Academy of Science SA; Tshumisano Trust Strategic Plans and Budgets: briefings

Science and Technology

16 March 2006
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Meeting report


16 MARCH 2006

Mr Ngcobo (ANC)

Documents handed out
ASSAf Business Plan 2006-07
Tshumisano Strategic Plan and Budget 2006/2007

Members heard briefings from the Tshumisano Trust and the Academy of Science of SA (ASSAf) on their Strategic Plans and Budgets for 2006/2007.

ASSAf had been very active on the continent in establishing science academies. It was working together with the Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation and other bodies, in applying science to solve problems linked to poverty. There were outreach programmes such as ‘Quest’ magazine that targeted teachers. Monthly lectures also targeted tertiary institutions. Members concerns included ‘strings attached’ to donations. The predominantly white male staff profile of the Academy was still problematic.

The Tshumisano Trust staff reported that its strategy included plans to expand to under-serviced provinces and send students to be trained in scarce skills in other countries. The Department funded Tshumisano, and the latter in turn funded Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in the provinces. Members concerns revolved around the relationship between the Department and Tshumisano, and about students learning scarce skills in India.

Academy of Science of SA briefing
Professor W Gevers, Executive Officer, reported that the aims of the Academy included the strategic management of South African research journals, and co-ordination of the African Science Academy Development Initiative. The ‘South African Journal of Science’ was widely regarded as a premier journal of science and it was available via SABINET and the National Research Foundation (NRF) portal.

The Academy Business Plan for 2006-07 amounted to R1.08 million, and this had been submitted to the Department of Science and Technology, along with key performance indicators. National and regional activities included hosting the Annual Symposium, the Sydney Brenner Fellowship, celebrating the renowned South African Nobel Prize Winner, and conducting regional public lectures. Some of the research activities of ASSAf included studies into the role of nutrition on national health, sustainable cities, water management, climate change, and science education.

The Chairperson said that ASSAf had dealt with dealt with academic knowledge production, rather than national priorities. He then outlined what the Committee expected from a strategic plan by Parliament.

Mr J Blanche (DA) asked how ASSAf marketed the monthly lectures to as to be inclusive as possible. He wanted to know how would the youth benefitted from the lectures. He suggested that the SA Broadcasting Corporation could be used for publicising such lectures.

Professor Gevers replied that lecture meetings were attracting large crowds, and that ASSAf were contemplating opening regional offices. The lectures were advertised in tertiary institutions, but anyone interested was allowed to attend because lectures were conducted in simple language. ASSAf had approached the SABC for the possible broadcast of the meetings.

Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) asked whether ASSAf had a problem with staff turnover. She wanted to know more about the relationship between the President’s State of the Nation Address and the ASSAf Strategic Plan. She also wanted to know about the strings attached to the donation from the Americans.

Professor Gevers replied that his organisation had a very small, but loyal staff component. The donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had come with no strings attached.

Mr B Mnyandu (ANC) asked the reason that ASSAf was a largely white and predominantly male organisation. Professor Gevers replied that there were deliberate measures to transform ASSAf by increasing the membership of women and black people.

Mr Dithebe asked the means used to recoup the costs accrued from the distribution of Quest magazine. What measures were being taken to increase the circulation of Quest? Professor Gevers replied that Quest readership was well-spread and growing gradually. Quest targeted teacher training institutions. There was also a ‘mini-mag’ for school children.

The Chairperson reiterated the question on strings attached to US funding. Most funders had underlying motives that included controlling the organisations they funded. He wanted to know the relationship between the National Science Forum and ASSAf. He indicated doubts about the claim that the National Science Journal was the best in the South. He also asked the reason that it was freely available on the internet while foreign journals were so expensive. He also asked for more on the Science Council on Poverty Alleviation.

Professor A Chinsamy-Turan, Vice-President, replied that the Journal was highly regarded by the science community and it was freely accessible only six months after publication to subscribers.

Professor Gevers replied that the idea of Science Council on Poverty Alleviation had been copied from India. The Human Sciences Research Council and the Department had been assisting in that regard. Some work was being done by the National Research Foundation on a complementary basis. South Africa had rejected that there were different sciences, but that science was instead multi-disciplinary, hence the name Academy of Science rather than Academy of Sciences.

Tshumisano Trust briefing
Mr E Makgopa, Operations Manager, outlined his organisation’s mission and vision that guided its strategic goals for 2006/07. Tshumisano had been striving for financial viability through cost recovery. The Trust was trying to increase their ‘national footprint’ in under-serviced provinces such as Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. The projects in the under-serviced provinces were linked to the Independent Development Corporation (IDC). He outlined the proposed budget for the financial year 2006/07.

Mr Dithebe asked the relationship between Tshumisano and the Department of Science and Technology. Mr Makgopa replied that Tshumisano was completely funded by the Department.

Mr Blanche asked about plans to link with schools. He wanted about the type of programmes done by Tshumisano ‘on the ground’, and who funded the exchange programmes. What had been done by Tshumisano to create employment opportunities.

A Member asked more details about the support for the students training in India. Mr Makgopa replied that the Department, the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), and the Western Cape Government funded these students. The last group of thirty would return to SA in August 2006 and would train further students in toolmaking. Tshumisano had been encouraging students to do toolmaking because average toolmakers was 50-year-old white men. Tshumisano had been helping develop SMMEs that were likely to create jobs. He cited the example of fledging agri-businesses in Mpumalanga.

Mr Dithebe said he would appreciate if Tshumisano could link with the Free State Provincial Government and help to diversify the economy, which was currently mostly linked to mining and agriculture.

The meeting was adjourned.


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