Who are We

The South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) is the voice of young scientists in South Africa. SAYAS aims to contribute towards solutions to national and global challenges facing society; provide a platform for young scientists to influence policy decisions; contribute towards the development of scientific capacity in South Africa through mentoring and role-modeling of future scientists; and foster opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations amongst young scientists.

General Assembly 2015 General Assembly 2014
SAYAS General Assembly 2012  
General Assembly 2013  

What's Happening

SAYAS Board Member, Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, appointed as a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor at UCT

The South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) would like to congratulate its Board Member, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, on her appointed as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town with effect from 1 July 2016. She will be taking over the portfolio of Research and Internationalisation from Professor Danie Visser, who will be retiring at the end of 2016. 

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng is currently a full professor and Vice Principal of Research and Innovation at the University of South Africa. She is also an honorary professor of mathematics education at Wits University and a SAYAS Board Member. Prof Phakeng holds a PhD in Mathematics Education from the University of the Witwatersrand. She is a B2 NRF rated scientist. She is a highly respected mathematics education researcher and teacher educator both nationally and internationally. She has been invited as a speaker and visiting professor at several international conferences and universities in Australia, Botswana, Canada, Denmark, India, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Senegal, South Korea, UK and USA. She is the pioneer and leader of the multimillion rand FirstRand Foundation Mathematics Education Chairs and the South African Numeracy Chairs initiatives funded by Anglo American Chairman’s Fund, Rand Merchant Bank, FirstRand Foundation and Department of Science and Technology (DST) and managed by the NRF. Before joining UNISA as Executive Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology she served as Associate Professor and founding Director of the Marang Centre for Mathematics and Science Education at Wits University. She is very well known and highly respected for her outstanding organisational leadership which she manages to carry out alongside her academic work and research.

Call to Young Scientists for Abstracts for Oral Presentations

1.    Introduction

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology and the Schering Institute will be hosting an Infectious Diseases Symposium from 24 to 26 October 2016 at the Max Planck Institute for Infectious  Biology, Berlin, Germany. The theme of the symposium is “Development of Vaccines and Clinical Trials”. The event will include two days of symposium and one day of workshop. The workshop will focus on immunologic and molecular biologic assays, which are of relevance for point-of-care diagnostics.

ASSAf is seeking young scientists from sub-Saharan Africa to participate in this symposium and workshop. The multilateral event will provide a platform for scientific exchange among senior and young scientists from Africa and Germany in the field of infectious diseases.            

2.    Eligibility

This call is open to early career researchers who are based in sub-Saharan African countries. Applicants should meet the following criteria to participate:

1.    Be resident in sub-Saharan Africa

2.    Be early career researchers (those undertaking PhD or a Postdoctoral Fellowship)

3.    Be under the age of forty (40)

4.    Have research experience associated with infectious diseases (i.e. tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola, HIV/AIDS etc.)

5.    Commit to be present for the duration of the meeting

6.    Submission of abstract that will be the basis for presentation at the symposium

7.     Willing to present and share current research results at the symposium  

3.    Symposium Participation and Application

ASSAf invites submission of abstracts for oral presentations. Interested candidates, who meet the above-mentioned criteria, should please complete the accompanying application form and return it to Mr Ntambudzeni Tshiswaise ( Tel: +27 (0)12 349 6648 by Friday, 26 February 2016. There is no registration fee to attend the symposium. Further  information about the symposium will be circulated.

3.1.  Abstract Format

Applicants should follow the instructions clearly:

  • Abstract must not be more than 300 words (excluding Title, Authors and Institutions) on the attached form

  • Abstract must be written in English

  • Abstract title must be in boldface, capital letters (lowercase) and centered

  • Abstract font must be Century Gothic 11 with A4 set up margins

3.2.  Abstract Acceptance

Abstracts will be reviewed by a panel which reserves the right to accept and allocate oral presentations. All applicants will be notified of the outcome of the selection process by 11 March 2016.

                                Application Deadline: 26 February 2015

SAYAS co-chair, Tolu Oni and SAYAS member Alta Schutte were selected as New Einstein Fellows

Congratulations to SAYAS co-chair, Tolu Oni and SAYAS member Alta Schutte! Two of the twelve African scientists selected as New Einstein Fellows are SAYAS members.They are among 12 chosen named under the auspices of the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) .. Read more


The annual activity report was presented by the outgoing EXCO

SAYAS aims to contribute to the national strategic priority of strengthening the skills and human resource base of the country, with a focus on the next generation of scientists. Since its inception, SAYAS has inaugurated 60 members who were selected based on their academic excellence and service to society.

This report reflects on the progress made towards achieving those goals in 2015. More details can be found at

ACMS receives Wellcome grant

Jo Vearey, Associate Professor at the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) at Wits, has been awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust Investigator Award in Society and Ethics.

Totalling R13.5 million, the three‐year award will allow for a multi-site and multi‐method research project involving a team of inter‐disciplinary researchers in South Africa and Mozambique.

The proposed research will explore ways to improve responses to HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in a region of high population mobility.

Through a focus on the movement of people between Mozambique and South Africa, local case studies will be developed that – with regional, national and local policy analysis – will contribute to improved understanding of the connections between migrant well-being and communicable disease responses. This will include building on the exploratory visual and arts‐based research methods developed as part of the MoVE project at the ACMS that works with different migrant groups, in conjunction with more traditional qualitative and policy research approaches.

Key to the project is a dedicated research uptake and communication focus that will explore ways for improving how science and society can be better integrated.

As part of this, research and writing fellows – who will be recruited as part of the project – will be encouraged to explore new ways of communicating research about migration and health in southern Africa through different forms, including through fiction and non-fiction writing and visual approaches.

The research focuses on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, a region associated with both high rates of population mobility and a high prevalence of communicable diseases, notably HIV, TB and malaria.

Migration, and areas characterised by high levels of mobility including border spaces, pose particular challenges for the prevention and treatment of communicable diseases as responses to HIV, TB and malaria rarely engage with population movements.

Through a focus on the movement of people between Mozambique and South Africa, local case studies will be developed that – with regional, national and local policy analysis – will contribute to improved understanding of the connections between migrant well-being and communicable disease responses.

The study will explore how regional processes shape lived experiences on the ground – including in clinical practice, disease prevention programming and in migration journeys.

By Wits University

Science Leaders at the World Science Forum 2015

“Addressing Pressing Global Challenges in Environment and Health”

(caption left to right) Prof. Esther Akinlabi, Department of Mechanical Engineering Science, University of Johannesburg and SAYAS member; Prof. Roseanne Diab, Executive Officer, Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf); Dr. Tolullah Oni, Division of Public Health Medicine, University of Cape Town and SAYAS Co-Chair; Dr. Henry Roman; Chair of the World Association of Young Scientists and Director of Environmental Services and Technology, Department of Science and Technology (DST)

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Council for Science (ICSU), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), is currently hosting the seventh World Science Forum (WSF) in Budapest from 4 to 7 November 2015. The WSF is an initiative of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, UNESCO and ICSU that takes place biennially.

The theme of the 2015 WSF is “The Enabling Power of Science”. This year’s Forum reflects on the capacity of science to open new paths for the improvement of human life, business innovation and policy making.

Two SAYAS members were nominated and invited to attend two young scientist sessions: Prof. Esther Akinlabi, an Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering Science, University of Johannesburg (UJ) and a member of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) was nominated by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and was competitively selected as an “InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) Young Scientist” to attend the Young Scientists Side Event on “Scoping the future: views and ideas of young scientists to tackle global challenges” which took place on 4 November 2015. SAYAS was represented by its Co-Chair, Dr Tolullah Oni, Senior Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Cape Town (UCT), who was invited to participate by UNESCO as part of the second young scientist event; a UNESCO Panel on Science Diplomacy in Action, taking place on 5th November. The aim of this session is to get insight from young scientists; innovators and researchers on science diplomacy in action in the 21st Century with the intent of identifying possible gaps and emerging trends; as well as to identify possible recommendations and concrete projects that will facilitate collaboration in science between the young scientists present.

The side events, organised by the IAP, the World Academy of Young Scientist (WAYS),  the International Consortium of research staff associations (ICORSA) and the Global Young Academy (GYA), convened a group of more than 40 leading young scientists, from over 30 countries to analyse challenges and opportunities facing young scientists globally, identify strategies that link global challenges to career opportunities for young scientists, and present policy recommendations that will empower young scientists to impact the Sustainable Development Goals. The results of these exercises were presented in a 'competitive' plenary session (Lion’s Den) where early career researchers pitched their ideas to a distinguished panel of experts, including Prof Roseanne Diab, and Prof Mohamed Hassan, Co-Chair of the IAP, immediately before the WSF opening ceremony. The ultimate goal of this session was to provide specific recommendations on opportunities for both the scientific community and policymakers to tackle global challenges. The winning pitch was the “Smart Sustainable Jobs of the Future” initiative: an imaginary of future jobs and skills required to address the Sustainable Development Goals. The winning initiative was pitched by Dr Oni on behalf of her group, who will be presenting this pitch at a session with parliamentarians at the conference.


Call for new members of the Organisation of Women in Science in the Developing World (OWSD)

The Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) is calling for applications for membership from South African residents. OWSD has a National Chapter in South Africa which is hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa. Membership allows for engagement in activities of both OWSD International and the OWSD SA NC.

Vision: To shape the future South Africa of by contributing to gender equality in science, technology and innovation.

Why you should be affiliated to the OWSD South African National Chapter

Members of OWSD residing in South Africa can expect to receive the following benefits from their affiliation with the OWSD SA

  • Access to information regarding fellowships, awards, training opportunities and conferences;
  • Increase awareness of gender issues in STI;
  • Participation in mentorship initiatives;
  • Opportunity to contribute expertise for South Africa, Africa's and the world's developmental agenda;
  • Access to information regarding other National System of Innovation (NSI) organisations and/or stakeholders within and beyond South Africa;
  • Networking with other women in STI through the General Assembly and Conference biennially, and other opportunities facilitated by the National Chapter; and
  • Opportunity to access training and information on gender mainstreaming, the importance of applying the gender lens in policymaking and implementation, and women in STI leadership

If you are interested in becoming a member of OWSD, we kindly request you to complete the application form and return the form and an updated curriculum vitae (with list of publications) to

If you have any queries, you may contact Ms Constance Manyeli: or (012)349-6605.

The closing date for applications is 30 November 2015


TWAS-ROSSA Announces Winner of Prestigious Award and Young Affiliates

The World Academy of Science Regional Office of sub-Saharan Africa (TWAS-ROSSA), hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), announced the winner of its annual Regional Young Scientists’ award.

Professor Alta Schutte from North-West University is the recipient of the award to an outstanding young scientist from sub-Saharan Africa who has contributed to the development, mentoring and training of postgraduate students in various disciplines in addressing the challenges Africa is facing.

Schutte is Professor of Physiology and holds the Department of Science and Technology (DST) SARChI Research Chair in the Early Detection and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in South Africa, which is hosted by the Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART) at the North-West University.  She is also the Unit Director of the Medical Research Council’s Extramural Unit for Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease.

The research focus of HART is the identification of early markers for the development of hypertension, and ultimately the prevention of cardiovascular disease in the black South African population. She has published over 140 papers, mainly in international journals, on the topic of hypertension, and has been acknowledged for her work as the winner of the Distinguished Young Women Scientist in the Life Sciences award, presented by DST, and the British Association Medal from the Southern Africa Association for the Advancement of Science. She was also the recipient of the Meiring Naudé Medal from the Royal Society of South Africa, and the AU-TWAS National Young Scientist Award.

The nomination of five TWAS Young Affliates from sub-Saharan Africa was also announced. The Affiliateship, which is a great honour and which is for a period of five years, during which the Young Afiliiates are invited to participate in the TWAS general meetings and conferences, as well as to provide feedback to TWAS on how the Academy can respond to the needs of young scientists in developing countries.

SAYAS statement on the current funding crisis in higher education in South Africa

The South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) is an organisation of sixty young academics selected on academic merit and commitment to social change representing 23 institutions of higher education and research across the country.  SAYAS is the voice of young scientists and aims to contribute to solutions to national challenges facing the academy and society.

We are acutely aware of the crisis in higher education funding in South Africa and the challenges that this presents to students, staff and workers across our campuses.  We wish to voice our support to all efforts aimed at improving the ways in which higher education is financed and managed in South Africa.  SAYAS members remain committed to on-going fundraising to support students through bursaries, fellowships and research grants.  We are aware that this type of funding is insufficient to deal with the current crisis and call on the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET),  to urgently address the higher education funding crisis in South Africa through increasing funding available to institutes of higher education and to students. The need for increased spending was highlighted in a 2014 Report to the “Ministerial Committee for the Review of the Funding of Universities†which recommended significant changes to the University funding system, and in particular an increase in the percentage of GDP spent on R&D and Education.

Higher education is central to the social and economic development of South Africa and equitable access to higher learning is critical in the redress of historical injustice and exclusion.  As our constitution indicates, everyone has a right to further education (which includes higher education) and the state is required to take reasonable measures progressively to increase its availability and accessibility. As part of this constitutional mandate, we believe it is crucial for there to be sustained research into developing improved funding models which are developed and implemented with urgency. Given South Africa’s position as one of the most consistently unequal countries globally in terms of income, the on-going increases in the tuition costs of higher education impact the poorest students and could further drive inequity in terms of education if not equitably applied.  SAYAS calls for research into the development of a revised approach to the financing of higher education that will ensure that the poorest students are not excluded.  To this end, SAYAS would like to partner with others to pursue research in this area.

Whilst recognising that this is a national crisis, we are aware that the challenges of insufficient funding for higher education are being dealt with differently across university campuses.  To this end, the purpose of this statement is to call for engagement at a national level between key stakeholders, including student-led movements, staff, government, and university leadership.

  • We call on DHET to urgently address the higher education funding crisis in South Africa through increasing funding available to institutes of higher education and to students.
  • We call on DHET and Universities to review the ways in which student financial support is awarded, and for research into development of an improved funding model that better considers the financial need of individual students.
  • We call for improvements in the financing of academic staff, administrative staff and workers to address lack of capacity, precarious employment conditions and ensure fair and equitable pay and benefits for all.
  • We condemn all forms of violence - both from protesting and non-protesting students, staff, police and private security - and urge all to voice their needs in a non-violent manner that supports peaceful, respectful engagement between University management structures and protesting students.

We recognize a wide diversity of views on the matters we raise above. This is also reflected amongst members of SAYAS. We respect that and therefore call for urgent and in-depth engagement around these serious matters.

SAYAS, 21 October 2015


Young Academy of Science inaugurates New Members

The South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) inaugurated ten new members on 14 October 2015.

SAYAS was launched in October 2011 with 20 founder members as a mechanism to propel South Africa’s young scientists to fully participate in local and internationally relevant research and development agendas.

It provides a national platform where leading young scholars from all disciplines in the country can interact, and also access international networking and career development opportunities.

SAYAS contributes primarily to the achievement of the national strategic priority of strengthening the skills and human resource base of the country. Its particular niche is to focus on strengthening high level skills amongst young scientists and the promotion of scientific excellence.

The strategic objectives of SAYAS are:

  • Promoting SAYAS and its value adding initiatives
  • Advancing scientific excellence for the country and the continent
  • Influencing science policy
  • ranslating science for society to promote science awareness

The young scientists are drawn from a broad background in recognition that the solution of local and global challenges requires deep understanding across disciplines and cultures. Young scholars from the full spectrum of disciplinary enquiry are embraced by SAYAS.

SAYAS collaborates with the established Academy of Science of South Africa on projects and activities related to young scientists’ development.

The new SAYAS Members are:

1.    Prof David Bilchitz (University of the Johannesburg) -  Fundamental/Human Rights – Socio-economic rights, Business and Human Rights, Rights of Non-Human Animals, LGBT rights, rights to freedom of religion; limitations of rights and proportionality; right to privacy; separation of powers and constitutional law more generally; political philosophy.

2.    Dr Karen Cloete (iThemba Laboratory) - Microbiology, Psychiatry.

3.    Dr Makondelele Makatu (University of Venda) Psychology; Community development

4.    Dr Matseliso Mokhele (University of Fort Hare) Teacher Education, Teacher Professional development, Teacher Leadership.

5.    Dr Nosiphiwe Ngqwala (Rhodes University) - Pharmacy, Microbiology, Water Chemistry and Community Engagement.

6.    Dr Thobela Nkukwana (Agricultural Research Council) - Animal Science.

7.    Prof Kanshukan Rajaratnam (University of Cape Town) - Finance, Systems Engineering, Operations Research.

8.    Dr Natasha Ross (University of Western Cape) Electro-Analytical chemistry; Nanotechnology; Research and development of polymers and  novel battery cathode materials (synthetics)

9.    Dr Srila  Roy (University of the Witwatersrand) - Gender; Social movements; Violence and Conflict; Development; India/South Asia.

10.  Dr Mpho Tshitangoni   (Department of Enviromental Affairs) - Environmental waste management; Rural Development.

SAYAS Young Leaders at STS forum, Japan

Ms Eudy Mabuza (SA Minister Councillor for S&T, SA Embassy to Japan); Dr Aliza le Roux, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of the Free State (Qwaqwa Campus); Ambassador Pheko; Minister Pandor; Prof Avinash Govindjee, Department of Public Law, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Dr Tolu Oni, Division of Public Health Medicine, University of Cape Town; Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, CEO of the CSIR, Mr Lunga Ngqengelele, DST.

International Relations and Cooperation (IRC) of the NRF, in collaboration with the SA Embassy in Japan, facilitated and supported the participation of three young scientists in the 2015 STS forum, held during 5-7 October in Kyoto, Japan. The STS forum, founded in 2004, is an annual global meeting of more than 1 000 world leaders from different fields on global issues surrounding science and technology and is the largest science and technology conference in the world.

Three members from the SA Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) were competitively selected to participate in the “Future Leaders’ Programme†, held during the annual meeting of the STS forum. The programme invites 100 young, promising leaders to participate in the forum, providing an invaluable opportunity for interactive dialogues and networking with world leaders, scientists (incl. Nobel laureates), academics, policy makers, business leaders, journalists as well as with their peers.

The young scientists also participated in a dedicated lunch meeting with HE Minister Naledi Pandor of DST, and the Ambassador of SA to Japan, Ambassador Mohau Pheko.

News feeds by NRF.


Symposium on science and society in Africa

Author Professor Nnedi Okorafor

The importance of science in society will be in the spotlight at a symposium in Cape Town which will draw high-profile leaders in their fields from across Africa. The symposium has been organised by the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) which is made up of 50 of the top scientists in South Africa, all under the age of 40.

Dr Tolu Oni, SAYAS co-chair and Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town, said: “This year’s truly interdisciplinary symposium looks set to be an exciting, one-of-a-kind hybrid event that showcases the relevance and importance of science in society.â€

Science fiction writers, musicians, designers, astrophysicists and public health scientists are among the speakers at the symposium

Entitled Fact, Fiction and Media: Re-Imagining Science Engagement and its impact, the symposium will focus on ways other than traditional scientific communication to spark interest in science. This will include sound and images, such as music, film and the visual arts that can be used to produce data and engage society about science in Africa. It will also explore what science can learn from science fiction writing.

The symposium will bring together renowned Nigerian-American professor in creative writing and science fiction novelist, Professor Nnedi Okorafor; local science fiction novelist Lauren Beukes; and Dr Oni, who is a Next Einstein Forum Fellow, on a panel about popular fiction inspired by science.

Musician Neo Muyanga will be on a panel with Professor Jean Philippe Uzan, an astrophysicist who has created ‘sounds of the universe’. School learners called the Optimistic Youth Reporters from the Children’s Radio Foundation, will also record their peers at the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) High School in Khayelitsha, answering questions about science that will be replayed at the symposium.

These same question will be put to scientists at the symposium to highlight how science is viewed by young people.

SA Research Chair in Urban Policy, UCT academic, Professor Edgar Pieterse will be in conversation with Tau Tavengwa, Editor and Publisher of Cityscapes Magazine, while UCT historian, Dr Koni Benson, who has done extensive work on women’s resistance to slum clearance in Crossroads, will discuss her collaboration with illustrators The Trantraal Brothers.           

Curators of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Shared Sky exhibition at the National Gallery will also be featured.

SAYAS, established by the Department of Science and Technology in 2011, is the voice of young scientists. Dr Oni says: “We are very excited about the symposium. We hope young people are inspired and encouraged to pursue science. We also hope to show the potential for science to address societal challenges.â€

The symposium will be held at the Inner City Ideas Cartel, first floor, 72 Waterkant Street from 8am and 5pm today and tomorrow.                  

                              THE 66TH LINDAU NOBEL LAUREATES MEETING 2016

                                                    CALL FOR NOMINATIONS

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), is seeking candidates to participate in the 2016 Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting to be held from 26 June to 1 July 2016 in Lindau, Germany. The 66th Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, dedicated to Physics, will be attended by Physics Nobel Laureates and about 400 highly-talented young scientists from across the world. Participation in the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting is a prestigious award under the Patronage of former German President Horst Köhler and funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Bunderministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit. The award is worth about €5000 per individual, including a travel grant.


Eligible applicants should demonstrate a strong commitment to the field of Physics, closely related disciplines and interdisciplinary work. All nominated participants should meet the following criteria to participate:

1. Applications are open to early-career South African citizens or permanent resident students and researchers comprising a mix of (1) Masters and doctoral students; and (2) postdoctoral students.

2. Applicants must be 35 years or younger at the time of the meeting.

3. Applicants should demonstrate outstanding academic accomplishments.

4. Applicants should be able to communicate in English, and have the desire to participate in discussions.

5. Applicants should not hold a permanent position (scientists with permanent positions, in particular a professorship, will not be considered).

6. Applicants should not have participated in previous Lindau meetings.

7. Applicants should commit themselves to be present for the full duration of the meeting.

Applications should be sent to:


Applicants should submit the following documents:

1. Completed application form (incomplete forms will not be considered)

2. Curriculum vitae

3. At least one letter of recommendation/Reference from a supervisor and possibly another researcher



Further communications and guidelines will be given to the shortlisted applicants

Final selection will be done by the Lindau Nobel Laureate Council and Foundation

Deadline for sending nominations is Wednesday 14 October 2015.

For any further information please contact:

Mr Ntambudzeni Tshiswaise

Tel: +27(0)12 349 6648 Email:

2nd SAYAS Symposium on Science and Society in Africa

Fact, Fiction and Media: Re-imagining science engagement and its impact


Cape Town 28-29 Sept 2015

There is a need for broader societal engagement with important research findings and developments across scientific disciplines: natural, social and medical sciences, arts and humanities. Channels for converting patentable knowledge into profitable products are the focus of considerable investment, as are ways for translating beneficial knowledge into public initiatives or policies. For example, the significance of the discovery of a prehistoric fish, or the implications of the findings of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) observatory in the South Africa’s Karoo region, are often unknown to the public despite, scientific projects of this kind being substantially supported by public funds.


• How can the reach of academic work extend beyond a closed circle of academics, and find a wider audience?

• What actions, agents and conditions are necessary to create an intellectually engaged society, which is receptive to this kind of information?

This workshop – organised by the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) - focuses on the potential of engagements outside the domain of traditional science education—in particular, science non-fiction writing in both books and printed journalism, science fiction, and science in images and sound. This workshop seeks to explore the human lens through which oft-complex science concepts may be viewed and through which public imagination might be captured and engaged, including – but not limited to - critiquing the impact of widely accessed TED talks; science writing in fiction and non-fiction formats; social media platforms such as blogs, twitter and Facebook; and less prominent science communication methods such as citizen journalism and participatory visual methods . These approaches offer excellent topics for interdisciplinary academic work, combining fields as diverse as astrophysics, anthropology and ethics, with epidemiology, genetics, theology and philosophy.


• What can we learn from science fiction as we seek to expand public imagination and interest in blue-sky and exploratory science in the African context?

• How can science writing approaches be applied by scientists to engage the public around new scientific concepts and to spark interest in science in Africa?

• Are there examples of science writing and science fiction in Africa that have contributed to creating a more engaged society?

• In what ways can sound and image - including music, film and visual arts - be used to produce data and to engage society in science in Africa?

We invite thinkers, researchers and practitioners to submit abstracts aimed at enriching the discussion. We would also welcome panel proposals to organize your talk and those of willing collaborators under a topic. We encourage joint submissions from those already involved in partnerships between academia and practitioners. Successful applicants will be encouraged apply for funding independently. However, limited funding (particularly for African early career practitioners and scholars) will be available to contribute to costs of attendance for selected speakers.

Symposium Outputs

• Opinion Editorials series in African newspapers

• Special issue in Academic Journals

• SAYAS report submitted to Department of Science and Technology

To download the programme click here

SAYAS members have been awarded the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chairs 

Congratulations to SAYAS members who have been awarded the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chairs in their respective fields as part of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and National Research Foundation (NRF) initiative to promote women in research.

The two new SAYAS SARChI Chairs are:

Professor Amanda Weltman: Physical Cosmology, University of Cape Town Professor Penny Moore: Virus-Host Dynamics For Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand.

Prof. Amanda Weltman (photo by Je’nine May/UCT)

Prof. Amanda Weltman is a theoretical physicist at UCT. Weltman’s research focus is on the fundamental physics that underlies the nature of the Universe. The goals of her research are to study the Universe as a whole, while gaining insight into its origin, composition, structure, evolution and ultimately its fate. In the last few years Weltman has won several awards including the South African Institute of Physics Silver Jubilee Medal (2013), the Elsevier Young Scientist Award (2012) and the NSTF-BHP Billiton, TW Kambule Award (2012) among others. She is a member of the Cape Town Science Centre Scientific Advisory Board, the South African Royal Society and on the executive of the South African Young Academy of Sciences. “My training and my interests lie in both high energy particle theory and in cosmology,†says Weltman, “and my research is focused on developing bridges between the two.â€

The research proposed through this SARChI Chair will provide a greater understanding of our universe from the smallest to the largest scales. Crucially, this Chair will be an investment in the ideas of South African scientists tested in South African skies. This knowledge area is one of the most exciting scientific fields that will provide human capital development in the mathematical and physical sciences, arguably the