SA eyes World Science Forum

Sunday, December 10, 2017

South Africa has thrown its hat into the ring to host the World Science Forum in 2021.

Initially held only in Hungary, central Europe, this biennial forum decided to increase its global footprint and so is held outside of Hungary every second year.

Hosting of such an international event would further raise the profile of African science and enhance the continent’s science prowess on the global stage, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said.

To initiate the process, the minister said her department would begin talks with the Hungarian Academy of Science and other organisers of the forum.

She was speaking during the closing of the highly successful third instalment of the Science Forum South Africa, which attracted over 2000 researchers, academics, and scientists mainly from around this continent.

The forum provided a platform to sharpen public debate on the role of science in the lives of people and how the practice of science can be advanced. It was held under the theme ‘Igniting conversation about science’. 

In a bid to boost the training of the next generation of scientists and researchers on the continent, Minister Pandor announced the establishment of five new research chairs at universities around Africa, in commemoration of the 100th year anniversary of the birth of Oliver Tambo.

Discussions were advanced between the department and the Oliver Tambo family and foundation, to create the programme based on the South African Research Chairs model.

The Research Chairs Initiative has enriched South Africa’s science and technology capacities significantly, with close to 200 eminent researchers chairs at universities around the country, significantly increasing and improving research output and providing valuable impetus to advanced researcher training.

“There was a strong call at the Forum for governments to invest in science and innovation in Africa and to develop robust national systems of innovation. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa tasked us to design innovation systems that encourage young people to turn ideas into products and services,” said the minister.

In response to the Deputy President’s call, the department will strategically leverage South Africa’s current leadership of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to support the development of national and regional innovation systems.   

“As political support and appreciation of science is critical, the DST as a first step in partnering with UNESCO, would also facilitate a science and technology policy orientation course for parliamentarians, early in 2018 – in anticipation of a significant rise in the number of parliamentarians participating in next year’s Forum,” Minister Pandor said.

The closing ceremony also saw Science Diplomacy Awards conferred on several scientists on the continent.

Prof Phuti Ngoepe of the University of Limpopo received the Human Capital Development Award, for his efforts to leverage international cooperation to support the career development of young scientists in Africa.

The outgoing Director-General of the Non-Aligned Movement Centre for Science and Technology Prof Arun Kulshreshtha received the International Peace Understanding and Solidarity Award, for successfully ensuring the centre succeeds despite limited resources.

The former CEO of the SA Human Science Research, Olive Shisana received the Science Diplomacy Award for putting science at service for fostering international friendship, for her contribution throughout her career to advance South Africa’s position in the global science arena including in advancing the women and science agenda.

Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s Director-General for Research, Innovation and Science, received the Excellence in Global Science Award for his contributions over more than a decade to the strategic South Africa-EU science partnership while Heide Hackmann of ICSU received the award for harnessing scientific advice for multilateral

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