The Academy wanted to be recognised as an entity of excellence through its various activities - promoting innovation and scholarly activity, effective and evidence-based scientific advice, interest and awareness of science education, and national, regional and international links. The Academy showed some of its publications and journals and explained how it distributed them.
The Academy had in 2010 moved to a new premises as the Department of Science and Technology had needed the space. The Academy had received an unqualified audit opinion, and could explain all other financial matters with ease. On the issue of patenting versus publishing the Academy said that, as long as patenting was efficient, individuals had to delay publishing their work until it was patented.
Members asked if the research team also included non-members, the ratio of work done on request and on the Academy's own initiative, who the other stakeholders were, what the Academy's relationship to Government was, sought clarity on the Academy's being complementary to other science organizations, why the secretariat had grown so quickly, why the Academy had a Department of Science and Technology contract rather than funding, asked if the Academy would conduct more specific studies on wind and solar energy, wanted to know the meaning of academic freedom, asked how the Academy separated volunteers and the commissioned researchers, why there were part-time staff and what they did do in the secretariat, what the impact in maths and science education had been, wanted clarity on the income from conferences, asked why money was refunded to the Shuttleworth Foundation, asked about the financial future of the Academy, about the Auditor General's observation that for the Academy to continue it needed donor support, wanted the Academy in future to give an analysis of staff composition by race, gender, and class, and suggested that in future delegations should be disallowed if there were no women amongst them. The Chairperson requested that slides be numbered in future for ease of reference, and said that the Academy's expenditure on salaries was unsustainable, asked why the Academy had relocated away from the Department of Science and Technology building, if it had they considered patenting versus publishing, and asked for the criteria for issuing scholarly awards.
From a list of seven countries -
The Budget Review and Recommendation Report was adopted.
Professor Robin Crewe, President,
The Academy had been increasingly developing its policy advisory role which it did through several methods. The Academy had a complementary role to other science councils and it did not overlap. Its advice was independent, objective, based on volunteerism, based on rigorous analysis of evidence and peer review, multi-disciplinary and transparent. Another role was increasing its impact in the international world in engagements with a number of academies, it had been a member of the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) and was the current chair of this network, it had also initiated and developed new academies within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and had engaged with the Zimbabwean Academy with a potential to build an academy in Namibia, It was also building on the collaboration of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) with the academies of those respective countries.
The Academy was governed by a Council comprising 13 members, of whom 12 were elected from the
membership and one was appointed by the Minister as a representative of the National Advisory Council
on Innovation (NACI). The Academy had five office-bearers: the President, two Vice-Presidents, General Secretary and Treasurer.
The Council had three committees: an Executive Committee comprising the office-bearers that allowed
for decision-making on important matters in the intervals between Council meetings; and the Audit
and Human Resources Committees.
The Academy’s activities were guided by the ASSAf Act 2001 (Act No. 67 of 2001) and a set of established regulations.
During the reporting year, Council members had received growing support from the ASSAf secretariat through efficient administration, documentation and logistical arrangements, timely distribution
of Council meeting documentation and professional minute-taking. Full fiduciary responsibility for the
Academy’s reputation, integrity and financial probity was obtained.
The secretariat of the Academy comprised 21 staff led by an Executive Officer and supported by a Chief Operations Officer; the secretariat was operating effectively, ASSAf offices were in rented premises and the Council’s committee was meeting to address the need for a permanent building.
Professor Robin Crewe indicated the growth of the secretariat from 2003 to 2011 with the growth of the activities of the Academy. He then moved on to the goals and strategic priorities of the Academy which were: recognition and reward of excellence, promotion of innovation and scholarly activity , promotion of effective, evidence-based scientific advice, promotion of interest in and awareness of science education, promotion of national, regional and international links. Recognition and reward of excellence was by way of election to membership of the Academy: 16 distinguished new members were in 2010 inaugurated into ASSAf and
two ASSAf Science-in-Society Gold Medals were awarded.
Professor Wieland Gevers, Member of the ASSAf Council, continued by saying that the Academy annually invited distinguished visitors, for example, Prof Dr Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, Secretary-General of the Human Frontier Science Programme (HFSP), as the ASSAf Distinguished Annual Visiting Scholar, for a series of public lectures at six South African universities. His topics were “Interdisciplinarity and the Frontiers of the Life Sciences” and “The international Character of Science”. In the reporting year, ASSAf also hosted Professor Tom Cochrane from the
Regional lectures in collaboration with the Royal Society were offered on a regular basis throughout
2010/11 at the
of the Humanities in
tended by approximately 100 delegates. The keynote address was delivered by Mr John Pampallis, a
special advisor to the Minister of Higher Education and Training (DHET).
The South African Journal of Science was an attempt to provide all SA citizens, scientists and scholars with a way of keeping abreast with cutting edge research and was and a forum for inputs into policy by scholars. The Journal served a multi disciplinary audience, it aimed to be the ‘Nature’ of the African Continent. Great strides had been made in ensuring that the Journal was published regularly and on time; six issues had been published in 2010/11. ASSAf had issued media briefs with the publication of each issue. ASSAf had an on-line management system and the business strategy was to expand the Journal.
Policy advisory activities had been expanded considerably. One of the key indicators of creating a knowledge society and a National System of Innovation (NSI) was publishing and peer reviewing of journal articles as well as patents and many other outputs. It had made recommendations that had been accepted by the DST and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DoHET). Scholarly publishing was at the heart of the Academy. Human capital in science and technology was the single biggest asset in promoting national development, and SA lagged similarly placed countries in the production of outputs.
ASSAf had produced scholarly books which were important for the humanities and social sciences and had made recommendations for a better peer review and an improved public policy and had formed a National Scholarly Book Publishers’ Forum. ASSAf also formed the National Scholarly Editors’ Forum which was in its fifth year and aimed to improve the standard of editing in SA; it was developing an on-line free scientific writing service which would be piloted in November 2011.
ASSAf recommended at the request of the Minister of Science and Technology the acquisition of a national license to the very expensive and high inflation sector of the core high impact journals.
Dr Takalani Rambau, Liaison Manager, ASSAf, said that the Academy was hosting a national chapter for organizations for women in science in the developing world.
Prof Crewe explained consensus studies. Such studies were conducted by a panel and the panel would have to come to its conclusion after sifting the evidence based on a consensus and it generally led to a set of strong policy recommendations.
Prof Crewe explained forum studies in which the Academy would invite a group of experts to gather to discuss issues, make presentations, and exchange views on topics.
Studies were focused in three broad, strategically selected areas - Health, Environment and energy, and were closely aligned with Government priorities.
Prof Crewe displayed the nine forum studies that had been completed – the Academy had started preparing policymakers booklets; the first was in relation to some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on improving maternal, newborn and child health in Africa; the second was on improving energy access in sub-Saharan Africa; the third was an inquiry-based science education for girls in sub-Saharan Africa. The Academy had also produced a number of statements and had recently started another intervention - policy commentaries and had been asked to comment on the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity and had put a panel together to make comments and recommendations about future IRPs.
These studies were on different time scales as a consensus study took 12 – 18 months to complete. The forum study could be done in a shorter period.
The Quest: Science for
Dr Rambau said that the Academy had formal agreements with several academies including the Uganda National Academy of Sciences (UMAS),
Mr Morakeng Malatji, Financial Manager, ASSAf, highlighted two areas in the section of income as there was a huge difference between 2010 and 2011, and explained reasons. The Academy's auditors gave an unqualified opinion with emphasis of matter. The Academy's existence was dependent on the continued support of its donors, by way of grants. Donors had agreed to continue supporting the Academy in 2011/12. ( 'Going concern', paragraph 14, page 57).
(Please see Annual Report, pages 43-57.)
Prof Crewe acknowledged that in relation to representation the Academy would have to look at different mechanisms to ensure that appropriate balances in membership were acquired in relation to discipline, race and gender representation.
Mr P Smith (IFP) asked if the research team also included non-members, the ratio of work done on request and on the Academy's own initiative, who the other stakeholders were, what the Academy's relationship to Government was, sought clarity on the Academy's being complementary to other science organizations, why the secretariat had grown so quickly, why the Academy had a Department of Science and Technology contract rather than funding, asked if the Academy would conduct more specific studies on wind and solar energy, wanted to know the meaning of academic freedom.
Professor Crewe said that in general the Academy used primary research in order to provide its evidence-based advice and that was one of the clearest ways to distinguish what the Academy did and what the other institutions in the NSI did. It would always be a mix of proactive and studies on request. The proactive studies arose from recommendations by individuals or committees. The number of studies was determined by the capacity of the Secretariat which had grown strongly. The growth of the secretariat was in relation to creating the capacity to service the studies and the scholarly publishing programme.
ASSAf has a strong relationship with the DST as it was responsible for the Academy and via the DST it had been trying to reach the other departments to share what the value of the Academy was. The commentary on the IRP had indicated some of that value. The scholarly programme was done on the basis of a contract and was raised under the recommendations of the first study but had been converted onto the core funding that the Academy received. The Academy could undertake the narrow studies but would require an indication from the individuals seeking that advice on what the nature of the advice might be. An example was the study on nuclear safety and it was important for the Academy to be involved in that regard.
Professor Gevers said as a member of the global network of science academies ASSAf took part in the development of statements generated internationally and the statement that identified academic freedom as an international requirement not just in SA for the development of scientific ideas and scientific progress. The statement was issued in SA on behalf of the global network. The Academy would contemplate issuing a national statement if seen to be necessary.
Ms M Shinn (DA) wanted to know how the Academy separated volunteers and the commissioned researchers, who determined what they were going to study in terms of their proactive studies, why were there part-time staff and what did they do in the secretariat, what had been the impact in maths and science education, how were the policymakers’ booklets being distributed, wanted clarity on the income from conferences, asked what the relation was with NACI, wanted more information on the appointment of a scientific advisor to Government, asked why money was refunded to the Mark Shuttleworth Foundation, and asked about the financial future of the Academy.
Professor Crewe replied that some of the studies were proactively developed like the HIV/AIDS study. Other studies were requested and the Academy had to develop a track record of providing quality advice. The cost of the studies was the direct cost of the Secretariats’ time in supporting them. There were also the costs of the individuals who did particular studies on behalf of panel members. The panel members who sifted the evidence and approved the final study were not paid for the time they gave input on those panels. The panels operated by reaching a consensus since they had divergent interests and the IRP was interesting as members of the panel had different opinions. The part-time staff included editors and sub-editors for the journals and they would always be part-time. The only way to measure the impact of what the Academy did would be through the implementation of the recommendations. The Academy participated in conferences that related to Academy matters. On occasion NACI had requested the Academy to investigate some issues. There was a NACI representative on the Council. There had had discussions about a scientific advisor to the Government and the view was taken that the Academy could fulfill that role fairly effectively.
Mr Malatji said that the Academy had been given a grant by Shuttleworth Foundation for a particular activity and in undertaking it it discovered that the landscape had changed and therefore the focus had shifted and the Academy then referred back to the Shuttleworth Foundation to get permission to use the funds given that the landscape had changed. The Foundation had asked that the remaining funds be sent back.
Ms P Mocumi (ANC) noted that the Academy depended on donor support and if there were no donations what contingency plans were in place?
Professor Crewe replied that the activities of the Academy were determined by the funding that would be available at a given time and the costs of undertaking the study would be borne by the individuals who were commissioning the study. There were a number of strategies that the Academy was in the process of developing. These were not in the annual report. The Academy was developing a number of communication strategies, increasing its interaction with Government departments, and looking at different ways of nominating members.
Ms Mocumi asked about the African Union-Third World Academy of Sciences (AU-TWAS) award.
Prof Crewe replied that the negotiations had been completed and the award had been made in 2011 and it had involved the Academy, the DST and TWAS.
Ms L Dunjwa (ANC) wanted to know whom the Academy defined as the general public, what was the criteria for visiting institutions of higher learning as there were two provinces whose institutions had not been visited, wanted ASSAf in the future to give a breakdown of staff composition in terms of race, gender, class, etc, was not happy with the gender balance even at the meeting and suggested that in future delegations should not come and make presentations if there were no women amongst them.
Professor Crewe said the gender composition was going to be different since the Executive Officer, Professor Roseanne Diab, had had to go to
The Chairperson emphasized that the Academy should number its power point presentations for ease of access. He said that the expenditure on salaries was unsustainable going forward, wanted to know why the Academy had relocated away from the DST building, if it had considered patenting versus publishing, wanted to know the criteria for issuing their scholarly awards, and wanted to know more about the nature of the Academy.
Professor Crewe replied that ASSAf was based on providing policy advice and other academies had other functions such as funding while others had a more expanded function like in
Committee's International trip 2010: briefing by the researcher
Ms Rene Orsborne-Mullins, Committee Researcher, highlighted some of the salient points of the study from the seven identified countries which were
Ms Dunjwa suggested
The Chairperson was impressed with
Mr Smith agreed on
Ms Shinn put
Ms Mocumi seconded Mr Smith's proposal of a combination of countries.
Ms Ndlazi suggested that the Committee's management sub-committee should decide from the Committee's shortlist.
Ms Orsborne-Mullins said that
The Chairperson said that a decision had to be made. There must be an order of priority to be used when a country was unreceptive. He then said that
Budget Review and Recommendation Report: adoption
The Chairperson said that the Report should include reference to the invitation to professors fr om the University of the
Mr Smith suggested corrections.
Ms Isaacs asked Members to guide her in what to put in the report.
However, the Committee then resolved that the Report would be submitted as it was, subject to revision if National Treasury had cause to refer back to the Committee.
The Budget Review and Recommendation Report was, therefore, adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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