Cape Town – We need to talk about STI.
No, not the type nobody wants to share – the type that stands for Science, Technology and Innovation, and is well worth getting excited about.
On Tuesday, South Africa’s first Science Forum kicks into gear at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, and the theme is “Igniting Conversations About Science”.
“I thought we should use this forum to introduce the public to science in South Africa and the African continent,” Pandor said. “I’m hoping young people will sit up and take notice, and the media will become more appreciative of what’s happening in science.”
Inspired by European open science forums, the Science Forum South Africa will be accessible through a website and a mobile app, and it will also be broadcast on screens in science centres and public places around the country.
“Let’s ignite the conversation, and get us talking about science,” Pandor said. “We talk misery, we talk crime. We talk all the awful things, which we must talk about, but there’s very little appreciation of science and technology and innovation.”
“Is it likely that we’ll get an HIV vaccine soon? Are we putting enough money into malaria research? What about cancer treatment? It’s about what research is being done, who’s doing it, and what young people should be aspiring to in the future.”
Pandor said that while the African continent has plenty to be proud of, we are still trailing behind the rest of the world in the fields of science, technology and innovation.
“There is some progress, but compared to the rest of the world we’re lagging behind,” she said. “Much more investment is needed. We are lagging behind on funding, we are lagging behind on human capital. Progress is being made, but clearly, much more needs to be done.”
Pandor said we can be particularly proud of projects such as CAPRISA, an HIV/Aids research unit at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), and the projects run by the CSIR.
She said scientists presenting their research at the forum would make an effort to explain their work in a way that a lay person can easily understand.
It may seem that science happens in laboratories, shut off from the real world. But scientists in South Africa are using their skills to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face in our everyday lives, such as HIV, tuberculosis and cancer. Climate change is also a massive topic of interest, as South Africa currently faces a drought that is threatening food security.
“Our daily life is a life of science, a life of technology. We are saying to the public, to policy makers, to NGOs, that science matters to you.”
To follow the Science Forum, visit the website at www.sfsa.co.za or download the SFSA 2015 app from your Play Store (on Android) or iTunes (on Apple devices).