Pretoria, Monday 11 December 2017 – The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) was an active participant in many of the conversations about science at the annual Science Forum South Africa (SFSA), hosted by the Department of Science and Technology and held at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria on 7 and 8 December 2017.
This year’s Forum focused on igniting conversations in science through debate, promoting partnerships, and creating an interaction space.
The HSRC’s exhibition stand enabled delegates to engage actively with team members of the HSRC Press, Business Development and International Liaison, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) and Communication units who were on hand and took turns to answer questions and share information.
On day 1, the HSRC led a session looking at Can Inclusive Development Be Transformative? Moderated by CeSTII Deputy Executive Director Dr Glenda Kruss, the session resulted in vibrant discussion. The panel included Dr Chux Daniels of Sussex University. The balance of the panelists were HSRC colleagues including the Education and Skills Development research programme’s Dr Michael Gastrow, African Research Fellow Dr Alexis Habiyaremye, the Economic Performance and Development programme’s Dr Peter Jacobs and Human and Social Development Executive Director Prof Heidi van Rooyen.
The panel highlighted emerging practices to ignite a conversation around harnessing the priorities of frontier science and innovation to promote inclusive development and local transformation. They discussed promoting successful innovation in the public sector at local government level and also touched on ways of spreading the benefits of new ideas and technologies to marginalised communities
SFSA draws the key researchers and decision makers in science in South African. HSRC CEO Professor Crain Soudien speaking to a media house said, “We have here today, the full spectrum of the best scientists in the country and we also have people from around the world. They are opening up the questions that the world needs to be thinking about in terms of development. In science the questions are almost more important than the answers. Have you got the right questions? So it’s a real privilege to be in the company of people who are helping us understand what it is we need to be thinking about to solve problems, from the big issues like climate change, to why we get depressed.” The full interview is available for viewing.
During the round two sessions on the first day Dr Kruss took delegates through the history of South Africa’s science councils and discussed their changing mandates. Science councils have been tasked with complex new mandates, to achieve these they have to interact with knowledge users in the private and public sectors and be of benefit to communities, particularly to those that are vulnerable and marginalised. Dr Kruss explored the successful strategic policy interventions, organisational structures and internal incentive mechanisms that science councils have created to channel and promote important interactions. Dr Kruss is the lead author of an HSRC Press book entitled Balancing multiple mandates: The changing roles of science councils in South Africa which is available on the HSRC Press website.
In the Science Talks sessions, Dr Habiyaremye took centre stage to share his experiences of Empowering Communities to Tackle their Challenges by Harnessing Science and Technology.
On day two, Dr Hester du Plessis of the Research Use and Impact Assessment (RIA) unit participated in a panel discussion on Innovation Policy and the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Dr Michael Gastrow of the HSRC’s Education and Skills Development (ESD) research programme dissected representation of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, set to become the largest telescope on Earth, and also the largest science project in Africa. From September 2011 to August 2012, the SKA featured regularly in the South African media. In his book The Stars in Our Eyes, Dr Gastrow looks at the main actors in this unfolding narrative, he discussed who held the stage and which groups were marginalised and where the gatekeeping occurred and why. The book is available on the HSRC Press website.
In a follow-up session on big science, human development, and the SKA, Dr Gastrow joined a panel to discuss the project and handed the SKA representatives present a copy of his book.
Follow the conversation on #ScienceForum2017 #SFSA2017
The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.
Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.
The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.
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