Rapid Science Response Mechanisms

Moderator: Dr Khotso Mokhele, Department of Science and Technology

Panelist: Prof. Howard Alper, University of Ottawa

Panelist: Prof Robin Grimes,Foreign and Commonwealth Office and co-chairs the OECD’s

Panelist: Prof Jeffrey Mphahlele, Research at the South African Medical Research Council

Science in various forms is a vital tool in responding to disasters such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes, disease outbreaks, volcanic eruptions, etc. For different national or regional systems of innovation, the vital scientific information (e.g. meteorological forecast and trends; fire and drought patterns; expertise to interpret data) is sitting with various institutions and these need to be coordinated to provide an effective and efficient disaster response mechanism. This session will facilitate discussion about the importance of science advice and how to coordinate various scientific data providers in order to respond rapidly to the disasters.


Dr Khotso Mokhele, Department of Science and Technology

Special Advisor to the Minister of Science and Technology, South Africa; Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Chairman of the Boards of Directors of Tiger Brands Limited and AECI Limited, Non-Executive Director on Boards of Afrox Limited and Hans Merensky Holdings (Pty) Ltd as well as President of the Hans Merensky Foundation

President/CEO of the Foundation of Research Development (1992-1999), President/CEO of the successor National Research Foundation (1999-2006) and Founder President of the Academy of Science of South Africa. He served on numerous structures that advised several Ministers in South Africa on research, science, higher education and skills development. Notable among these is Chairman of the National Skills Authority; Convener of the CHE Task Force on Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy and Public Accountability in South African Higher Education and Deputy Convener of CHE Task Force on a New Shape and Size of the Higher Education System in South Africa. He represented South Africa on the Executive Board of UNESCO (1997-2001). In these capacities he was one of the key players in setting the strategic direction for the emerging democratic South Africa.

International roles include Vice-President: Scientific Planning and Review of the International Council for science (ICSU) (2005-2008) and service to UNESCO to assist the Caribbean Community (CARICom) with structuring their research, science, technology and innovation systems. He is currently facilitating merger discussion between ICSU and the International Social Sciences Council (ISSC) as they deliberated on best global institutional arrangements to ensure that all domains of science contribute maximally to finding solutions to the vexed challenges that currently confront humanity to ensure a sustainable future. He also currently Co-Chairs an OECD Expert Group on Science Advice during Trans-National Crises.

His recognition awards include the Legion of Honour (Chevalier) awarded by the President of France; Honorary Doctorates from eight South African institutions as well Rutgers University, USA; Science Diplomacy Award presented by the Minister of Science and Technology; Technology Top 100 Lifetime Achievers Award and National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) Award.

Prof Howard Alper, University of Ottawa

Professor Howard Alper is currently spearheading the initiative by the Governor General of Canada (Head of State) to enhance global recognition for Canadian research excellence. He is Chair of the Canvassing Committee for the initiative. He is also Distinguished University Professor at the University of Ottawa. The basic research Prof Alper has been pursuing spans organic and inorganic chemistry, with potential applications in the pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and commodity chemical industries. He has served on a number of NSERC committees (e.g. Committee on Research Grants), and as Chair of Boards and Committees including, amongst others, the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE), Council of Canadian Academies, Canadian Research Knowledge Network, and the Steacie Institute of Molecular Sciences. Prof Alper also served as a Chair of the Government of Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) which provides advice to Cabinet and the Prime Minister on science, technology and innovation issues.


Prof Robin Grimes,Foreign and Commonwealth Office and co-chairs the OECD’s

Professor Robin Grimes has been Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since February 2013. He is responsible for providing advice to the Foreign Secretary, Ministers and officials on science, technology and innovation. His role is to ensure that FCO work on key issues undergoes proper scientific challenge, and to strengthen the scientific and engineering capacity within the Foreign Office. The CSA is supported in his work by the UK Science and Innovation Network attachés based in overseas posts. Prof Grimes is also Professor of Materials Physics at Imperial College. In his research, he uses computer simulation techniques to understand the behaviour of materials for energy applications including nuclear fission and fusion, fuel cells, batteries and solar cells. Professor Grimes is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.


Prof Jeffrey Mphahlele, Research at the South African Medical Research Council

Jeffrey Mphahlele, PhD, is the Vice President for Research at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) since October 2014, the largest science council dedicated to funding and conducting health research in South Africa. He serves on the following Boards of Directors: The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA – New Regulator of Medicines, Medical Devices and IVDs); Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI www.cepi.net Nov 2016 to present, Member); General Assembly of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP www.edctp.org Jun 2015 to present, South African Deputy Representative); Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R www.glopid-r.org Oct 2014 to present, Vice Chair); and Oversight Committee of the Network for Education and Support in Immunisation (NESI www.nesi.be) at University of Antwerp (2014 to present). He also serves in ministerial-appointed committees of the National Dept of Health including the National Advisory Group on Immunisation (NAGI – member); South African National Task Force (NTF) for Laboratory Containment of Wild Poliovirus and Potential Infectious Materials (Chairperson) and National Certification Committee on Polio Eradication (NCC – member). He is a member of the WHO Scientific Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Polio Working Group. Jeffrey is academically affiliated to and is a Co-Director of the SAMRC/Diarrhoeal Pathogens Research Unit, a WHO Rotavirus Regional Reference Laboratory for Africa, based at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (formerly MEDUNSA) in Pretoria (2010 to present). Previous services include Professor and Academic Chair of the Department of Virology, National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) at University of Limpopo Medunsa Campus (2009 to Sep 2014) and Head of the South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre (SAVIC) at the same institution (2005 to 2014).

Jeffrey’s research interest in prevention and control of human viral diseases has covered a wide range of topics, including the viral hepatitis, gastrointestinal viral infections, human papillomaviruses, molecular epidemiology of HIV, genomics of infectious diseases, vaccination control of hepatitis B, rotavirus and HPV, and strengthening immunisation services and policies. He is actively involved in developing the next generation of scientists; and has to date trained, supervised and mentored several PhD and Master students. He published widely and achieved C1 (2016 to 2020) NRF rating.


By | 2017-11-30T13:53:34+00:00 October 9th, 2017|