Human Sciences Research Council Annual Report briefing

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Meeting report


28 October 2004

Mr Tolo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Human Sciences Research Council Annual Report (offsite link)

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) gave a thorough report on their 250 programmes across ten multi-disciplinary research categories. They had a team of 150 researchers, but needed to seriously increase this number due to their huge workload. Poverty alleviation, HIV/AIDS-related issues, and government efficiency and human resources development, were foci of their research.
In the ensuing discussion, Members asked the HSRC about the racial and gender demographics of their staff and leadership, why top researchers were leaving their employ, the policy position on the provision of antiretrovirals to treat AIDS-related disease, and their response to the Minister of Finance's request for a programme to absorb surplus funds.


Human Sciences Research Council briefing
Dr M Orkin, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson, briefed the Committee on the activities of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), and emphasised the importance of it being translated into four official languages. He spoke about the election of the Board for a four-year term starting 1 November 2004. The Board was comprised of nine members, including four established members and five new members. The HSRC had a team of 150 researchers - excluding interns - but they needed to seriously increase this number due to their huge workload. Poverty alleviation, HIV/AIDS-related issues, and government efficiency and human resources development were foci of their research.

Dr M Maharaj, Executive Director, then informed the Committee that they had 250 programmes across ten research categories. Each programme had a multi-disciplinary nature and the research impacted on family development programmes, child-care, the award of disability grants, and social attitude surveys. The HSRC had also published research features for local newspapers. The HSRC also worked with 20 collaborators at science councils and universities. She recommended future research and engagement with government departments. They had made gains in strategic planning for human development in collaboration with international research programmes; education and training systems, and attracting funding agencies.

Dr Maharah also noted that the Council ran a programme on the social aspects of HIV/AIDS (Sahara) in collaboration with research bodies within and outside the SADC region. These programmes also did research on epidemiological and demographic health economics. Ethiopia was among the countries that had benefited from their research programmes. The Gender Co-ordination Unit and the African Linguistics and Social Units were also integral to their research.

Ms J. Masilo (ANC) asked whether the HSRC had a satellite office in Parliament for easier reference for Parliamentarians.

Mr O Thlagale (ACDP) wanted the Council to state its stand on antiretroviral drug provision, and what necessitated the Council to emphasise moral regeneration. He also asked the Council for its opinion on the statement issued by the Minister of Finance regarding youth and employment programmes.

Ms Magubane (ANC) asked the Council whether it ran any programmes on arts and culture, especially on language.

Dr Orkin replied that the Council has recruited a staffmember to handle gender matters, and expand women's involvement in policy and development. The HSRC report provided insights into moral cultural integration. Research programmes broadly focussed on poverty issues. Currently the Council did not have an office in Parliament, but it the Council's offices in central Cape Town had a 'Parliamentary room'. The Council's position on anti-retroviral drugs was that these should be offered to people in need who had undergone voluntary counselling and testing. The Council continued to directly engage with the Department of Arts and Culture.

The Chairperson asked Dr Orkin to clarify whether black people were leading the Council. He also asked whether the government took the research work of the Council in policy formulation seriously. He wanted to know whether, in its restructuring, the Council supporting the government's transformation priorities, given its more 'conservative' historical legacy. He also asked the rationale for the Council selling its buildings in Pretoria.

Dr Orkin replied that since the Council had the capacity to train competent researchers, the majority of the researchers who left were being recruited by local and international bodies. The Council adhered to the national demographic transformation policy in all its recruitment. Currently the Council had several vacant top executive positions, and black candidates were being targeted. Their administration section was leading in transformation restructuring.

Dr Orkin said that he joined the Council in 1995 when black staff were in the minority. As the HSRC was a public entity, it observed demographic equity and democratic principles in its operations. The government had extensively utilised the policy development and training capacity of its personnel. Due to operations restructuring, the Council had gathered surplus finances. The Minister of Finance had requested the Council to draw up a programme on how it would spend this surplus, to which the Council agreed. The Council had outsourced an external auditor to audit its finances.

The meeting was adjourned.


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