South African Young Academy of Science

Policy Influence


a. ASSAf Standing Committees

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) is mandated to provide evidence‐based scientific advice on issues of public interest to government and other stakeholders. Science policy which is concerned with the allocation of resources for the conduct of science towards the goal of best serving the public interest is therefore a key ongoing activity. ASSAf’s science advisory activities are guided by its Standing Committees, which provide strategic direction and guidance.

In tapping into the knowledge base provided by Young Scientists, ASSAf undertakes to involve some SAYAS members in various Standing Committees. These include:


SAYAS Member Standing Committee Objectives/Outcome
Dr Amanda Weltman STEM Committee Initiate, oversee and promote studies in STEM education.

Provide advice to government to inform policies on STEM education at all levels

Prof Voster Muchenje (SAYAS Alumnus)


AET Consensus Study The outcome of the consensus study is a high impact report which will provide evidenced-based information and clear recommendations to relevant stakeholders with an interest in an agricultural human capital development and knowledge system that drives (small) holder, farmer-led development initiatives and innovation in order to achieve commercial food production and increased productivity, food security, as well as economic growth and development
Prof Mpfariseni Budeli (SAYAS Alumnus) Humanities Committee To promote or advance the cause of the Humanities both within ASSAf and within relevant policy-making bodies (such as the National Department of Higher Education and Training, the National Planning Commission and the Department of Science and Technology).
Prof Tolullah Oni Steering Committee for the Joint Workshop on Multiple Morbidities This is a collaborative initiative between ASSAf and the UK Academy of Medical Sciences
Prof Bronwyn Myers Mental Healthcare of the Nation: Consensus Study (MNS) consensus study The study panel aims to:

i)              1. Provide baseline data on what is currently offered in South African training programmes of the different cadres of workers in the human resource mix for the delivery of integrated MNS disorder care using a task sharing model;

ii)             2. Map these data against core competencies identified at the Ugandan IOM meeting on candidate core competencies for MNS disorders;

iii)            3. Make recommendations for core competencies required of training programmes to the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), as well as other training and regulatory bodies.


b. Multimorbidity Burden Addressed in Reports

ASSAf and the Academy of Medical Sciences launched two reports (synopsis and proceedings) and an animation on multimorbidity in South Africa. Prof Tolu Oni, a SAYAS Member, Associate Professor & Public Health Physician Specialist, Division of Public Health Medicine, School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town serves as a member of the Steering Committee for the Joint Workshop on Multiple Morbidities.

Throughout the world, as life expectancy increases, the population incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is also increasing. In addition, communicable diseases continue to affect millions of people every year. All of these factors together mean that multimorbidity has become, and will increasingly be, an international health challenge.

The meeting reports and animation summarise the discussions held during a two-day multimorbidity workshop of key stakeholders from South Africa and the UK on 2 and 3 March 2016. Workshop participants considered the problem of multimorbidities in both countries, and asked how we can achieve a more coherent and consistent approach to defining, researching, and addressing this issue.

Some of the key messages from the workshop included:

  • Multimorbidity is a growing global health challenge that affects a large proportion of the world’s population. However, as multimorbidity is a complex issue, it has proven difficult to agree on a single definition, as the definition may differ depending on the context e.g. within a research setting or a clinical setting.
  • Multimorbidity is growing in prevalence as a result of both an epidemiological shift and a demographic shift.
  • Multimorbidity is more common in the elderly so it will be a particular burden in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) such as South Africa as life expectancy continues to rise.
  • Multimorbidity is often associated with socioeconomic status, with those from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds more at risk of developing multiple diseases.
  • The current single-disease model is outdated and unhelpful when dealing with the increasing burden of multimorbidity.
  • Policymakers worldwide need to better address health inequalities and support the complex service needs of a growing multimorbid population.
  • There is a gap between the knowledge of and the ability to address the high mortality from chronic conditions in South Africa, and there are difficulties in the implementation of integrated disease care.
  • Mental health is central to the management of multimorbidity and should not continue to be ignored.
  • Health systems should be developed so that, in addition to providing adequate treatment and management, they are better able to diagnose multimorbidity, assess its severity and monitor it.
  • The patient perspective is vital and any research recommendations must reflect patient priorities.

Access the full report here:


c. SAYAS at DST Youth Indaba

“Growing graduate unemployment levels and the need to stimulate inclusive growth necessitate a focus on entrepreneurship” notes Dr Aldo Stroebel. He adds that: “efforts must be made to ensure that aspiring entrepreneurs are not set up for failure due to low levels of support”.

Aldo was speaking as part of a SAYAS panel at the Youth Indaba organised by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on 9 June 2017.

The indaba was aimed at providing a platform for getting inputs from a broad cross-section of youth for an action plan that will enhance the contribution of science, technology and innovation (STI) to youth development. The SAYAS panel titled Enabling STI policy aimed at examining policies, strategies, and programmes designed to unlock youth opportunities, assessing how STI is responding, how to place STI as a catalyst to youth development and what policy instruments could be exploited further.

Minister Naledi Pandor, DST had earlier spoken of the need to use science agencies to carry out research in order to use evidence-based approaches to provide solutions. She also indicated the need to connect the informal economy to the formal economy. She nevertheless cautioned youth not to fail to understand the regulatory framework in which they expected to participate in as innovators.

Some recommendations made during the panel discussions included: the need to prepare the youth for entrepreneurship as this was not historically the focus of higher education by including it in primary school curricular and as governments increase funding for research, calling on industries to work with higher education to fund and test innovative solutions among others. There was a caution made however for systemic integration as simple solutions cannot be implemented in isolation as the value of each will be constrained by the complexity of the challenges the country faces. Recommendations provided also need to be more enabling and inclusive. This was in recognition of the youth bulge with StatSA mid-year population estimate noting that South Africa’s population is largely made up of young people. Those who are below the age of 35 years constitute about 66% per cent of the total population.

Dr Karen Cloete, SAYAS Co-Chair was the panel Facilitator while other panellists inclusive of Dr Aldo Stroebel included Dr Nosiphiwe Ngqwala who spoke on Sustainable knowledge for STI and Ms Dorothy Ngila, an ExCo member of the Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World – South Africa National Chapter (OWSD-SANC) who spoke on The question of gender in STI- exploring practical approaches. Ngila spoke of gender stereotyping and unconscious biases that female scientists and innovators undergo which limits their potential. She called for the contextualisation of the soft challenges that female scientists and innovators face.


d. Other spheres

Quest Magazine – Dr Caradee Wright joined the Editorial Board

South African Journal of Science (SAJS) – Dr Sershen Naidoo joined the Editorial Board

Health & Poverty ASSAf Standing Committee – Prof Philani Moyo joined this committee

Research Collaboration ASSAf Standing Committee – Dr Sahal Yacoob joined this committee