International exposure important to South Africa’s PhD target

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, says no PhD student in South Africa should graduate without international exposure, considering the importance of international partnerships in producing world-class knowledge and innovation.

Speaking at the launch of the Southern African Systems Analysis Centre (SASAC) in Cape Town on Sunday, 22 May, Minister Pandor said that, for South Africa to attain its target of training 6 000 PhD students a year, the country had to build a cohort of system thinkers who would contribute to attaining this target.

SASAC, co-hosted by the Universities of the Western Cape, Limpopo, Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch, provides an opportunity for young, emerging doctoral candidates to advance their research under the supervision of senior researchers from both South Africa and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), while contributing to the development of a globally competitive science system.

The programme covers a wider framework of engagement, additional and multi-level systems analysis capacity interventions, and a comprehensive approach to policy-related activities in South Africa and the Southern African region.

For the 2016 intake, a group of 19 students have been selected competitively to participate in the SASAC programme. Supervisors will be expected to spend up to 10 days on-site with the students at the beginning of the programme, and together they will participate in an intensive, high-level systems analysis capacity development intervention.

The Minister said this initiative was part of her agenda to achieve the National Development Plan’s PhD target.

The Minister also highlighted the need to address South Africa’s Grand Challenges. These include investment in the biosciences for public health and food security; gaining a better understanding of and mitigating the impact of global change; achieving energy security; optimally exploiting the potential of space science and technology; and using science and technology to fight poverty and exclusion in our society.

The Deputy CEO for Research and Innovation Support and Advancement of the National Research Foundation (NRF), Dr Gansen Pillay, highlighted some of South Africa’s achievements in promoting systems analysis over the past five years – despite a modest beginning.

Through a video message, Prof. Pavel Kabat (Director-General and CEO of IIASA) congratulated South Africa on this landmark achievement, confirming IIASA’s support.

The Executive Director of International Relations and Cooperation at the NRF, Dr Aldo Stroebel, emphasised the NRF’s strong focus on capacity development in Africa.

He provided examples of how initiatives such as the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) were supporting the generation of knowledge and evidence-based policies to contribute to economic and social development in Africa.

About the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

IIASA is an independent, international scientific institute that conducts policy-oriented research into grand challenges or problems that are too large or too complex to be solved by a single country (for example, climate change, poverty and equity, and energy security). IIASA has 21 National Member Organizations (NMOs,) and collectively the NMOs serve as the primary source of funding and governance for the organisation. In addition, NMOs facilitate the establishment of research and other networks, enabling linkages between the IIASA research community and the research community within the NMO countries.

Source: Department: Science and Technology Republic of South Africa