The Committee received presentations on the Annual Report for the 2013/14 financial year from the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the National Research Foundation (NRF)
ASSAf outlined its dual mandate and explained the government-aligned goals of the organisation which are fulfilled by means of five programmes. ASSAf referred to its publications and noted that its Open Access Journal aims to publish South African Journals for free, accessible and visible local journals. The Open Access Platform has been certified by SciELO-SA in Brazil and that the launch took place in July 2013. On its financial statement, it was noted that the Department of Science and Technology remains the main source of funding contributing 79% of the budget allocation of the ASSAf. 15% of the budget is derived from other sources of funding such as membership fees, publications and short term investments. Total expenditure was approximately R23 million and the Academy had a surplus of R3.1 million at the end of the financial year for which Treasury has granted permission for roll-over. Its activities involve engagement by African countries and members. The Academy currently pays rental fees and is in the process of acquiring a property to which budget may be allocated.
The Committee referred to the 79% of the budget provided by the Department of Science and Technology and enquired as to whether grants from the Department of Higher Education is factored into this allocation, as this collaboration is important. Members noted that the ASSAf is a membership-based organisation and is therefore guided by the views of the membership- how did ASSAf addresses the issue of divergent views between the memberships with the government in line with its expectations?
CSIR in its presentation explained its key impact indicators, of which the following were noted: Building and transforming human capital, strengthening the SET base and performing relevant R&D, Transferring knowledge and technology, and implementation, financial sustainability and good corporate governance and citizenship. Projects it was currently involved included - protection of the ports, rhino poaching, remote diagnosis, wildfire prevention, laser technology and broadband innovations, were noted.
Members referred to the grant from Parliament for R&D and enquired to what extent it is sustainable and whether this can be achieved short-term. Members questioned whether the CSIR was addressing issues regarding the Ebola epidemic. Members referred to the CSIR’s publications and patents and requested an explanation for targets not met.
NRF in its presentation noted the various achievements and indicated that its targets have been exceeded for the current financial year. The NRF however noted challenges with regard to the awarding of bursaries as women and black candidates were underrepresented and have a low throughput. Furthermore the NRF explained that the Science career only begins once graduates have a PhD. The benchmark is reflected in the employment statistics and there is need for distinction between real graduates and students with qualifications. There was significant growth in Human Capital investment and investments for both emerging and established researchers from 2014. A proposal for a needs-based student ward system was in development. 20 chairs have been created for women and black women will receive priority based on request by the NRF.
Members commended the NRF on the presentation as well as on the organisation’s clean audit opinion and questioned whether the review for the 2015 plan has begun. Members noted that NRF had access to only half of the budget required to service the needs of all students to which the NRF recommended that the Department’s budget allocation be increased.
Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) on its 2013/14 Annual Report
Professor Roseanne Diab, Executive Officer presented on behalf of the Academy. The presentation kick started with a review of the dual mandate of ASSAf and the goals of ASSAf, including : Recognition and reward of excellence, Promotion of innovation and scholarly activity, Promotion of effective, evidence-based scientific evidence, Promotion of interest in and awareness of science education, Promotion of national, regional and international linkages. The goals of ASSAf are aligned with that of government. Some of its government-aligned goals are: Strengthening skills and resource base, Regional development, African advancement and international cooperation, Improvement of health profile of society, Improvement of rural development and food security, Improvement of environmental assets and natural resource. ASSAf is composed of five programmes, each with outlined goals per programme (see document). Achievements recorded for the year under review were:
Under the Policy Advisory Programme, the following achievements were recorded:
Achievements in Health Studies
- Consensus study on Improved Nutritional Assessment
- Reconceptualising Health Professional Education and Training in South Africa
- Tobacco Control on Africa
- Mental, neurological and Substance Use (MNS) Disorders
Achievements in Biosafety and Biosecurity Studies
- Consensus study on the State of Biosafety and Biosecurity in South Africa which is due for completion in 2014
Energy and Environment Studies
- Collaborative effort by SADC countries to launch the booklet on the State of Water in Southern Africa
- Technologies for Low Carbon Society
- Green Technologies: Drivers, Barriers and Gatekeepers
- The Release of the IPCC Assessment Report on Climate Change for which media event was held
- The State of Energy Research in South Africa
- Engaged with stakeholders in Humanities in South Africa
- Planning for the conference ‘On Being Controversial: The Humanities Reach Out’
STEM Education Studies
- Revitalising Agricultural Education and Training (AET) in South Africa
- Collaboration with French Science Institute on the LAMAP Pilot Project to be implemented at ten schools in the Tshwane South District
Science for Poverty Allevition
- Regulation of Agricultural GM Technology in Africa
- Policymakers’ Booklet launched in Kenya in April 2013
Science Policy Studies
- Impact of Research Undertaken by the Centres of Excellence
- Review of the State of the Science, Technology and Innovation System in South Africa
Under The Scholarly publishing programme the following achievements were recorded-
- Establishment of an Open Access Platform
- The Open Access Platform has been certified by SciELO-SA in Brazil and the launch took place in July 2013
- Establishment of a National Scholarly Book Publishers’ Forum
- Peer Review of South African Scholarly Journals
- National Scholarly Editors’ Forum was established which aims to improve editorial practice amongst editors
- Access to Core Commercial Databases which has achieved significant progress
Mr Morakeng Chiloane Financial Manager ASSAf continued the presentation with a synopsis on the Auditor-General’s report for ASSAf in the year under review. ASSAf’s total income comprising of baseline funding was R26 209 000. The Department of Science and Technology remains the main source of funding contributing 79% of the budget allocation of the ASSAf. 15% of the budget is derived from other sources of funding such as membership fees, publications and short term investments. ASSAf’s total expenditure was approximately R23 million and the Academy had a surplus of R3.1 million at the end of the financial year. ASSAf is mindful of the requirement that entities do not to accumulate surpluses, however, the Academy generated income and therefore engaged Treasury to enquire if the funds may be rolled-over. Treasury has confirmed that the funds may be rolled-over and subsequently form part of the budget for the current financial year. The financial statement also includes assets in the form of computers, printers and furniture. The current external firm of auditors have been service providers for many years to ASSAf. In line with the requirements of treasury and the Auditor-General, new auditors will be appointed for the following financial year.
Professor Wieland Gevers, Council Advisor, ASSAf, in conclusion noted that the activities of ASSAf involve engagement by African countries and members. The Academy currently pays rental fees and is in the process of acquiring a property to which budget may be allocated.
The Chairperson noted the necessity of evidence-based research for dynamic society and policy-making and questioned the extent to which ASSAf would allow Parliament request research on specific topics and the cost of this request.
Dr A Lotriet (DA) thanked ASSAf for the presentation and referred to the increase in comprehensive income for grants and donations from 2013-2014 and requested that ASSAf explains.
Dr Lotriet noted that the decrease in membership fees is a concern, and asked whether the number of members has decreased and if ASSAf was attending to this concern.
Dr Lotriet enquired as to the reason for the double in figures for travel and accommodation.
Dr Lotriet questioned whether targets were set at the beginning of the year with regard to the type of research conducted by the ASSAf or if the process is ad hoc.
Mr N Koornhof (ANC) referred to the financial position of the ASSAf and indicated that the entity had a R6 million investment and therefore the surplus was R11 million- was this calculation correct, and if so, where was the investment derived from?
Mr Chiloane explained that the money is from reserves which have accumulated over years.
Ms L Maseko (ANC) congratulated the academy for a consistent, clean audit and referred to the assessment of nutrition programme- was ASSAf able to collaborate with departmental agencies on this?
Ms Maseko asked whether ASSAf had evaluated the scarcity of water.
Ms Maseko questioned whether there are mentoring programmes for young scientists and students and suggested collaboration with the Department of Basic Education in order to embrace science from an early age.
Ms Maseko enquired whether ASSAf had outreach programmes in line with its goals.
Ms Maseko referred to the 79% of the budget provided by the Department of Science and Technology and asked whether grants from the Department of Higher Education were factored into this allocation, as this collaboration is important.
Ms Maseko referred to the ASSAf’s targets against achievements and enquired whether the target of 200 publications was met- it would be desirable for the ASSAf to include these details In future presentations.
The Chair questioned the extent to which ASSAf accommodates target groups outside of the Academic sphere.
Mr Mathale noted that ASSAf is a membership-based organisation and is therefore guided by the views of the membership- how did the ASSAf addresses the issue of divergent views between the memberships with the government in line with its expectations.
Mr Mathale referred to the improvement of rural development and food security and noted that it has been a priority for government since 1994, however very few improvements have been effected. Was it is possible to develop an approach which will produce meaningful changes?
Mr Mathale asked how ASSAf contributes to the issue of food security.
Prof Gevers explained that the academy is responsive and reactive to questions and needs from all entities. ASSAf is a membership-based organisation and is responsive to national needs. The structure of the academy allows for members to be elected by criteria of excellence and demonstration of willingness to applying expertise to the betterment of society. The relationship is guided by internal communication with inputs from members and engagement with national interest.
Prof Diab added that membership is voluntary and not paid and ASSAf has 50% active participation. On targets and measuring outputs, targets are set for publication numbers and this would be reported in future presentations; however ASSAf meets its targets. On mentoring and young scientists: this was not included in presentation however ASSAf has interest in promoting young scientist. South African Young Academy of Scientists was established for membership of young scientists and to promote their service to the country during a 5 year term. It promotes young scientists activities through the Annual Young Scientist’s Conference which is usually aligned to a theme. There are120 participants currently active in the annual conference. With regard to basic education collaboration, ASSAf endorsed this quest; it however interacts closely with Gauteng provincial government on the academy’s pilot project.
Ms Maseko enquired when the full roll-out for the pilot programme will take place and if the Gauteng provincial government will be responsible for the pilot.
Prof Diab explained that the project is in its third year and not ready for roll-out. ASSAf has experienced funding and teacher challenges as well as difficulty in finding a coordinator. ASSAf is a member of a consortium to receive EU funding for the project. On water, ASSAf has addressed both the quality and scarcity of water in collaboration with other SADC countries.
Mr Chiloane further explained that the increase in donations and grants is a result of the increase in the baseline allocation. 79% of the budget includes funding from the Department of Health to the value R100 000 (1%) and no other funding. ASSAf will be able to report that R5.1 million will have been received for the financial year (2014/15). On the decline in members, a sizeable number of members have not paid their membership fees and ASSAf is evaluating means to alleviate this issue. On travel expenditure, there are a number of activities in which members take part on a voluntary basis. However, ASSAf is duty-bound to finance the travel expenses of members for activities which the Academy request members to attend as representatives.
Mr Xola Mati, Chief Operations Officer, ASSAf referred to the questions on Parliament suggesting studies and the challenges surrounding the relationship between the entity and government. ASSAf is extending the visit of the academy to establish relationships with researchers in order for the academy to ensure that the studies undertaken are aligned with government goals. The QUEST publication aims to popularise science amongst learners and it therefore has potential as an outreach programme.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on its 2013/14 Annual Report
Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, Chief Executive Officer, CSIR, anchored the presentation on the annual report for 2013/14 financial year on behalf of the Council. The presentation reflected the outcomes of the CSIR in the year under review and briefly outlined the mandate of the CSIR and proceeded to indicate the key statistics of the Council (see document).
Dr Sibisi explained that the response of the CSIR is aligned to national priorities in support of the National Development Plan by means of : Research impact areas, Flagship programmes and Integrated responses to national initiatives. Building and transforming of human capital remained a key impact indicator. Strengthening Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) base and performing relevant R&D with publication equivalents was the nature of the organisation prioritises and the technology demonstrators which has exceeded its target for the financial year under review.
The role of the CSIR to serve national interests as a public entity was emphasised as well as the research impact areas and core technologies utilised by the CSIR, viz: Materials, Sensors, Photonics, Robotics, ICT and Modelling. The total operating income of the CSIR is over R200 billion, however, the establishment of patents for royalties is a difficult endeavour.
On its challenges and achievements, Dr Zaid Kimmie, Head of Planning, CSIR, explained that ports are vital for trade however there are challenges regarding the protection of ports from environmental factors for future economies. The protection and improvement of ports will be established by means of physical and mathematical modelling, by means of scale as well as by digital models. To this end, CSIR has been involved in the widening of the Durban port and simulation models and scale models have been used to predict the formation of armoured units. CSIR has established a laser centre in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology for the study and development of laser technology for the industry. Laser traditionally utilises light modulated by mirrors and CSIR has modulated light by utilising digital hardware. Lasers may be used for laser refurbishment to repair sensitive pieces of equipment onsite at Koeberg. CSIR continues to play a key role in sustaining existing entities through innovative technologies. CSIR has ambitions for automatic blood counts and machines to conduct diagnosis as a preliminary screening in the interest of time-efficiency. In addition to this, CSIR aims to develop technology to assess the status of the foetus during pregnancy as an immediate indication before further analysis. CSIR aims to reduce the incidences of related crime at the Kruger National Park in relation to Rhino Poaching, through collaboration with the Police Services and affiliated entities. The use of broadband as a means to improve communication through the utilisation of unused television spectrums as a pilot project for the first instance was conducted at ten schools in the Western Cape. CSIR has utilised satellite data to develop warning systems for wildfires.
The Chairperson remarked that South Africa has potential with regard to technological advances.
Dr Lotriet thanked the CSIR for its presentation and noted that majority of CSIR income is derived from contracts and R&D. To what extent will the CSIR be able to continue at its optimum with the strained economic future of the country and without funding from the Department?
Mr Koornhof said he was not optimistic that the innovations for the prevention of rhino poaching will be sufficient.
Mr Koornhof indicated that remuneration for employees is a great proportion of the budget and enquired whether this did not hamper the budget and operating expenses.
Ms Maseko thanked the CSIR for the presentation and commended it on its clean audit opinion, while noting that the remote diagnosis innovation is well-received by the Committee.
Ms Maseko remarked with regard to the issue of wildfires and enquired whether it is possible to plant flora which is not flammable.
Ms Maseko enquired whether the CSIR was addressing issues regarding the Ebola epidemic.
Mr C Mathale (ANC) commended the CSIR for its presentation and referred to the discussion on Human Resource Management, requesting that the CSIR elaborates on its resignations.
Mr Mathale referred to the CSIR’s publications and patents and requested an explanation for targets not met.
Mr Mathale referred to the grant from Parliament for R&D and enquired to what extent it was sustainable and whether this can be achieved short-term.
Mr Mathale explained that CSIR has the potential to innovate beyond government budget allocations and is able to generate income to be sustainable and to assist aligned entities.
Mr Chris Sturdy, Chief Financial Officer, CSIR, added that CSIR is able to generate contract R&D without being reliant on government grant unlike similar entities. CSIR intends to increase contract R&D from international affiliates.
Ms Maseko enquired whether Transnet will address the need for renovation.
Mr Sturdy explained that the CSIR had entered into a rental model and that Transnet is investing in the entity. Labour costs have increased, however the entity aims to attract the most qualified individuals. CSIR has the need to manage its operating costs in order to maintain the upkeep of labour costs. CSIR is partnering with Higher Education institutions. On targets, although CSIR did not meet the patent target this was attributable to challenges relating to the timeframe. CSIR’s grant income is approximately R700 million with R500 million in economic activity owing to royalties.
Mr Sibisi explained that international organisations may be inclined to partner with CSIR which would further generate income; however the CSIR prioritises indigenous productivity. Expert response required recommending appropriate interventions with regard to plants and their relation to the incidence of wildfires. The CSIR was not involved in projects relating to the Ebola.
Mr Sturdy referred to the level of vacancies and explained that the level of contract R&D determines the skills requirement. There are vacancies owing to the nature of the entity however this has not impacted on the effectiveness of the entity.
National Research Foundation (NRF) on its 2013/14 Annual Report
Mr Albert van Jaarsveld, Chief Executive Officer, NRF, noted that the NRF celebrated its 75th anniversary of the rediscovery of the Coelacanth in 2013 which has resulted in the flagship programme. The presentation commenced with an outline of the vision and five point plan of the NRF (see document). The NRF has not achieved the 1% above the GDP investment however it achieved many of its targets. The NRF has met its benchmarks, however the NRF has encountered challenges with regard to its demographic- there has been rapid growth in percentage of the overall number of candidates however the target has still not been satisfied. Four targets of the NRF have been exceeded owing to a substantial increase in funding. Rated researchers are more active and productive and young researchers had the same quality output as senior researchers and are celebrated for their capacity and performance outputs. With regard to the International performance of the NRF, some disciplines produced more than the international norm. Raw outputs and quality standard, measured by citation rate and impact, of the NRF are currently better than the international norm.
Investment in SKA has increased substantially in addition to the shifting of money to satisfy the Department’s key objectives with regard to the ten year innovation plan. However, there were concerns that the core grant is not increasing and 80% of the salaries are derived from this grant which poses a challenge for the retention of human capital within the NRF. With regard to the NRF income ratios, there was a decline in the Parliamentary grant. Bursaries are the bulk of the expenditure and the NRF’s investment in MeerKAT has increased by 81%. The total overhead expenditure of the NRF is kept below 10% due to efficiency measures and cost containment initiatives. However, salaries have increased and this has placed pressure on the operating budget which poses a concern for staff retention.
The organisation is committed to the creation of a transformed workforce and of the 1301 staff members, 11% have PhDs; 9% have a Master’s degree and 6% of staff are enrolled for postgraduate qualifications. The staff turnover is under the national norm; however there is a shortage of women and black participation in Engineering. The NRF had initiated training programmes externally and internally for personal development especially to promote black employees for senior positions.
The presentation further highlighted the achievements of the various programmes of the NRF. Under Science Engagement programme, it was necessary for science to be viewed as a prospective career path and the NRF has exceeded the performance targets in terms of science advancement. Science engagement is effected in collaboration with various partners and the NRF will be utilising water cooperation to strengthen awareness during National Science Week. Braille plates were utilised by the NRF to allow blind learners access to literature and rollout across the country is desired for greater exposure for all individuals.
On RISA, the greatest proportion of the budget went into this programme- there has been healthy growth in grant funding. With regard to the programme’s performance against its targets, there has been healthy growth exceeding the national target by 3%. The system is expanding and there are more active researchers which has impacted percentage changes. There is growing participation with regard to the raw figures for studentships and graduations. The bulk of the Honours bursaries are awarded to black female candidates and over 30% black male candidates upon which the Department of Science and Technology has conducted a study. A variety of instruments are considered for researchers and all four parts of the system require attention, therefore investments require balance amongst all areas. The NRF has made investments in both emerging and established researchers. The NRF exceeded the target for 2015 in terms of rated researchers and the researchers are recognised as leaders nationally and internationally. Of 1500 interns, 700 have joined the workforce and 365 have been chosen to continue their studies to increase the qualification. The programme is being expanded to include the Humanities and Social Sciences.
The presentation concluded with an outline of future targets of the NRF, including:
- Second last year of performance related to Vision 2015, of which four high level targets were already achieved.
- Major growth in Human Capital investment anticipated in next year’s performance statistics based on awards made in 2014.
- Major infrastructure investments made in year under review.
- Significant additional investment made for established researchers and emerging researchers from 2014.
- Shift in HCD development at facilities from hosting towards formal supervision.
- Demographic targets hindered by available pool of black researchers at universities (Research Career Award Fellowships).
- Proposal for a needs-based student award system in development.
Dr Lotriet commended the NRF on the report and noted that it was easy to comprehend and make an assessment upon.
Dr Lotriet noted an issue regarding Higher Education and NSFAS and indicated that R15 billion is required in order to cater for all students. Has a projection been made by the NRF to establish the funding needed?
Mr Koornhof enquired as to the output of the Masters, Honours and PhD students.
Ms Maseko congratulated the NRF on its clean audit opinions since 2009 and questioned whether the review for the 2015 plan has begun.
Ms Maseko commended the NRF on its concerted effort towards black women and the increase in numbers thereof.
Ms Maseko referred to under-privileged students who are deserving of bursaries and indicated that there have been excellent results in rural areas for learners in school and that their hard work is commendable.
In response to the questions asked, Mr Van Jaarsveld indicated that a small group of scientists contributed to the NRFs achievements and the NRF requires greater participation. The Department’s budget is R7 billion, however the Departmental budget is only half of the amount required for students- it was highly and recommended that the Department’s budget is doubled to promote participation. The science career only begins once graduates have a PhD- the benchmark is reflected in the employment statistics and there is need for distinction between real graduates and students with qualifications. In the United Kingdom, 70 – 80% of graduates are absorbed in the private sector which promotes innovation. Employment rates indicate that there is a great demand for the students- students may be employed before they leave the system and in terms of their output, they were making an immense contribution- however, there are not enough students. The strategy beyond 2015 has already begun and the NRF will work closely with the department to deliver on the goals and requirements .On the issue concerning black women participation the necessity to determine the problem in order to incentivise their participation cannot be overemphasised.
Ms Maseko asked whether students with commendable results may be referred to the NRF.
Mr Van Jaarsveld responded in the affirmative and explained that the majority of funded students are South African and that the NFR is proud to be contributing to the development of the nation.
Mr Gansen Pillay, Deputy CEO: Research and Innovation Support and Advancement, NRF, added that new instruments have been established for Doctoral students part-time. On transformation by the NRF, 20 chairs have been created and will be occupied by women. Women are represented in the majority however, this cohort is predominantly white. The NRF will request for black women to be prioritised.
The Chairperson concluded the meeting with closing remarks.
The meeting was adjourned.
- PC Sci: Academy of Science of South Africa, CSIR & NRF on their 2013/14 Annual Reports 2
- PC Sci: Academy of Science of South Africa, CSIR & National Research Foundation on its Annual Reports 2013/14 - 1
- PC Sci: Academy of Science of South Africa, CSIR & National Research Foundation on its Annual Reports 2013/14 - 2
- PC Sci: Academy of Science of South Africa, CSIR & NRF on their 2013/14 Annual Reports 1
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