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ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 June 2002
HUMAN SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCIL: ANNUAL REPORT
Chairperson : Ms M A Njobe
Documents handed out:
HSRC Presentation: Social Science that makes a difference (will be available 28 June 2002)
ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
HSRC 2000/01 Annual Report
HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa (2002) - HSRC Publishing website
Micro-Finance in Rural Communities in Southern Africa (2002) - HSRC Publishing website
HSRC website: www.hsrc.ac.za
The presentation focused on the HSRC's efforts to ensure a smooth technology transfer diffusion. The HSRC indicated that it seeks to make available all of the research done by the Council via a massive information-sharing drive. Amongst the Council's research priorities are farming, rural development and the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa.
The Committee had visited the HSRC earlier this year, and the HSRC's presentation addressed the questions raised by the Committee during that visit. Dr. Mark Orkin, CEO HSRC, indicated that the HSRC (Council) supports development nationally, in SADC and in Africa as a whole, by conducting large-scale collaborative and policy relevant socio-scientific projects. It has various research priority areas such as the social aspects of HIV/AIDS and rural development. Two of the issues that the Council must address include the facilitation of technology transfer diffusion and the manner science councils and other science and technology institutions can make significant contribution in advising and transforming the technology transfer diffusion while sustaining national research.
With regard to technology transfer diffusion the Council seeks to improve publication, communication and networking. Consequently, a radical new digital publishing approach which seeks to make sure that all future publications are accessible via its website has been adopted. The Council also stages research-dissemination events. The media plays an important role in publicising much of the research that the Council is doing. A team has also been recruited to help improve communication with the stakeholders, and newsletters will be sent to MPs and other stakeholders in August so as to keep people informed of its research.
Various HSRC researchers act as advisers to cabinet ministers and this ensures that the research conducted has a meaningful impact on decision making and planning. The Council also works closely with universities and this helps to enhance the capacities of universities to manage large-scale research projects. In addition, the Council collaborates with science councils like the MRC on HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Mike de Klerk, Integrated Rural and Regional Development, stated that his research area's main focus is poverty reduction in Southern Africa. In this regard the Council has 4 interlocking sub-programmes. The first is agrarian reform which deals with land tenure, land use and redistribution. The Council works closely with the Department of Agriculture on issues such as investigating how various forms of land tenure could help reduce poverty. Second, IRRD evaluates rural non-farm development, and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry is a major player in this regard. Third, the IRRD monitors regional resource flows within and across the borders of Southern Africa. Finally, the Southern African Poverty programme provides a platform for public policy debate on poverty reduction between policy makers, civil society and the research community. This governmental participation and partnership are essential since small farmers lack resources and capacity.
Dr. Olive Shisana, Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS and Health research area, indicated that there has always been a perception that HIV/AIDS is women's disease. Consequently there is a need to clarify this misunderstanding about the disease, especially considering the number of AIDS-related deaths in Africa. The major focus is on cultural, psychosocial, economic and demographic determinants of HIV/AIDS and other public health issues.
Current research examines the impact of HIV/AIDS on the health sector and the prevention of mother to child transmission. The Council also seeks to conduct saliva tests on 21,000 people from different racial and age groups and social background so as to determine areas where the epidemic is prevalent.
Dr. Anil Kanjee, Assessment Technology and Education Evaluation, stated that the Council stakes a heavy priority in advancing the expertise and information in the assessment and evaluation of education and training. This is to be attained by working in partnerships with NGOs, government and donors. Strategic focus areas for assessment and evaluation include math, science, and language policy and implementation.
Upon completion of the presentation, Ms. Tsheole (ANC) asked the Council to clarify the role of local government in research conducted by the Council. The HSRC responded that, although many projects involve local government participation they rely mostly on existing systems. Another Committee member probed into the role of the Council regarding education and advising the Minister. The HSRC representative replied that it viewed its role as an indirect one. The Council contributes and participates in policy debates, but it does not actively lobby the Ministers.
Another MP asked if, given the fact that small-scale farmers lack the resources and capacity to use the farms profitably, the massive land redistribution will lead to shortage of food. The HSRC answered that it has been realised that the current land use is not leading to sustainable land use and this cannot be allowed to continue. Consequently the Council is re-examining various forms of land use like sharecropping in an attempt to make sure that the land is used profitably. A project has also been planned to find out if the government's aim in redistributing land is being met.
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