The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) is committed to harnessing science and innovation for South Africa, building a capable state, and working responsively and proactively to address the needs of its citizens, said Buti Manamela, deputy minister of DSI in closing the 2020 Science Forum South Africa (SFSA).
Hosted annually in December, SFSA is an initiative of the DSI, which aims to provide a stage for science, technology and innovation discourse.
As a tradition, Dr. Blade Nzimande delivered the opening address kick-starting the forum’s programme packed with 32 different panel discussions and debates, all interrogating and exploring intersection between science and society. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference took place virtually.
Professors Quarraisha Abdool Karim and Salim Abdool Karim, two globally renowned South African scientists, delivered the SFSA 2020 plenary lecture.
Manamela said the DSI will continue to support South Africa’s role as a responsible partner in the community of nations, working for equitable and truly sustainable global development. “This is our mission, and Science Forum South Africa 2020 certainly played its part in bolstering our ability to perform this task,” said minister Manamela.
He said the three days convention has seen vibrant and intense debate, igniting conversations about science, and the achievement of social justice through science. Manamela also used the opportunity to share some of his department’s plans regarding how they would like to take the outcomes of the event forward.
“Firstly, the minister invited Forum participants to, through their participation in the various science policy debates, provide input for the finalisation of our new decadal plan for science, technology and innovation,” said Manamela. The decadal plan is intended, he said, to expand and transform the research enterprise, human capabilities and the national system of innovation in South Africa.
Said Manamela: “I have no doubt that the rich discussions on topics such as open science; skills development and technology transfer have provided our drafting team with much food for thought, and will considerably enrich the finalisation of the plan.”
Secondly, said Manamela, minister Nzimande expressed the hope that, as in the past, the Forum would be a fertile ground for the formation of new and meaningful partnerships for science and innovation.
“On this account, it is undoubtedly mission accomplished. Perhaps the best example is the session presented by the South African Affiliate Centre of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, on the mobilisation of public-private partnerships to shape technology governance and thus fight inequality,” said deputy minister Manamela
According to minister Manamela, the Forum also witnessed the launch of a number of new international partnerships, like the new South African-Irish fund to support technology entrepreneurs. “We also celebrated and recommitted ourselves to several initiatives that will deepen science co-operation and integration in Africa. In this regard, I would like to acknowledge the on-going support of the African Union Commission for our event,” added minister Manamela.
He also “salute[ed] the efforts of the Radical Reason Consortium, which brought together many leading South African social science scholars to organise sessions at the Forum. This is the type of collaboration we would like to see grow and continue across our science system”.
Thirdly, said deputy minister Manamela, minister Nzimande asked participants to ensure that the outcomes of the Forum and the discussions on science for social justice are translated into concrete interventions that make a difference, especially to the lives of the most vulnerable in the society. “I welcome the focus of several debates on how we can enhance the role science plays in policy and decision-making,” he said.
“We will ensure that our discussions on major societal scourges, such as gender-based violence, substance abuse and unemployment are used as valuable knowledge resources, which will guide not only the actions of government, but also our collective efforts to work in the interest of society,” said deputy minister Manamela.
He said the country’s critical analysis and the response to the Covid-19 strategy debated during the Forum’s session illustrates the role research can play in government monitoring and evaluation.
Deputy minister Manamela said the DSI is encouraged and inspired by the outcomes of the Forum and its partners in and outside government and will continue to work for and invest in the development of human capability. Science begins with and depends on people, he said.
“We will redouble our efforts to support and create opportunities for the next generation of South African researchers and innovators, paying special attention, as highlighted during the Forum, to addressing gender imbalances and advancing transformation,” said the deputy minister.
He said they remain committed to nurturing and growing the research enterprise, and the generation of new knowledge in South Africa. The deputy minister said DSI will significantly benefit the Forum’s insightful deliberations particularly the debate on the future of transdisciplinarity in research. However, he added, in increasing and improving our knowledge-generation capacity, we must ensure that knowledge is applied to enhance economic growth and advance inclusive social development. He said this will be at the heart of the DSI going forward, adding that the discussions at the Forum on, for example, leveraging new technologies to create new growth industries, will be most useful in their planning.
Deputy minister Manamela said the DSI is committed to harnessing science and innovation for South Africa, building a capable state, and working responsively and proactively to address the needs of its citizens.
“We will also continue to support South Africa’s role as a responsible partner in the community of nations, working for equitable and truly sustainable global development. This is our mission, and Science Forum South Africa 2020 certainly played its part in bolstering our ability to perform this task,” he said.