Policy Influence

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a. SAYAS Food Security and Policy Workshop

Food security is an integral part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that deal with poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education and responsible consumption and production. The Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA2024) notes that most entities responsible for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policymaking operate in isolation from other policy agencies, with weak links to the private, education and research sectors, and to African and international policy research think tanks.

Unfortunately, young scientists and early career researchers often equally work in isolation from policy makers – even though their research is directly relevant to meeting the SDGs. To strengthen the linkages between young scientists and policy makers, SAYAS hosted young scientists from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at a workshop on the eradication of hunger and food security. The workshop titled ‘Policy Direction – Eradication of Hunger and Achievement of Food Security’ was held in April 2018.

The workshop aimed to establish a relationship between young scientists to better inform policies and assessments; identify gaps and shortfalls in the achievement of goals and to utilise science to find solutions. Young scientists were also challenged to gear their research to be more responsive to the SDGs.

Some 70 delegates from nine SADC countries attended the workshop which was co-hosted by the Tanzania Young Academy of Science, Mauritius Young Academy of Science and the World Academy of Sciences Regional Office for Sub-Saharan Africa (TWAS-ROSSA) with support from the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).

Funding for the workshop was provided by the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP)-Carnegie project small grants scheme on ‘Harnessing science engineering and mathematics (SEM) to meet Africa’s challenges’ and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust.


b. Young Academies issue statement to address how Science can help with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Young Academies of sciences around the globe feel they have a role to play in solving the dilemmas the world is facing today and in improving the world through scientific discovery. This claim was made in a joint statement on “The role of Young Academies in achieving the UN SDGs”.

The statement focuses on the question of how young academies in general, and young scientists in particular, can contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how science and technology can best be harnessed towards achieving the SDGs.

The authors recommend that Young Academies should and can take on a greater role in science advice at a national, regional and global level. They propose three main areas for young scientists’ engagement with the SDGs:

  1. by offering sound policy advice and contributing interdisciplinary science advice to the SDG implementation, thereby getting recognized as an independent part of their national, regional and global policy advice systems;
  2. through science communication, with Young Academies in an excellent position to bridge the divide between science and the public, and raise the understanding of the SDGs among pupils, and within civil society and the media; and
  3. through capacity enhancement: training Young Scientists in the SDG processes, implementation and monitoring, as well as in leadership skills.

The statement is a direct outcome of the Third Worldwide Meeting of Young Academies in July 2017, hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa, by SAYAS, and co-organised by the GYA, which also demonstrates the dynamic nature of the ever-growing young academy network. Some 60 representatives from more than 35 National Young Academies of Science (NYAS) and young academy initiatives from all over the world attended the meeting.

Access the statement here

Useful Tool: A Guide titled: “Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals: A Guide for Merit-Based Academies” which is a product of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP)-Research project, “Improving Scientific Input to Global Policymaking”, which focuses on how academy of science can support the SDGs can be accessed at this link: http://www.interacademies.org/.


c. 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
Dr Chris De Wet 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.


d. 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: http://research.assaf.org.za/bitstream/handle/20.500.11911/28/2016_ASSAf_Proceedings%20Report.pdf2.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y


e. 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.


f. 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


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