The highlights and challenges of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Annual Report and Audited Financial Statements 2009/10 were outlined by the NRF in its presentation.
Members asked how NRF planned to secure the funds required for ageing infrastructure; how the Research Infrastructure Support Programme had been received; for detail on where exactly NRF would cut its budget; why the NRF exported PhD students and if NRF had any infrastructure plans to attract scientists to South Africa; and if there would be internal capacity to enable full capacity for bursaries should the NRF receive more funding for bursaries.
Members asked if the outreach programmes indicated that the youth of South Africa were interested in science; what Climate Change indicators had emerged from the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory; if underwater vehicles had contributed to the underwater mining industry at Alexkor; and if Nuclear Accelerator Driven Systems were used for transmutation reactions to clean up nuclear waste.
Members also asked if NRF had a strategy to address all of its challenges and for clarification on demographics, gender and in-service training opportunities at NRF.
The Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) then presented on its 2009/10 Annual Report. The current research agenda was focused on African Continental Integration (2008-2011). Researchers assessed regional integration of resources of individual nations as well as their influence across regions. South Africa continued to experience the impact of migration and the extent to which regional integration impacted on crime and human insecurity was of concern. Trans-border resources such as water and forestry also had implications for regional security.
The population of the African continent had reached the one billion mark and was very young in age compared to other continents. Major challenges were lack of education, jobs, cohesive societies and the extent to which governments dealt with poverty eradication. AISA had established a Science and Technology Advisory Team to address the problems relating to urban sprawl and informal settlements dynamics, such as sanitation and food security.
Total income generated amounted to R30 684 million and total expenditure was R33 114 million. Employee-related costs totaled 55% of the MTEF allocation.
AISA aimed to improve research capacity, funding from government and co-operation with like-minded institutions.
Members asked which other departments interacted with AISA; how AISA interacted with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); how AISA decided on what research projects to pursue; what criteria was used for deciding on which provinces to visit; whether AISA’s research outcomes would be more effectively accessed if published on-line.
Members asked for clarification of the role of AISA as opposed to the role of the HSRC; if the foreign nationals employed by AISA were researchers or if they were in the Human Resources department; and whether foreign immigrant researchers traveling internationally brought back any reward to South Africa.
Members further asked for clarity on the non-compliance to the Public Finance Management Act outlined by the Auditor General in the Audit Report; how AISA planned to address the opinion of the Auditor General who stated that the Accounting Authority had not designed and implemented adequate control; if any other African governments funded AISA’s research; why around R900 000 was paid out for performance incentives when AISA had not performed in terms of income generation; and for clarification on the large employee-related expenditures.
Questions from the Committee included asking about the increased expenditure on salaries, did the DST value the Academy, were any of the Academy’s members on the Ministerial Review Panel, did the Academy believe government was doing enough in assisting scholars with their PhDs, what was the membership criteria to join ASSAf, satisfaction with the Auditor-General’ report, the length of the term for Academy council members. The Chairperson was concerned about the role of ASSAf. Its role was supposed to be at the extreme end of any science research institution and “to be the intervener to all the institutions” of the country, but he was not sure of the Academy’s role from its report to this Committee.
Highlights & Challenges
NRF was excited about investment in competitive infrastructure such as the High Resolution Electron Microscope (HRTEM) for observation of matter at the atomic level, which was a first for Africa. It would be built over the following two years at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
NRF focused on the exceptionally novel – high risk, high reward – as well as mainstream research. Blue Skies Research tackled the talent of the novel side of the research market and NRF had received over 400 applications for this project.
NRF had signed 42 bi-lateral agreements for international funding of research. Exchange of research activity enabled South Africa’s research scientists to be exposed to the best in the world.
A new Research Chair was in place for the Femtosecond Laser which enabled observation of fast chemical reactions through very high frequency and intensity laser equipment.
The establishment of a Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology provided the scientific understanding to reduce the rate and impacts of animal and plant invasion species which impacted on agriculture, forestry and society in general.
Challenges included stabilizing core funding and increasing direct funding; low bursary values - R52.7 million received from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) was a start for NRF to increase bursary values to optimal future levels; NRF supporting only 5% of all registered post graduate students limited NRF’s ability to influence and drive the system; together with the DST, NRF had prioritized strengthening of the Thuthuka programme - a programme at the heart of NRF’s transformation objectives - to develop it to its full potential.
National Research Facilities for Astro, Space and Geosciences included the Hartebeeshoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO), the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town and the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO). National Research Facilities for Biodiversity, Conservation and Environment included the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) in Grahamstown, the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) scattered around the country and the national Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG). Nuclear Science Research was conducted at the iThemba LABS (Accelerator Based Sciences) situated in Cape Town and on the Wits University Campus.
Highlights of these facilities were that they supported 446 postgraduate students and yielded 181 Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) publications; the KAT-7 in Carnarvon had been completed; HartRAO and South Africa’s Largest Telescope (SALT) Optics had solved their respective technical problems and SALT would be fully operational early in 2011; iThemba LABS ability to manufacture radio active isotopes; aligning of iThemba with the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) - two leading nuclear research bodies in the world- to collectively market their isotopes; and the remotely operated underwater vehicle and inshore marine research vessel which would assist all marine academic fraternities at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB).
iThemba’s study of sub-atomic particles had implications for cancer treatment and disease-processes. The HMO was capable of providing critical Space Weather information not only to the Aviation and Defence sectors but on a more commercial basis too.
Sound financial management by NRF enabled financial turnaround for iThemba LABS (R25 million); NZG (R5 million); South African Astronomical Observatory (R3.5 million); and HARTRAO (R3.5 million).
Challenges for the facilities were retaining the high level of competitive skills in the country; recapitalization of ageing infrastructure; and growth of the core budget overtaken by inflation.
Highlights of the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) were active campaigns for awareness of S&T through the media; Science Olympiads, Young Science and Lens Competitions; and engagement in Science Education for the next generation.
Total income of NRF had been stable over the past three years and this was a concern for NRF. DST was acutely aware of this limitation imposed on NRF. The ratio of contract grants to government grants was not satisfactory. NRF wished to increase the number of government grants compared to contract grants. Total expenditure fluctuated more than total income due to ‘risk spending’ on investments to ensure spending of all funding allocated to NRF. NRF received an unqualified audit report and the auditor had commended NRF’s effective system of internal control. Expenditure rate was 97%.
Financial performance ratios for the Research and Innovation Support Agency (RISA), SAASTA and the National Facilities (NF) were listed on page 12 of the presentation and actual grant expenditure on grants and bursaries and number of peer reviewed articles published by grant holders and NF researchers were listed on page 15 of the presentation.
1. Promote internationally competitive research as a basis for Knowledge Economy; NRF was working closely with DST to ensure that South Africa put its best foot forward in the international bid to bring the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope to South Africa
2. Ensure human capacity development and a critical workforce mass through supporting PhD and Masters students both locally and abroad, with the limitation that NRF supported only 5% of all registered post graduate students. NRF supported 1265 PhD students (52% Black, 51% women) and 2 203 Masters students (53% Black, 52% women). The aim was to have 80% Black and over 50% women Honours, Masters and PhD students.
3. Provide cutting-edge Research Technology and Innovation Platforms such as SALT.
4. Operate world-class evaluation and grant-making systems.
5. Contribute towards a vibrant National Innovation System.
Ms M Shinn (DA) asked why the NRF President’s salary increased by R0.5 million in 2009/10.
Mr Bishen Singh, Chief Financial Officer, NRF, replied that the President was NRF’s Vice President in 2008/09 and was promoted to CEO and President of NRF on 1 April 2009, which explained the adjustment in salary.
Ms Shinn asked how NRF planned to secure the funds required of R2 000 million over the following three years for ageing infrastructure, as without the proper infrastructure, the science could not be conducted.
Dr Van Jaarsveld said that the NRF was working together with DST to meet its Infrastructure Recapitalization Strategy (R600 million per year) and resolve the infrastructure backlog. An agreement had been reached for NRF to use a R20 million emergency fund over a three year period until Treasury responded to the bulk funding request by NRF. DST and Treasury were engaging on how to address the issue.
Ms Shinn asked how the Research Infrastructure Support Programme had been received. She asked for feedback on the National Nano-Equipment Programme - the HRTEM had been covered in the presentation - and what initiatives had been undertaken to ensure that the Programme continued.
Dr Van Jaarsveld replied that DST had secured NRF R110 million per year for the National Equipment Programme. The Nano- Equipment Programme had a budget of R20 million per year for applicants to apply on a competitive basis from around the country. NRF could share data on the progress of the Institutes which were funded.
Ms Shinn said that earlier in the year the Minister had informed her that the NRF would have budget cuts of R20 million in the current year and R80 million the following year. She asked for detail on where exactly NRF would cut its budget.
Dr Van Jaarsveld said the decision by the Minister to cut R120 million over a three year period (this included the previous year of R20 million) was made in January 2009 at a time when Treasury was extremely hesitant to grow investment across all systems for reasons relating to the global recession. Budget cuts were therefore a necessary evil, but NRF was working closely with DST to overcome the potential effect of the budget cut where possible within the organization. A degree of the cut would be offset by the increase of R52.7 million grant money allocated to NRF and it was hoped that this grant would continue to be offered going forward.
Ms Shinn asked why the NRF would export PhD students to get their qualifications elsewhere amidst the problem of the core rate of students in South Africa. Her concern was that in the United States there was aggressive immigration and fast tracking of resident status as a means to keep scientists in their country. She asked if the NRF had any infrastructure plans to attract scientists to South Africa.
Dr Van Jaarsveld said the NRF had to enhance its local ability to grow, supervise and provide platforms to support PhDs. Currently, in all areas of science, South Africa did not have the supervising capacity to enhance the core rate of PhD students and exporting PhD students was a necessary short term risk. Historically students returned with vast experience and made a significant contribution to South Africa’s economy. NRF believed that the combination of exporting students for qualifications abroad and growing local support platforms would enable South Africa to achieve a strong scientific PhD base in the long term.
Mr J Thebede (ANC) asked if there would be internal capacity to enable full capacity for bursaries should the NRF receive more than, or say double, the allocated R52.7 million for bursaries per year.
Dr Van Jaarsveld said that NRF electronic systems were highly scalable and NRF’s internal capacity, through commitment and hard work, was confident that it had the potential to accommodate any investment growth. The R52.7 million was allocated in June and would be completely disbursed by the end of October. The NRF was typically a funding agency and its systems were geared toward rolling out large numbers of applications accurately and efficiently as indicated by the key performance indicators in the Annual Report.
Dr Gansen Pillay, NRF Deputy President, added the disbursement of the R52.7 million still could not meet the demand for bursaries. Increased funding was required to increase four-fold for the NRF to be able to influence the system more meaningfully. It was difficult to retain PhD students who were under pressure to put food on the table, and therefore it was necessary to offer bursaries which were commensurate with a salary.
Mr Thebede asked if the outcomes of the SAASTA meetings to foster youth interest in science indicated that the youth were interested in science.
Dr Van Jaarsveld said that the Science Forums were directed at empowering educators to more effectively teach their science scholars. The rate of educator attendance at the Science Forums indicated that educators were passionate about teaching science and this would be transferred to the scholars. The Outreach competitions focused on the students themselves. Currently, the public understanding of how science impacted on society was not adequate.
Mr Thebede asked why broad investment in Established Researchers was 30% in 2008 and 19% in 2009 and for Applied Industrial Research Innovation was 30% in 2008 and 10% in 2009 when there was an increase in investment in all other broad investment areas.
Dr Van Jaarsveld replied that NRF had a limited pot of money available and in its effort to cover investment in all areas, it was necessary to shift investments between areas.
Mr Thebede asked if the Space Weather Centre at HMO was engaged with challenges of Climate Change and what Climate Change indicators had emerged to assist South Africa to deal with it.
Dr Van Jaarsveld replied that solar activities fluctuated over time and earth was only shielded to a degree by the earth’s magnetic field. Solar fluctuations affected Satellite Communication Systems and even highly sensitive Military Communication Systems and scientists were also finding that human beings’ mood was affected by the rate of solar bombardment throughout the year. Thus Space Weather was important on many commercial dimensions. One of the potential influences on Global Climate Change was changes in radio emissions from the sun. The human element, whereby gas emissions were damaging the ozone layer through industrial acitivity, was a major issue, as life on earth would cease without the ozone layer. There was nothing that could be done to change the sun’s radiation pattern.
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) asked what NRF was doing to encourage Black women to participate in the Marine Education Sector.
Dr Van Jaarsveld said that a woman had piloted the SA Agulhas from Cape Town to Durban to demonstrate that women had the ability to run science platforms. However, the historic participation of women in science was highly variable. Women dominated Life Sciences but the participation rate was lower in the Physical Sciences. NRF worked with explicit targets in terms of demographics and gender issues to build a more representative workforce across the science system.
Ms Dunjwa asked why there was only one female in the Corporate Structure.
Dr Van Jaarsveld replied that the Board had worked hard to balance representation in the Corporate Executive but were unsuccessful. This was a challenge and was being addressed. All senior managers were on fixed term appointments and there would be opportunities to strengthen the role of women in the organization.
Ms Dunjwa asked if labour among NRF staff, irrespective of their union affiliation or starting job at NRF, had in-service training incentives so that they could be trained to become scientists.
Dr Van Jaarsveld said that as reflected in the Annual Report, the NRF experienced very few labour issues due to the fact that NRF was a highly unionized institution. Most of the staff members at NRF had a Masters degree in order to perform the work required and most members up to management level were unionized. Unskilled labour such as the gardening and cleaning staff at the NZG were also highly unionized. One of the strategic drivers of NRF was to put in place in-service training abilities. Significant opportunities were available at all levels of the organizations to grow skills and pursue graduate and post graduate studies.
Ms Dunjwa asked if NRF had a Wellness Programme over and above the HIV Committees whereby staff could be educated on all aspects of health.
Dr Van Jaarsveld replied that the HIV Committees occasionally conducted wellness initiatives but the NRF felt that some Committees were not operating at their full potential. The idea of a broader Wellness Programme within NRF had been discussed but had not been exploited fully.
Ms P Mocumi (ANC) asked if NRF had a strategy to address the challenges.
Dr Van Jaarsveld replied that NRF was working together with DST to submit to National Treasury a Comprehensive Investment Growth Strategy to coherently address the challenges of investment in human capital development and in infrastructure going forward. Some of the initiatives were long term commitments which would be implemented systematically in order to prevent falling behind and to ensure competitive capacity growth going forward.
The Chairperson commented that turnaround on the number of postgraduates required a National Science and Education workshop with representation from the Departments of Finance, Education and Science and Technology as well as the Human Resource Development Council. Turnaround strategy did not include most institutions which were previously disadvantaged and therefore it was necessary to discuss how to include all institutions in the strategy as well as how to accommodate students who could not afford their first degree.
He asked if NRF underwater vehicles had contributed to the Alexkor underwater mining industry.
Dr Van Jaarsveld replied that NRF did indeed engage with Alexkor and that the remotely operated underwater vehicle and the inshore boat base measured the impact of mining and trawling damage on the ocean floor along the coast of South Africa as well as on the East Coast of Africa.
The Chairperson asked if Nuclear Accelerator Driven Systems were used for transmutation reactions to clean up nuclear waste.
Dr Gatsha Mazithulela (Vice-president of facilities, NRF) said that the same transmutations used to make radio isotopes were used to make deadly weapons. The Transmutation Programme no longer existed and iThemba LABS could not get approval to perform transmutations. A flagship project at iThemba LABS called Terra Incognito was studying the properties of deformed and strange nuclei outside the boundaries of the known nuclei with the aim of discovering how to create unstable radio isotopes and reduce nuclear waste without releasing large amounts of energy.
The Chairperson said that an unqualified report did not mean that it was a complete report. There were some outstanding incomplete reports for 2009/10 which the Committee was waiting on.
Dr Van Jaarsveld replied that the unqualified report referred to the previous financial year. All issues had been dealt with and it had been signed off by the Auditor General. The ongoing SAAO report had been completed and would be dealt with through the normal channels and could be made available at NRF’s next visit to the Committee early in 2011.
The Chairperson commented that the SKA project lacked attention toward encouraging scholars to pursue careers in science. Importing of skills for the SKA project would mean loss of revenue for South Africa.
Dr Van Jaarsveld reiterated that the SKA project had set the target that 30% of investment capital needed to be in human development capital. The project currently supported 240 students at all levels in radio astronomy and was moving forward towards achieving the target.
The Chairperson said that DTI had appointed a Space Council for the Space Technology Programme and asked what the relationship was with NRF.
Dr Van Jaarsveld said that the Space Council consisted of members from the NF or the NRF.
The Chairperson said that according to the National Energy Act, renewable energy was hosted by the South African National Energy Research Institute (SANERI) and South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI). He asked if NRF had considered that the legislative system may imply that the Energy Department has sole competency in terms of development of renewable energy.
Dr Van Jaarsveld clarified that NRF’s involvement was on human capacity development necessary to feed into the programmes.
Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) 2009/10 Annual Report
Dr Matlotleng Patrick Matlou, AISA CEO, said that AISA’s objectives were to promote knowledge and understanding of African affairs through leading social scientists; research and disseminate information; and give advice and facilitate appropriate action in relation to relevant events on the African continent. The current research agenda was focused on African Continental Integration (2008-2011). AISA engaged with international partners Brazil, China, India, Japan, Turkey and the USA.
Government and democracy research was focused on; South Africa’s engagement in the reconstruction of Zimbabwe; on enhancing governance through Information Technology; and on exploring African government models, such as leadership issues.
AISA sought to create peaceful environments so that sustainable development could occur in countries such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. South Africa continued to experience the impact of migration and the extent to which regional integration impacted on crime and human insecurity was of concern. Trans-border resources such as water from Lesotho to South Africa, the management of forestry and Climate Change also had implications for regional security.
Projects undertaken assessed regional integration of resources of individual nations as well as their influence across regions. AISA had assessed trade between Ghana and Togo, as well as Cameroon and Nigeria. South Africa was interested in learning from these countries to improve on its trade partnerships and economic activity. Africa’s sustainable development encompassed both human and natural resources.
Africa’s relationship with China was not as effective as it appeared, as most exports to China were in raw state and did not lead to job creation or enhancement of human resource development. The population of the African continent had reached the one billion mark and was very young in age compared to other continents. Major challenges were lack of education, jobs, cohesive societies and the extent to which governments dealt with poverty eradication.
AISA’s contribution to Science and Technology was from a Social Science perspective. It ensured that knowledge was holistic and contributed to Human Development and that Intellectual Property was protected. AISA facilitated technology transfer within South Africa and between South Africa and other African cities and had established a Science and Technology Advisory Team to address the problems relating to urban sprawl and informal settlements dynamics, such as sanitation and food security.
With regard to policy, AISA had a scholarship, fellowship and internship programme to promote interest in African issues as well as for sharing of information between students of South Africa and other countries. AISA had partnered with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation on an ongoing project in the Gulf of Guinea (oil and marine resources) and also to address crime which has found its way into South Africa. Norway had funded the Department of Defence project to examine gender issues within security in South Africa, SADC, and the African continent. Special projects and initiatives were listed in the presentation.
AISA published its research outcomes quarterly in the accredited journal, Africa Insight. AISA also published two peer reviewed books on AISA research projects and 28 policy briefs for policy makers and interest groups. Library outreach programmes had reached 121 students.
AISA’s Office of International Liaison focused on developing partnerships, hosting events and engaging with the media.
Challenges for AISA were: competition from other organizations such as universities, research consultancies and non governmental organizations which also focused on Africa; the need to create varied sources of funding to augment the parliamentary grant; lack of attractiveness to work at AISA; difficulty in attracting quality researchers; non competitive remuneration; and management challenges. Solutions included delineating AISA’s role as dictated by legislation; partnership with other similar research and governmental organizations in order to have better impact; develop a clear communication and marketing strategy to ensure products and services were visible and attractive to all its stakeholders and accessible to policy-makers and decision-makers; and implementing recommendations cited in the 2010 Institutional Review to improve research capacity, funding from government, co-operation with like-minded institutions and good management.
AISA had received an unqualified audit report. The Auditor-General had alerted AISA to non-compliance with regard to AISA’s Asset Register; use of a travel agency without a Service Level Agreement; and employees taking leave with incorrect data entries. An electronic system had since replaced the manual system and eliminated inaccuracies.
Total income generated amounted to R30 684 million and total expenditure was R33 114 million. Employee-related costs totaled 55% of the MTEF allocation. AISA was solvent at year end with total assets less current liabilities at R11 392 million.
Ms Mocumi asked what departments, other than Education, Social Development and Land Affairs were involved in the AISA processes.
Ms Mocumi asked for clarity on the non-compliance to the Public Finance Management Act outlined by the Auditor-General in the Audit Report: procurement of R 1.3 million; the SARS penalty for late payment; and the Workman’s Compensation Fund.
Ms Dunjwa recommended that AISA produce a simplified version of the role of the entity so that the ordinary person could understand what it was doing on issues in South Africa, such as the impact of AISA on xenophobia.
Ms Dunjwa said that the Auditor-General’s comment was that AISA’s accounting authority had not designed and implemented adequate control. She asked how AISA planned to address the situation.
Ms Dunjwa asked AISA to provide criteria for deciding on which provinces to visit. Since AISA was important for the survival and integrity of people and Science in Africa, it would stand to reason that all the provinces should have been visited.
Ms Dunjwa asked how AISA interacted with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Ms Shinn asked how AISA decided on what research projects to pursue.
Ms Shinn asked if any other African governments funded AISA’s research.
Ms Shinn was concerned that the libraries did not bring in income and that there was lack of interest in books and research material. She asked who AISA was writing the research material for as, if it was not being referenced, it was a pointless exercise. She questioned whether it would be more effectively accessed if published on-line.
Ms Shinn said that there had been debate within the internet community as to whether publicly funded research should be made available for free to the public. She asked how this would impact on AISA’s research income.
Ms Shinn asked why around R900 000 was paid out for performance incentives when AISA had not performed in terms of income generation and research being accessed. She asked what the criteria was for paying incentives and who received the incentives.
Ms Shinn said that AISA’s target for researchers was 15 and they had succeeded in employing only nine researchers. The breakdown of employees showed that 70% were foreign nationals. She asked if the foreign nationals were researchers or if they were in the Human Resources department.
The Chairperson asked for clarification of the role of AISA as opposed to the role of the HSRC in terms of disseminating information to the State and DST. He commented that AISA had been created by the old government for a specific role and asked how AISA had adapted its role to fit the current needs of the country.
The Chairperson asked for clarification on the large employee-related expenditures. He was concerned about reports that AISA foreign immigrant researchers had taken South African government money to perform research in foreign countries but had not actually performed the research themselves.
The Chairperson asked how AISA was addressing the problem of AISA immigrant delegates representing South Africa in other countries. It was an embarrassment to South Africa when these foreign immigrant researchers could not interact effectively with foreign countries on the socio-economic situation in South Africa. He also asked for clarity as to whether AISA was spending a great deal of government money on foreign researchers traveling internationally without bringing back any reward to South Africa.
Africa Institute of South Africa response to questions
Dr M Matluo (CEO, AISA) said that it was very important for AISA to take the initiative when embarking on research projects. The research and development agenda for 2011 focused on continetal intergration so that African countries could have a united plan and researchers could work in an intergrated framework. There was no other African government contributing funds to AISA, but only the Norwegian government which was working with the Institute. The Institute also helped different government departments, such as Treasury which it assisted when they were invited to do so. International partnerships included Brazil, China, India, Japan, Turkey, USA, Africa. Funding was coming from the private sector. Standard Bank in particular was one of them, and through its Africa footprint, the bank was able to assist them in their research projects on the African continent.
He stated that AISA was seeking to spearhead its work towards the development and advancement of Africa’s science and technological platforms as a basis for the pursuit of sustainable development. He emphasised that AISA strived to support processess that promoted harmonised regulations and the application and safe use of technology. The Institute promoted the development of centres of excellence in science and technology, and the development of frameworks that protected intellectual property in Africa, particularly the Pan African Organisation of Intellectual Property. It facilitated frameworks for technology sharing, transfer and adaptation across African countries.It also promoted the monitoring of the implementation of science and technology plans by the relevant ministies and departments of government.
When concentrating on projects undertaken by AISA in 2009/10, he emphasised that they had expanded the understading of Africa’s urban dynamics. They had investigated levels of food security in urban areas of major cities of Africa. They had established Science and Technology Advisory Teams that assist in taking the programmes forward throughout Africa.
In terms of policy, he stressed that they had focussed on the internal AISA programmes such as interships and fellowship programmes, AISA Young Graduates Scholars and the AISA Guest Lecture Series. The Institute also focussed on the externally driven knowldge transfers and capacity building intiatives which included the Gulf of Guinea Directorate, partnership with PRAU, South Africa – Nigeria 10 years, Annual DIRCO Conference, the Department of Defence and support to universities. There were other special projects and initiatives undertaken by the Institute such as election monitoring, women and defence, supporting SADC armed forces, AU gender policies, North Africa project, Social Science Research Council.
The research director said that they were currently developing an Electronic Publishing Portal for their publications. As a research institute they published their products in different ways which included full scholarly books, reports, monographs, occational conference papers, policy briefs and the accredited journal called Africa Insight. The journal had a variety of audiences as it was distributed nationally, continentally, also through universities and certain bookshops. Their focus was to expand library holdings, providing efficient and effective services to clients, creating increased awareness of AISA’s mandate, products and services. There was a challenge in distribution of their knowledge products, and because of the nature of their mandate, they were distributing through partnerships throughout the continent.
The Institute focussed on developing parnerships, hosting events and engaging with the media. On the continent, AISA’s corporate affairs included parnerships with Standard Bank, partnership with DIRCO, conferences and serminars, and exposure to the media. In terms of business analysis, AISA’s challenge was external competition from other organisations such as universities, research consultancies and NGOs who were focusing on Africa, both in South Africa and globally. It was necessary to create varied sources of funding to augment the parliamentary grant. It was also necessary to identify internal factors that affected the business of AISA. He identified the lack of attractiveness of AISA as an employer as illustrated by the high staff attrition and the difficulty in attracting quality researchers, the non-competitive remuneration and many other challenges faced by the organisation.
Proposed solutions to these challenges were: the need to delineate AISA’s niche as dictated by its mandate and its location within the DST; identify and partner with similar research and government organisations in order to have a better impact; develop a clear communication and marketing strategy to ensure AISA’s products and services were visible and attractive to all its stakeholders and widely accessible to policy-makers and decision makers; implement recommendations cited in the 2010 Institutional Review to improving research capacity; funding from goverment; co-operation with like minded institutions and good management.
In terms of human resources, AISA had invested 55% of the MTEF allocation to labour costs, including statutory skills-levy contributions and interns. Over and above, 1.5% of that amount was invested in the training and development of staff. He explained the employment targets and the employment age distribution as at 31 March 2010.
In Finance, Administration and Information Technology, he emphasised that the Institute focused on the improvement of controlling the environment and complying with the relevant legislation, ensuring that AISA’s budget was utilised efficiently and effectively.
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) was concerned that the report was highly academic and she asked if their mandate was understood by the general population of South Afrca. She also questioned their strategy in marketing the institution.
The Chairperson emphasised that the role of AISA was to zoom into Africa to understand all the grassroots situations of Africa. The delegates had not answered his question about the role of AISA.
In response, Dr Matluo explained that AISA had worked together with the Department of Education on a programme of history and geography in Africa at school level. It was a grassroots initiative which required funding and they had to abandon it because funding was limited. He stressed that they were looking for parnership in grassroots programmes so that they could extend their role in Africa. He also said that Parliament should lay down legislation in terms of expanding their mandate and continental intergration.
Ms P Mocumi (ANC) complained that the reported information was not consistent with planned objectives, indicators and targets projected in the report.
In terms of non-compliance, Ms E Maritz (CFO, AISA) responded that AISA acknowledged and accepted the findings of the Auditor-General. On the matter of assets, they had formulated an asset register and listed all the assets in the office, as in terms of the inventory they did not have internal control over it. Performance incentives were listed as R900 000 but were actually R895 118 and this was a consolidated amount according to the employee structure. The wasteful and irregular expenditure was incurred at three conferences that they hosted. Guests confirmed their bookings but did not turn up for the conference. The Institute also incurred a penalty for non payment of Workmens Compensation since 2004.
The Chairperson thanked the AISA delegation for their analysis and advised them to prepare better next time they visited the Committee.
Academy of Science of South Africa Annual Report
Prof Roseanne Diab (Executive Officer, ASSAf) started by briefly explaining the background history and the formation of the Academy which was launched in 1996 and was now recognised as the Science Academy of South Africa through a 2001 Act of Parliment which came into effect in 2002. The Academy represented South Africa in the body of science academies of the world.
The Academy’s vision was to be the apex organisation for science and scholarship in South Africa. To be internationally respected and connected. Its membership should be the inspiration of the country’s most active scholars in all fields of scientific enquiry, and a collective resource for generation of evidence based solutions to national problems.
She explained that the mandate of the Academy was to promote and inspire outstanding achievements in all fields of scientific enquiry and to grant recognition for excellence, and also to promote proactive, or upon request undertake, studies on matters of public interest with a view to providing evidence based scientific advice to goverment and other stakeholders.
She stressed that the value of the Academy was that it represented the brain trust of current scholars, it acted independently and was non-biased, and a credible source of advice. It also served as a source for comment on issues of national and international concern. Members of the Academy served in different structures of the organisation. The Secretariat as one of the structures which consisted of five different programmes.
Administration and Governance consisted of the Executive, Human Resources and the Audit Committees and its Council, chaired by the President of the Academy. The Council comprises 13 members, 12 of whom are elected, and one of whom is appointed by the Minister of Science and Technology, as representative of the Department’s National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI). Members of the Council met 4 times during the 2009/10 financial year and the average attendance was 80% and for non office bearers was 54%, and they do not receive remuneration. Membership stood at 343 and this was their core asset - more important than anything in the Academy. Members give up their time and expertise voluntarily.
Infrastructure – personnel and physical – consisted of 21 full time staff and 12 part time editorial staff for journals. The Academy relocated from the DST building to rented accommodation in Persequor Park in Pretoria in July 2009 on a 3 year lease.
The Scholarly Publishing Programme at ASSAf was funded as a separate programme for three years by the DST and its objectives was to enhance national capacity to produce and publish research, increasing quality and quantitative research in South Africa. The programme was due to the implementation of the recommendations of ASSAf 2006 consensus study on scholarly publications. Seven elements enhanced the scholarly publishing programme which included the National Scholarly Editor’s Forum, Editors’ Incentives, Institutional Respositories, Online Scientific Writng, Quality Assurance for Journals, Book Study and the Open Access National Platform - SciELO-SA (Scientific Electronic Library Online). The Open Access National Platform has successfully installed the platform for SciELO which had been live since June 2009. The server space was secured for this project and 8 pilot journals have been established on the platform to determine workflow, technical and other requirements. Articles were available online at no cost.
Ms Diab noted that there was an increase in number of evidence based study projects which form the core of the Academy’s function and are a key area of future development. These projects fell into three broad areas: health, humanities and education, environment including energy. Seven new projects were introduced in 2009/10. She said that health projects were doing very well and had made good progress. Such an example was ‘Improved Nutritional Assessment in South Africa’. In terms of revitalised clinical research there was a dramatic decline in South Africa, but they had published a report to improve maternal, newborn and child health.The completed policymakers’ booklet Science in Action was launched at the African Science Academies Development Initiative (ASAD)I Conference in Ghana, November 2009 and was in the process of being disseminated.
In terms of humanities and education projects, she noted the PhD Study: Enhancing the Production of Postgraduates in South Africa. This evidence based study project was commissioned by the NRF, DST, Department of Education and Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the report was finalised and launched in October 2010
Environmental projects that were introduced in 2009/10 were low carbon cities, biosafety, drastic measures to preserve water, science for poverty alleviation by looking at ways of providing and preserving food and improving access to energy in the continent.
Liaison activities included the Academy partnering with international institutions such as the African Science Academy DevelopmentInitiative (ASADI) and the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC), InterAcademy Panel (IAP), InterAcademy Council (IAC), InterAcademy Medical Panel IAMP), Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), G8 + 5 Academies and Southern African – Science academy Development Initiative (SA –SADI).
In terms of communication and publications, they had revitalised their brand in 2009 and established a Rapid Response Panel. They had exhibited their magazine Quest, redeveloped the ASSAf website and published quarterly ASSAf newsletters. The South African Journal of Science was the leading multidisciplinary science journal on the African continent. They were also aiming to improve their impact factor and had successfully transferred to an online manuscript tracking system called the Open Journal System. As part of the Academy of Science of South Africa Scholarly Publishing initiative, since May 2009, SAJS has been available on an Open-Access platform as the first pilot project of this exciting venture.
She conluded her presentation by highlighting some of the magazines and books which were published by the Academy such as ‘Quest: Science for South Africa’ and the book called ‘The State of Science in South Africa’ which was launched in October 2009 and was available as a print-on-demand. QuestInteractive, an interactive website to make science more accessible and exciting for learners was launched by the Academy of Science of South Africa in March 2010 at www.questinteractive.co.za.
Financial Statements report
Mr Morakeng Malatji (Financial Manager, ASSAf) said that in the financial year under review there had been a slight increase in expenditure compared to the previous year. Under assets, they were using equipment provided by the DST while they were still in the DST building, but when they moved into their current offices, they needed to buy new furniture and other office equipment, so ASSAf increased its spending in terms of assets.
In terms of reserves and liabilities, the Council of the Academy had to establish a liability fund, because there was no government fund to support them. The sustainability fund - launched in 2009 - was a source of income generation in the form of membership fees and advertising in Academy’s journals and magazines. Under current liabilties, he noted that although liabilities were shown at the end of the each finanial year, with regard to the R2.7 million that was highlighted in the report, this was used to settle some accounts that were outstanding. He assured members that the Academy had paid all its creditors coming into the current financial year. Another factor that made the figure so high was because of a grant that the Academy had received but which was deferred to the new period. He stated that there was no provision for leave in the previous years and their auditors had advised them in that regard.
Total income received was R26 million, which came from grants, publications and journals that the Academy published. Under grants and donations received, there was a breakdown in terms of sources of income, with the DST as the biggest source of income for the Academy. There was a drive to spread the Academy’s sources of funding. They had a six-year funding income from the USA Academy of Sciences which was in its final year and this brought a challenge to the Academy to look elsewhere for funding. There was deferred income of R793 000 which related to a current project they were busy with and which still continued. The Academy had received a grant from the Shuttleworth Foundation which had to be refunded because the project undertaken by the Academy was not in line with the aims of the Shuttleworth Foundation.
In conclusion, he stated that since they had moved to new premisis they had incurred rental expenses and it was not advisable to continue on a rental basis. If the DST could provide a place for the Academy to continue its work, it would be appreciated by the Academy because currently their rental costs were high.
Ms M Shinn (DA) asked the Financial Manager to clarify the increased expenditure on salaries. She wanted to know if the publication that the Academy was publishing was receiving any recognition especially in the DST - did it value the Academy? She asked why two of their council members had not attended any meetings that year. She asked if any of the Academy’s members were in the Ministerial Review Panel and who were they. Had they been interviewed by the Panel? Did the Academy believe government was doing enough in terms of assisting scholars with their PhDs?
Ms Mocumi asked what was the membership criteria if one wanted to join ASSAf and was the Academy saistified with the Auditor-General’ report - were they content with it, because to her it was very vague.
Ms S Molao (Cope) asked how long was the term for council members of the Academy.
The Chairperson was concerned about the role of ASSAf. Its role was supposed to be at the extreme end of any science research institution and “to be the intervener to all the institutions” of the country, but he was not sure of the Academy’s role in terms of its report to this Committee.
Ms Diab responded that in terms of publications, they were increasing and expanding and the DST was listening to their advice and valued them. She undertood the concerns raised by the Chairperson, but he must understand that the Academy was relatively young and it still needed to increase and develop its base and profile. The challenge of the Academy was to harness what the members of the Academy were doing and achieving in terms of their scientific work. Of the two council members absent from the council meetings, one had resigned and the other was on leave. They had one member who served on the Ministerial Panel. With regard to the PhD programme, they needed to advise government and pull together their resources and there were bold decisions which needed to be undertaken by government. She assured members that they would work together with Higher Education Institutions and DST to look how they would take the PhD programme forward.
She explained that members were elected for life and there was no remuneration for members and they were chosen for their excellence in their field of specialisation and had served society. She concluded that it was the Academy’s challenge to look for strategic funding which would enhance their work.
Mr Malatji responded that there was an increase in salaries because these were tied to the activities the
Academy was involved in. With regard to the Audit Report, there were certain expectations from auditors and they had the responsibility to audit all the activities of the Academy. On that basis the Academy had no reason not to be satsfied with the Audit Report.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation from ASSAf and encouraged them in the work they were doing. He advised them to set up a marketing unit that would invest its energies in finding funds from other sources.
The meeting was adjourned.
- National Research Foundation (NRF) Annual Report 2009/10
- Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) Annual Report 2009/10
- Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) Annual Report 2009/10 presentation
- National Research Foundation (NRF) Annual Report 2009/10 presentation
- ASSAf Annual Report 2009/10 presentation
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
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