Since the Astronomical Observatory was established in 1829 to guide early trade in Southern Africa, science councils have been mandated to conduct applied research and technology development to address economic and social challenges. But the challenges have become more complex and intensified over the past two decades. Science councils are driven to reorient their knowledge activities to serve the needs of a democratic state, and a national system of innovation, committed to inclusive economic growth and development.
So, science councils are tasked to contribute to science and grow the body of knowledge for the national system of innovation. Unlike in the past, this is not only locally, but by connecting their work to the global knowledge frontier. At the same time, STI policy drives scientists to contribute directly to R&D, innovation and competitiveness of the private sector, to promote inclusive economic growth nationally, and enhance global competitiveness. And, science councils are also mandated to harness their research to address the development challenges of poverty, unemployment and exclusion from basic necessities such as water, health services and energy. The goal is to orient their R&D and innovation to improve the quality of life of citizens and communities, and to grow opportunities for livelihoods.
Science councils and their scientists face the need to balance multiple mandates. How do they do this? Globally recognised knowledge requires specific strategies and prioritisation, which may be in tension with the strategies required to diffuse appropriate technologies to marginalised communities, or the strategies required to partner with firms.
How do science councils balance their mandates so that their research is oriented to the benefit of a wide range of partners, particularly those who experience the impact of decades of unequal development? And, in turn, how do communities, small scale farmers, NGOs or development agencies access technology and research from science councils to solve their socio-economic problems? That is the conversation we propose to ignite, with scientists, policy makers and citizen
Dr Glenda Kruss Human Sciences Research Council
Dr Glenda Kruss is the Deputy Executive Director and head of the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) at the Human Sciences Research Council. Over the past ten years, she has worked in the field of innovation studies, to understand the role of universities and public research institutes in economic and social development, and the determinants of skills and knowledge flows within sectoral, national and global systems of innovation. She has collaborated on comparative projects in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe, and led large scale projects for national government. In particular, she has worked extensively in Southern African contexts, building alliances and networks between researchers, policy makers and practitioners. She is a B-rated scientist with a strong academic publication record, including 11 books and monographs, and 31 refereed journal articles.