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PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
7 March 2006
IMPACT OF STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS ON DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: BRIEFING; COMMITEE 2005 ANNUAL REPORT, MINUTES AND FIRST TERM PROGRAMME: ADOPTION
Documents handed out:
A presentation by DST on State of the Nation address.
Portfolio Committee’s Annual report 2005
Portfolio Committee’s First term draft program.
Parliament’s Programme Framework
A Letter on the joint statement of the Human Science Research Council and Higher Education South Africa on collaboration between the science council and Universities. (see Appendix)
The Department of Science and Technology briefed the Committee on the impact of the State of the Nation Address on the Department. They highlighted 13 key messages in the State of the Nation Address that were relevant to the Department. Of these, Research and Development was stressed and explored with regards to two initiatives undertaken by the Department. These were the development of Centres of Excellence, and the South African Research Chairs Initiative. Members raised concerns about the lack of attention at grassroots level, targets for women and people with disabilities for the chair positions and the rollout of these initiatives.
Impact of President’s State of the Nation Address on the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and its entities: Presentation
The Chairperson welcomed the delegation from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) as well as Committee Members and proposed that the DST make their presentation.
Mrs M Pyoos, the Deputy Director-General, highlighted the "Key Messages" the DST discerned from the 2006 State of the Nation Address. She expressed appreciation for the messages which span a multitude of governmental clusters and felt they were apt as an expression of "forward looking collective action" which she felt would be economically beneficial. Mrs Pyoos also identified an interventionist role for the DST in terms of the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA), which the DST had previously participated strongly in, as well as in industrial policy formulation in the economic cluster. Thus Mrs Pyoos felt that the DST’s focus was congruent to the President’s on where the SA economy was headed and development needs.
With regards to the President’s message of higher growth, Mrs Pyoos pointed out that the DST has been pushing for higher expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) both in the public and private sector. Mrs Pyoos also highlighted the DTS’s role in driving, with the National Treasury, the tax incentives announcement which was made in the budget speech. This she highlighted was a contribution to achieving the economic growth of 6%. With the range of the other key messages especially the modernising of the economy, the DST has been collectively involved with the chemical sector and the advanced manufacturing technology strategy; thus she concluded that in a range of the issues the DST had already been part of governmental mechanisms and "processes around them".
Apart from these, Mrs Pyoos maintained that the DST has been "reconfiguring" itself into the social aspect such as the messages regarding poverty reduction, employment creation, and social delivery. Mrs Pyoos also alluded to DST’s involvement with JIPSA in addressing the scarcity of skills. On the last issue or key message on R&D and Innovation, and increasing the pool of young researches, Mrs Pyoos added a specific focus in building the core research centres of excellence programme and the research chairs programme. The centres of excellence the DST hoped would attract new researchers and strengthen the research that was occurring already. Some of these centres, she maintained were selected because they already had an international standard in terms of their research outputs. In the current year the DTS, Mrs Pyoos maintained will be looking to establish a further three.
Referring to the second initiative, i.e. the South African Research Chairs Initiative, Mrs Pyoos pointed out that it will be based primarily in universities and will have to be established there, with the hope to generate masters, doctoral and postdoctoral students in fields related to science and technology. The proposals from universities for these chairs, Mrs Pyoos said, would have to be in line with the national R&D strategy and "development imperatives." Mrs Pyoos claimed that twenty of these research chairs will be established in 2006, and by 2010 the hope is that there would be 210 of the research chairs across the country.
With regard to the budget that DST secured from 2006/07 to 2008/09, Mrs Pyoos pointed out that the figures, though they look strong, are not for this year alone but for the three years from 2006 to 2009 and this will be fully invested in the particular areas.
The Chair acknowledged the usefulness of the briefing. He referred to a publication called "The Strategic Imperatives for South Africa as set out in the State of the Nation Address 2005." He highlighted the fact that some of what Mr Pyoos had mentioned was covered in the publication, and suggested the Members familiarise themselves with the document as a tool with which to interrogate corporate strategies and annual reports. Mr Ngcobo warned that the Committee would be vigorous in interrogating the reports and corporate strategies because of the directive from the executive and the contradictions picked up after reviewing the votes from training. Thus he decided that all Members should undergo the training required to analyse these strategies and reports.
Mr Ainslie (ANC) suggested that additions be made to the key messages located outside of the country. These included co-operation with Africa and international co-operation. Referring to ASGISA, Mr Ainslie pointed out the identification of key specific sectors that he believed the DST had a very important role to play in. He maintained that the key messages presented by DST did not seem to cover these, but they were fundamentals that DST should be involved in. These were, for example, chemicals, bio-fuels, metals, wood, pulp and paper, agriculture, and clothing and textiles. The question was how DST relates to that. Finally Mr Ainslie claimed that no progress would be made in encouraging the pool of young researchers if something was not done about maths and science, i.e. the fact that fewer people were taking maths and science in South Africa. He thus asked if DST was in touch with the Department of Education to remedy that problem.
Mr Mlangeni (ANC) posed a vague question related to people suffering from cholesterol and bird-flu and asked whether South African Scientists are doing anything about developing a vaccine for bird-flu.
Mr Nxumalo asked for more details on how the objectives of the Research Chairs Initiative would be attained.
The Chair asked for information about the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Universities collaboration program, in terms of increasing skills development. He also asked for the criteria for a fulltime research chair.
Prof I Mohamed (ANC) commented on increasing the number of world-class researchers and attracting black researchers He maintained that based on his University experience that the attempt to attract researchers would fail because of poor pay. He thus suggested that this was one of the main stumbling blocks in both cases of world-class researchers and attracting black researchers.
Mrs Pyoos first addressed Mr Ainslie’s question related to ASGISA. She maintained that the DST is already "heavily engaged" in the bio-fuels field by jointly driving that initiative with the Department of Minerals and Energy, and from the beginning of last year significant gains have been made by DST while chairing the Bio-Diesel joint implementation committee. The Bio-diesel standard was adopted in 2005 through DST efforts. Concerning chemicals, Mrs Pyoos maintained that has been driven strongly with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) who hold sway over the chemicals sector strategy. She acknowledge that one should look at ASGISA in more detail to discern the drivers identified for its implementation. With regards to Science and Youth, she requested that a colleague appear before the Committee to speak on the "wealth" of interventions on the science and youth front as well as the partnership with the Department of Education on the outer school maths and science programs.
With regards to Mr Mlangeni’s question, she admitted that DST have not developed a vaccine for bird-flu as yet, however she maintained that with regards to vulnerability, both the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture have been aided my DST in monitoring the situation.
Mr Mlangeni suggested that monitoring would not be sufficient, and asked why the development of a vaccine was not a priority at this point.
Mrs Pyoos’ reply was to point out that there is a vaccine, which is available in SA but only in small quantities. She also pointed out that it is important to be in partnership with countries who have large quantities of the vaccine and who are moving out of the danger zone.
On the question pertaining to the HSRC, Mrs Pyoos maintained that their approach was taken up through Higher Education South Africa. Thus the ties are being forged and the corporate plan would be presented next week. There is also a focus, she maintained, of looking into Universities that the HSRC has previously been weak in cooperating with.
The Chair asked why South Africa had not adopted the approach taken by other countries, i.e. identifying two or three major universities and working closely with them when developing strategies.
Mrs Pyoos claimed that institutions of higher learning have not "come to DST" thus a plan such as the one suggested was not possible. The challenge lay in reaching universities not usually involved with the HSRC.
The criteria for Research Chairs, Mrs Pyoos maintained will be based primarily on research effort and planned research, but research excellence also plays a salient role. However due to the number of Chair positions, she claimed that universities would be incentivised to apply for a post. She also mentioned that the award of the chair would hold for five years.
Concerning the reference to attracting international researchers to the higher education sector, Mrs Pyoos indicated that they did have a shortage of top researchers in the fields of science and universities. She further maintained that there might be a need to attract researchers that have left South Africa, and private sector researchers locally. Thus the application has to come from the university.
Mr S L Dithebe (ANC) posed a question related to attracting women as far as research chairs are concerned to compel a target of women who comprise a slight majority of citizens in SA.
Mrs Nefolovhodwe (Azanian Peoples Organisation) asked who would decide on the strategic nature and the national importance of research. Who would stimulate the strategic research? How did one break the fraternal monopolies on research stimulation?
Mrs B T Ngcobo, as a follow up to the question concerning targeting women, asked if there is also a mechanism in place to attract people with disabilities, and is there a database for pooling young researchers maintained by the DST?
Mr Ainslie suggested that indicators be created for the progress made by the DST with regard to the second economy. He asked how successful projects could be replicated on a mass scale thoughout the country. Are they researching what the second economy was and was any research being done on bringing fundamental services such as water and energy to communities?
With regard to the Research Chairs and the attraction of women and people with disabilities, Mrs Pyoos maintained that there was no guarantee that a correct quota of women will actually take up the initial positions, but stressed that through the establishment of these positions, the attraction of women and people with disabilities would evolve. Women empowerment has always been an aim of the DST, but there were no hard targets.
Mr S L Dithebe maintained that having targets and making an overt effort to establish the targets for women and people with disabilities would not be an outrageous request of the DST and thus no excuses should be made.
In terms of the identification of the strategic intent and stimulation of research, Mrs Pyoos recognised an historic bias of some universities that monopolise awards for development programs, but by offering many of these chair positions, and not just two or three, the DST is attempting to "flood the system" and making sure that the more marginalised institutions gain support for starting a chair program. She also maintained that the guiding framework for targeted outputs for research from universities should be the objectives highlighted in their presentation. Apart from this, Mrs Pyoos maintained that based on the quantum of money provided for these chair programs, the universities would be able to pay the researchers well enough to avoid the focus on teaching and move that specific researcher into a more beneficial role, where lecturing takes a back seat to the research.
On the database of graduates, Mrs Pyoos argued that there is a database generated within government and DST is aligned with that database of unemployed graduates and has DST-led support programs for internships for unemployed graduates.
Mrs Pyoos also mentioned a refocus from a project base endeavour by DST to put science to work on an exclusive social component or sub-program that goes beyond job creation and looks at access to basic services so interventions on alternative forms of sanitation for example existed. The DST hoped that its interventions at a critical level would at least illustrate alternatives to the departments who have budgets for those specific areas.
Mr Ainslie was adamant that this entailed more than "hoping" and that the respective department must make a firm effort to roll out these programs.
The Chair then pointed out that various sub-committees dealing specifically with water for example, have been persistent in wanting to initiate some of their schemes even through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Apart from this, the Chair with regards to the research chairs pointed out that the focus of this DST initiative was too far removed from the grassroots operations and research initiatives; thus avoided dealing with issues of employment and direct rollout strategies.
In response to this, Mrs Pyoos alluded to a presentation of grass roots interventions that was scheduled for 8 March dealing with issues such as the toilet system and access to clean drinking water. The DST’s interventions which were scheduled to be rolled out during 2006 will address these issues as well as exploring the implementation of "merry-go-round technology". She thus acknowledged the role of science and technology at a grass roots level and making science and technology work for the second economy.
Adoption of the Minutes of 15 November 2005.
The Chair called for the adoption of the minutes.
Mr Nefolovhodwe (AP0) moved for the adoption of the minutes.
Mr Mlangeni then seconded the move and the minutes were adopted.
Review of the Portfolio Committee’s First Term Draft Program
The Chair proposed certain amends to be made to the program because a training workshop on budget analysis had interfered with the scheduling. He stressed the importance of this training to interrogate the proposed corporate structures, a proposal made by the National Treasury. He requested a briefing from the speakers at the workshop for the Committee Members. The workshop was thus scheduled for Monday the 13th of March, which was an amendment to the draft program. Thus the hearing for Monday with the Human Sciences Research Council will be "lumped together" with what was scheduled for Tuesday.
Mr Dithebe proposed that there be a meeting for the various science counsels and inquired whether the lack of these meetings in the draft program was due to the fate of one of their CEOs and the alleged misuse of funds.
The Chair acknowledged that a replacement should be made on the schedule to accommodate the science counsels.
Mr Dithebe further suggested that the Committee should have a mechanism for dealing with incidences such as the dismissal of science council heads.
The Chair proposed that the correct mechanisms for interrogating these issues should be through the interrogation of the corporate strategies as this relates to employment.
Mr Mlangeni enquired if it was the duty of the Committee to enquire about such dismissals.
The Chair maintained that the Committee should be briefed on such developments if it involves a senior official such as a DG.
The Chair proposed the adoption of the draft program.
Mr Blanche (DA) moved for the adoption of the draft program.
Mr Nxumalo seconded the move and the draft program was adopted.
Review of Portfolio Committee’s Annual Report of 2005
After highlighting a discrepancy in the Annual Report with regards to the session of South African membership, highlighted by Mr Mlangeni, an amendment was made altering the dates. (See Document).
The Chair proposed that the report be adopted.
Mr Blanche moved for the adoption of the report.
Mr Ngcobo seconded and the report was adopted.
With regards to the Swedish study trip, the Chair stressed that the trip should take place before the 10th of June or the opportunity might be revoked because of the elections. Arising out of the Swedish invitation, the Chair also pointed out that the former Minister of Science and Technology had organised a program in Japan to review their science and technology program.
The Chair highlighted the Strategic Unit Publication (See Agenda), and stressed that the publication has some good tools to interrogate relevant presentations.
Mr Ainslie briefly expressed concern that it was a 2005 document and should be updated for 2006.
Finally with regard to the HSRC, the Chair highlighted a letter (see document) which requested that the Committee help identify people at a research level whose talents were misplaced, and direct these people to meet with the HSRC so that their research talents could be properly used.
The meeting was adjourned.
JOINT STATEMENT OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCIL AND HIGHER EDUCATION SOUTH AFRICA ON COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE SCIENCE COUNCIL AND UNIVERSITIES
20 February 2006
The Human Science Research Council (HSRC), and Higher Education South Africa (HESA), which represents 23 universities, met in Johannesburg on Friday, 10 February 2006 to explore ways of collaboratively expanding social science and humanities research and accelerating the development of a new generation of researchers in line with state policy and priorities. Both the institutions recognised that social science and humanities research is fundamental to innovation, economic, social and cultural development and to nation building. It was agreed that the nature and scope of the mutually beneficial partnerships and collaboration will be informed by:
- A HESA-HSRC Memorandum of Understanding that will promote and advance social science and humanities research to government, industry, civil society and international agencies and will establish a framework that enables inter-institutional collaborations;
- HSRC-University Specific Agreements with the aim of creating enabling academic and administrative structures in order to facilitate research collaboration including sabbaticals, joint lecturing, joint appointments, post-doctoral fellowships, post-graduate research training, and enhancing overall academic research activities through joint research collaborations; and
- Agreements between the HSRC and specific programmes or research groupings at universities. These collaborations should aim to bring together diverse expertise from multiple institutions that could contribute to building research and human resource capacity in the common pursuit of research that would address economic, cultural, and social innovation and development.
The two institutions will convene a second meeting in October 2006 to review progress made and to identify further areas for collaboration.
Ms Piyushi Kotecha Dr Olive Shisana
Interim CEO CEO and President
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