events

Click on the link to access international speakers: https://www.internationalhrnetwork.org/resources-866326-375703.html