Academy of Science of South Africa & Human Sciences Research Council on their 2016 Budget & Annual Performance Plan

Science and Technology

14 April 2016
Chairperson: Mr B Goqwana (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Academy of Science of South Africa briefed the Committee on its Annual Performance Plan 2016/2017.  One of the most important goals for the Academy of Science of South Africa was to generate evidence-based solutions to national and global challenges. The Academy of Science of South Africa had a Liaison Programme for Gender that hosted the Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World. The main resource was the Department of Science and Technology Baseline allocation, which was a parliamentary allocation.

Members asked how the Academy went about disseminating the advice and recommendations contained in their reports; what had been done in terms of the Blue Economy; clarity about Academy's status as the entity in terms of auditing; the possibility of having the Quest magazine online;  what specific areas would the organisation say were being compromised by the limited budget; if the Academy was going to explore wind farms versus solar farms; the staff complement of the Academy; if the Department of Science and Technology could house the Academy of Science of South Africa;  the amount of additional funding received; the exit plans for members of the council; collaboration with the Gender Commission; the gender of the 5 interns at the Academy; and the amount of money spent on the publications on Profiling Academy of Science of South Africa and the History of Academy of Science of South Africa.

The Academy of Science of South Africa was doing its best to reach the poor through its Quest magazine. It targeted 10 schools of Grades 4,5 and 6; and was a 3-year pilot programme. It was exploring going online to reduce the amount spent on publications. The Academy was exploring the Blue Economy and had been liasing with the advisor to President Obama who was very keen to further the Blue Economy in Africa.

The Human Sciences Research Council briefed the Committee on their Strategic Plan 2016/17 – 2020/21 and their Annual Performance Plan 2016/17. The Council said that any change in leadership offered the opportunity for the organisation to reflect on its work and direction. This was what the Council had been doing over the past six months. This re-orientation had required that attention be paid to the targets set as well as the indicators used to measure success.

The Committee asked if the Human Sciences Research Council found it increasingly difficult to get funding for projects;  if the Council charged the departments that commissioned it to do work for them; why a senior researcher had such a huge impact on the output; if the Council received funding from the National Research Foundation; and what it was going to do about the problems with the building in which they were located.

On concerns about the building in which the Human Sciences Research Council was housed, the Committee heard that the Council would continue to maintain the building but would not overextend itself in terms of capital expenditure. A letter had been written to the Director-General of the Department of Social Development as they had been looking for space for a long time; and had expressed an interest in renting the entire building. The Council then entered into discussion with the Department of Public Works who offered to buy the entire building and rent offices to the Department of Social Development until they moved to their new premises. 

The Council expressed their appreciation for the continued support of the Committee

Meeting report

Academy of Science and Technology (Academy of Science of South Africa) on its Annual Performance Plan 2016/2017

Ms Roseanne Diab, Executive Officer: Academy of Science of South Africa, said that one of the Academy's goals was to generate evidence-based solutions to national and global challenges. Strategic Goals in alignment with Government goals were as follows:

  1. Recognition and reward of excellence;
  2. Promotion of innovation and scholarly activity;
  3. Promotion of effective evidence-based scientific advice;
  4. Promotion of public interest in and awareness of science and science education; and
  5. Promotion of national, regional and international linkages

The goals for 2016/17 were:

  • Develop communication strategy;
  • Achieve greater social media presence;
  • Develop e-publications strategy for study reports; and Provide support for 20-year anniversary celebrations

The Strategic Objectives for the Scholarly Publishing Programme were:

  1. Increase visibility, accessibility & search ability of South African (SA) accredited scholarly journals;
  2. Improve quality of SA scholarly journals, books & conference proceedings;
  3. Promote visibility & research through publication of the South African Journal of Science (SAJS); and
  4. Promote awareness of science amongst youth

The Academy had a Liaison Programme: Gender & STI, which hosted the Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) National Chapter and Gender In SITE regional focal point.

Mr Morakeng Chiloane, Financial Manager: ASSAf said the main resource was the DST: Baseline allocation. This was obtained from the Department of Science and Technology and was a parliamentary allocation

The Income details for the projected budget summary MTEF period 2016/17 were:

  • DST Baseline allocation                                                  23 106
  • Income from publications                                                     150
  • Interest receivable                                                               800
  • Membership fees receivable                                                   88
  • Other Income                                                                        40
  • Total project income                                                        24 184   


The Chairperson said most of the entities being dealt with were in human capital development.

Mr M Kekana (ANC) commented on the good work done by ASSAf. He asked what ASSAf would consider as an adequate budget to fulfil their mandate. 

Mr Chiloane replied that a 50% increase to parent allocation would enable the organisation to maybe reduce the noise made about the budget being limited. This excluded infrastructural costs.

Mr Kekana asked how ASSAf went about disseminating the advice and recommendations contained in their reports.

Ms Diab replied that the reports that came out all had a dissemination plan that involved disseminating hard copies to targeted stakeholders; arranged meetings with some of the key government departments; briefing them and trying to disseminate through various means and presenting reports at international meetings. As a result of this approach ASSAf was approached by an international organisation to do some further work in the South African Development Community (SADC) area.

Ms J Terblanche (DA) hoped more could have been said about the Blue Economy. Gunter Paoli, the author of the book 'The 100 innovations to 100 million jobs: from scarcity to abundance' initiated the Blue Economy in 2010. Gunter Paoli's focus was to basically to create awareness and make use of what was had. She asked if this was what ASSAf was aiming to do. She had seen that ASSAf wanted to workshop the Blue Economy with African academics and raise awareness. In the South African context it was clear what it had like minerals etcetera. Was that basically what these workshops would entail and when the ASSAf said African academics, did it mean South African or Africa as a continent.

 Ms Diab said ASSAf was just beginning its exploration in this field. It had been liasing with the advisor to President Obama and she was very keen to further the Blue Economy in Africa. They were looking at how to take this message that the Blue Economy was so important; and worked together with other academy partners in Africa to promote this message

Dr A Lotriet (DA) thanked ASSAf for the abbreviations and acronyms that helped. She asked if any clarity had been given regarding ASSAf's status as the entity in terms of auditing

Mr Chiloane indicated that there was no change in this as yet. No position had been taken. ASSAf had been engaging with National Treasury and worked hand in hand with the DST in terms of clarifying that. It was established that National Treasury had difficulty in terms of what they should do to deal with this considering the nature of the entity. The DST was busy considering it and was working hand in hand with ASSAf.

Dr Lotriet asked what the possibility was of having the Quest magazine online because the organisation's reach would be much wider.

Ms Maseko asked if an impact assessment and evaluation of Quest had been done.   

Ms Maseko said this was related to Quest and promoting science in grade 10 and 12 for educators. She asked if this was done across the country.

Ms Diab replied that she would try to answer all the questions about Quest in one. Quest had an advisory board, which at a recent strategic meeting decided that Quest magazine had to remain as a print copy. It was very important to distribute hard copies to the schools. Many of the schools in the rural areas did not have access to the Internet so ASSAf would continue with hard copies. ASSAf wanted to make sure that it had a better way of managing distribution. At the moment it went out to the list of schools that was obtained from the Department of Basic Education. So Quest Magazine did go to the deep rural schools. Often there was no address and maybe a post box, so it was unknown whether the magazine actually reached those schools.

ASSAf had started to liaise with district offices in order to explore better distribution options but this plan was still in its infancy. It was a lot easier to do in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Kwa Zulu Natal was a challenge as most of the distribution needed to be done there. This needed to be worked on. ASSAf had a new education liaison officer for Quest magazine who was working very hard to engage with the schools and with the district to distribute the magazine. The magazine was available on the website so it could be downloaded, but it was not searchable. The ASSAf wanted to make it searchable so then it would be fully interactive. There was a plan to include language boxes in the magazine. There were quite a number of plans lined up for Quest magazine and ASSAf would continue to work with the science centres and education departments. The material did not date and could be used over and over again.

Mr Chiloane said given that ASSAf relied mostly on postage, there was a challenge with those publications reaching there destination. In most cases one would find that they did not reach their destination. There was an awareness of the problems in the post office and ASSAf saw a huge number of returns. It was very expensive to courier the publication to various schools.

Dr Lotriet asked in terms of the budget which was limited because R24 million was not much money; she asked what specific areas would the organisation say were being compromised at this point by the limited budget.

Miss Diab replied that the areas that were being compromised were the core business systems and procedures like putting in place supply chain management processes and knowledge management services. It was relatively easy for the organisation to raise money for project based activities but it was struggling with the core services that one needed to run an organisation.

Mr N Koornhof (ANC) asked on the science advisory programme on climate change and energy studies, whether ASSAf had done or envisaged to do a study comparison between wind farms versus solar farms. Which of the two would be more efficient, which would be more durable in the long term, and which would be more cost effective for consumers?

Ms Diab replied that it was a little difficult to answer the question because the organisation did not undertake research. It actually assembled research. The ASSAf could convene a workshop and open the debate on these issues like what was the efficiency of wind farms. This could be done.

Ms L Maseko (ANC) asked what the staff complement of ASSAf was.

Ms Diab replied that there were 34 people working at ASSAf.

Ms Maseko asked that based on this number was it not possible to be housed by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) then it could save on the little resources it had. 

Ms Diab replied that ASSAf had been with the DST but unfortunately they became over crowded so they had to find their own premises. It was not feasible to go back there. They had been trying to assist ASSAf by putting in a budget for a building with their own submission, but thus far they had been unsuccessful.

Ms Maseko said that Mr Chiloane had mentioned additional funding that was received but did not mention how much it was. She asked if this amount could be made known.

Mr Chiloane replied that the amount was R1 million that had been promised by the DST. This money had not been received as yet.

Ms Maseko said it was said that ASSAf received funding from other sources; she asked if the amount could be shared with the Committee.

Mr Chiloane said there were no guarantees for this money and nothing was in writing as yet, but the ASSAf operated on the basis that historically the organisation was able to generate some funding from external sources.

Mr Udesh Pillay, CEO: said a disproportionate burden sometimes occurred in the research programmes so that the HSRC was able to generate funding on the basis of historical relationships and associations with certain funders. It should be noted that the economy was only growing at 1.2% so this also presented challenges for government to commission research from the HSRC, although it had a very good relationship with government departments who valued its work.

Ms Maseko asked if the advisory programme was linked to the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI).

Ms Diab replied that there was a MOU with NACI and part of that MOU was that it had to share APPs  with each other's organisations. This was done and where possible it did try to link and liaise. The ASSAf had just recently collaborated with them on the Science Advise Workshop that was held in Hermanus.

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) said the ASSAf mandate was huge with wonderful objectives. All social media platforms could be integrated. He asked in terms of the distribution of Quest, to which schools was it distributed because he wanted to know if ASSAf was reaching rural schools and black schools because this would inform the real impact of the academy which was supposed to be how especially black people were encouraged to pursue careers in science.

Ms Diab replied that this need was acknowledged and the organisation planned to expand on its efforts with social media.

Mr Paulsen said that ASSAf had spoken about income, but it did not say how much it spent on publications. Going online would reduce the amount spent on publications.

Mr Paulsen asked what was the reach into the black communities, previously disadvantaged communities and rural communities

Mr Paulsen said that one had to be careful not to duplicate what other entities were doing.

Ms A Tuck (ANC) asked it there were any exit plans for members of the council

Ms Diab said this question was tied to the question about the exit plan: ASSAf was different to other entities in the national system of innovation, in the sense that it was a membership-based organisation. The members were absolutely critical to ASSAf; they were elected to membership and were drawn from the science sector or from the universities predominantly researchers. These members, once they became members, volunteered their services, so they were not paid anything for what they contributed. There were currently 476 members. They served on committees and wrote reports for ASSAf, they promoted Quest magazine and they did a variety of things so they were a huge resource that was actually under-utilised. Utilised more by the Department of Science and Technology, but not so much by other government departments. So in terms of the exit plans for council, these were all permanent employees in universities predominantly, so they would go back to their day jobs. The amount of money invested in them – paid very little – for airfares and a couple of meetings. They remained members and were still there to contribute.

Ms Maseko asked if ASSAf collaborated with the Gender Commission.

Ms Diab replied that she did not know the direct answer to that but would find out. There were very good collaborations with international organisations but she did not know about national.

Ms Maseko said in terms of the organisation using the gender lens in its interactions; the Commission was part of Chapter 9 and was doing exactly that and thought it linked to what the Honourable Paulsen was saying about duplication.

Ms Tuck said that one would like to commend ASSAf on its good work. 5 interns had been spoken about. She asked what their gender was.

Ms Diab replied that there were three males and two women.

Ms Tuck, on Programme 1:Governance and Administration and under New Activities Publication of the History of ASSAf; asked how much was spent on it and how much was spent on the publication 2 Profiling ASSAf Members.

Ms Diab said the funding was received from the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust to produce the book, publication of which fell under the sub-programme governance. This book would cost more to produce because the ASSAf wanted to make it a glossy colourful book. The history of ASSAf cost very little to date; a writer had been commissioned and it probably cost about R60 000 and then it would incur publication costs, which might be R150 000 to R200 000. For the book on the profiling of ASSAf members, the cost there had been even less. Five writers had been commissioned so it probably cost about R50 000 which had already been paid out.

Ms Tuck asked if there was going to be performance evaluation of outgoing council members.

Ms Tuck said it was good to see how much effort had been put into spend to promote awareness of science among youth, but then this only started at grade 10 and one would like to see it going younger. She asked where exactly it was going because she got the sense that the poorest of the poor were not being reached. 

Ms Diab agreed that the earlier one started with raising science awareness the better. The ASSAf had run a programme on enquiry based science education, which was based in the Pretoria area; it targeted 10 schools of Grades 4,5 and 6. and was a 3-year pilot programme which had just been evaluated. The conclusion of the evaluation was that ASSAf should not be doing the implementation; it should be the custodian of enquiry based science education. It should be advocating for it and promoting it and raising awareness, but it needed to partner with another organisation to do the actual implementation at the lower grades. This was also in the plan to do this year.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would definitely pass this budget. The ASSAf should go out knowing that the Committee respected this organisation and wanted it to remain. He expressed concern that children were not reading these days. The problem in the rural areas was that one found that parents did not go to school.

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC): Strategic Plan 2016/17

Ms Nasima Badsha, Chairperson of the Board: HSRC, introduced the new CEO, Mr Crain Soudien from UCT; she said any change in leadership offered the opportunity for the organisation to reflect on its work and direction. This was what the HSRC had been doing over the past six months. There had been intense engagements within the organisation itself as well as between the researchers and the leadership and the Council. The upshot of those deliberations has been that the organisation clearly continued to build on its strengths and retained the capacity in areas where it demonstrated advantage. The HSRC had recognised that there could not be business as usual; it had to use the resources that were available in the most effective way. It had to do so in ways that not only promoted greater efficiency in the organisation, but greater collaboration within and across the programmes of the HSRC so that it optimised its capacity but also with increased partnerships with particularly universities and with other research entities. The HSRC had also looked very carefully at all aspects of its mandate and was going to look carefully at its role in addressing developmental challenges in the country. The focus that has been adopted across the organisation was on poverty, in equality and unemployment. Those areas would permeate the work done in all of its programmes. This re-orientation had required that attention be paid to the targets set as well as the indicators that were used to measure success. Colleagues would be motivated why this particular focus and how it would allow the organisation to hone in on addressing the country's developmental challenges and what this meant for us as an organisation.

Mr Soudien briefed the Committee. One of most important specific policy mandates of the HSRC was a national innovation plan that was aligned with the NDP's vision 2030. The strategic outcome orientated goals of the organisation were:

  • Address through research, key priorities, notably poverty and inequality;
  • Generate new knowledge to inform further analysis and help decision makers; and
  • Focus on the kinds of social innovations that would need to be fore grounded in shifting and reversing the persistence of poverty and the deepening of inequality.

The Strategic Performance Targets 2016/17 for Knowledge Advancement were:

  1. Peer-reviewed journal articles per senior researcher                                1.4
  2. Scholarly books published                                                                    22
  3. Scholarly book chapters published                                                        63
  4. State of the Nation book volumes published                                              1
  5. HSRC research seminars convened                                                       50
  6. HSRC Review publications                                                                     4
  7. New publishing imprint                                                                           5
  8. Policy briefs                                                                                        20
  9. Public dialogues on poverty and inequality                                               2

Strategic Performance Targets 2016/17 for Institutional transformation were:

1 Percentage senior researchers who were African                                    56%

2 Percentage senior researchers who were female                                    49%

3 Annual Employment Equity reports produced and submitted                   100%

4 Quarterly Employment Equity reports produced                         4

5 Diversity awareness events hosted                                                        1

6 Gender awareness events hosted                                                         1

The challenge here was the ratio of senior researchers in relation to indicator and targets of all HSRC staff. There was a commitment to increase the targets for female researchers.

Ms Priya Singh, CFO: HSRC presented the Budget Analysis for 2016/2017:

  • Budgeted income: R510 524 000
  • Parliamentary Grant: R290 149 000
  • External research income target: R182 051 000
  • Other external income target; R38 324 000
  • Staff costs: R268 292 000
  • Ratio between Parliamentary grant and total external income: 57:43

The Institutional Risks were outlined as:

  • Research Funding Liquidity
  • Donor-driven research agenda
  • limited pool of senior researchers
  • Misalignment between Research Demands and IT Capabilities/Capacity and
  • Non-compliance with OHS regulations

Mr Soudien expressed appreciation for the continued support of the Committee and for giving the HSRC the opportunity to make the argument as to why this was necessary for the development of the country.


Dr Lotriet raised concern and asked if she was correct when looking at the salary budget, that it was basically the whole of the Parliamentary grant, so if it was not for the external income the organisation would not have operational funds. This would then seriously compromise all the activities of the HSRC. Given the economic situation in the country and internationally, do you find it increasingly difficult to get funding for projects – besides the issue that it would be dedicated research for the donor?

Mr Soudien replied that it was difficult to get funding. The HSRC had set a target for next year to get R180 million. The good news was that the HSRC was a long way already towards that target. It was not the quantum that was an issue; it was where the money was going. The bulk of that money was going to HIV work. Some of the programmes really struggled. The HIV and Aids Unit was the most successful unit in the HSRC. The units in governance experienced huge problems in trying to persuade donors to support this area.

Ms Badsha said that it was a challenge in more ways than one because it absorbed a lot of time and energy from the researchers, time and energy that should be going into their core work. Their time was often spent chasing small pockets of funding. The council was very concerned about the kind of stress that was placed on the researchers. This had an impact on the ability to recruit senior academics.

Ms Maseko said that salaries were more than half of the total budget for project related expenses which was only R141 072. She asked if the HSRC charged the departments that commissioned it to do work for them. She also expressed concern about the aging building of the HSRC. 

Mr Soudien said the HSRC largely charged but there were also occasions when the issues were so important that it had to pitch in. Sometimes the issues were so crucial that his discretionary money – which was not a lot – had to be used. The HSRC did need to charge departments and did have lots of relationships with departments where it did have contracts around the delivery of research. The HSRC had recently begun a conversation with the provincial department of Limpopo.

Mr Pillay said there were attempts to reduce the admin bill and a number of strategies had been developed to do this. For example for the allocation of funding in this particular year, in order to release more funding for research we have reduced the operational budget by 3%; there were a number of rationalisation processes happening with regard to admin staff duplications, freezing new posts at certain levels, contracts ending and so on, but this would be done in a considered manner. 

Ms Singh, said the HSRC required their researchers to recover at least 40% of their time on externally funded research projects. So in the last financial year R46 million had been recovered. This reduced the pressure on the Parliamentary Grant. The other consideration was the utilisation of consultants. Much of the work of the HSRC was actually conducted in-house by members of staff. The HSRC has kept the use of consultants to a minimum on the operations and support side, which placed the organisation at risk. The same had been done on the research side. Partners were used with an established memorandum of agreement or partners in universities were used. There was a need to acknowledge that much of the work was labour intensive and therefore those costs would always remain high. In some of the work that was done, especially the large surveys, those were mostly labour intensive and very little other money was actually spent on those particular projects. The HSRC had met the external income targets for the year and was able to recover that entire target in terms of time billing. This reduced some of the pressure. The other source of revenue that was received was by using funding for operational costs. This   was an overhead that was levied on the research costs. 13.5% was charged and this cost represented the administrative cost. Through that funding mechanism the HSRC was able to support its operational costs.   There were funders who did not contribute the full 13.5%, so on average 11% was recovered per year.

Regarding the projects that were done for government, the majority of them were secured through a tender process.

Mr Paulsen said on Slide 27 Strategic Targets 2016/17 Knowledge Advancement, it was shown that Peer-reviewed journal articles per senior researcher were 1.4, down from 1.9 because the HSRC had lost one senior researcher. He asked how a senior researcher could have such a huge impact on output.

Mr Soudien said that the HSRC would do its damnedest to stay at 1.9.

Ms Badsha said the CEO was the highest performer with regard to research in the Humanities faculty there.

Mr Paulsen asked what was required per researcher and did the HSRC get funding from the NRF. He also expressed concern about the building in which the HSRC was housed and also the fact that the facilities where in Pretoria required a rental that took up a lot of money. It was not appropriate to just bite the bullet; the HSRC was playing a vital role in society and should have proper workplace. He recommended that it put forward a proposal to buy a good place to work.

Mr Soudien replied that the HSRC did not get NRF funding, however it was about to conclude an agreement with the NRF to get some funding. This was only a small sum of money.

Mr Pillay said that the HSRC would continue to maintain the building but would not overextend itself in terms of capital expenditure because a discussion had been started about whether to move to new premises or not.  The status was as follows:  a letter had been written to the Director-General of the Department of Social Development (DSD) that occupied eight out of 14 floors of the HSRC building. They had required space for a long period of time. They did express an interest to rent the entire building. The Council then entered into discussion with the Department of Public Works who offered to buy the entire building and rent offices to the DSD until it moved to their new premises. 

The Chairperson thanked the HSRC and invited them to the budget discussions on the 19 April.

Share this page: