Background

Breakthroughs from fundamental science fuel innovations in the industry. From applications like GPS to solar panels, science and technology are increasingly part of people’s lives in societies worldwide. Science therefore plays a central role in the social, economic and environmental challenges that we face today. The specialized skill set and international network inherent to the scientific community can be harnessed to address developmental issues globally. This need of using science for global development is emphasized in the United Nations’ 2030 agenda for sustainable development, which is comprised of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Due to the complex nature of development, it is key to collaborate across sciences, both natural sciences and social sciences, in order to contribute meaningfully to the challenges set out in the SDGs.

ROA: The International Science Council (ISC) is a non-governmental organization with a unique global membership that brings together 40 international scientific Unions and Associations and over 140 national and regional scientific organizations including Academies and Research Councils. The ISC was created in 2018 as the result of a merger between the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC). It is the only international non-governmental organization bringing together the natural and social sciences and the largest global science organization of its type. As such it provides the perfect platform to explore and realise the impact of science on development. The ISC has three Regional Offices – Africa (established in 2005), Asia and the Pacific (2006), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2007). The Regional Office for Africa (ROA) is hosted by the South African National Research Foundation in Pretoria.

OAD: The International Astronomical Union, a member of ISC, established an Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) in 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa. This office aims to use astronomy in all its aspects to impact positively on the SDGs. Since its establishment the OAD has negotiated the establishment of 10 regional offices around the world (based in Armenia, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Thailand and Zambia) with two of these offices additionally serving as language centres (Chinese and Arabic), and one serving as a dedicated language centre (Portuguese). Through its annual open call for proposals the OAD has funded 143 astronomy-for-development projects (out of 1013 unique applications) which targeted over 90 countries and 11 SDGs. With the announcement of the IAU 2020-2030 strategic plan, there is strong recognition that the establishment of interdisciplinary partnerships is key to maximise the impact that the science can have on SDGs.

SAIP: The SA Institute of Physics (SAIP) is a nonprofit, voluntary and professional physics society that was established in 1955. The SAIP has a membership of over 600 made up of professionals, academics and students. Over 10% of the membership are in other African countries and further abroad. SAIP is dedicated to increasing the understanding and application of physics in South Africa. The SAIP Mission: To be the voice of Physics in South Africa. Download a short description of the History of the SAIP. A General Info Brochure can be downloaded here.

IDIA: The Inter-university Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) is a partnership of three South African universities, the Universities of Cape Town, of the Western Cape and of Pretoria. The overarching goal of IDIA is to build the capacity and expertise in data-intensive research within the South African university community to enable global leadership on MeerKAT large survey science projects and large projects on other Square Kilometre Array pathfinder telescopes. IDIA runs an active Development and Outreach department that supports the activities of IDIA and through inter-disciplinary projects strives to realise the development potential of the institute and its partners.

DataFirstDataFirst is a Research Unit and Data Service based at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. DataFirst gives researchers online access to survey and administrative microdata (data at unit record level) from South Africa and other African countries. They assist researchers to use the data via their online helpdesk and offer formal training courses in microdata analysis. DataFirst also trains African data managers in microdata curation. They conduct research on the quality and usability of South African microdata, and they work with African microdata producers to improve the quality of their data products.  DataFirst aims for a data rich research-policy interface in South Africa, where data reuse by policy analysts in academia serves to refine inputs to government planning.

HSRC: The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development. Their mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

ASSAf: The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) was inaugurated in May 1996 by the former President of South Africa and patron of the Academy, Nelson Mandela. It was formed in response to the need for an academy of science congruent with the dawn of democracy in South Africa – activist in its mission of using science for the benefit of society. The mandate of the Academy encompasses all fields of scientific enquiry and it includes the full diversity of South Africa’s distinguished scientists. The Parliament of South Africa passed the Academy of Science of South Africa Act (Act 67 of 2001), as amended, which came into operation in May 2002. ASSAf is the official national Academy of Science of South Africa and represents the country in the international community of science academies. Since its inception, ASSAf has grown from a small, emergent organisation to a well-established academy.

SARAO: The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) is a National Facility managed by the National Research Foundation and incorporates all national radio astronomy telescopes and programmes. The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area. The desert regions of South Africa, provide the perfect radio quiet backdrop for the high and medium frequency arrays that will form a critical part of the SKA’s ground-breaking continent wide telescope. Thousands of SKA antenna dishes will be built in South Africa (in the Karoo, not far from the small town called Carnarvon), with outstations in other parts of South Africa, as well as in eight African partner countries, namely Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. Another part of the telescope, the low-frequency array, will be built in Western Australia.

Cosmopolitan Karoo: The DSI/NRF SARChI Research Chair in the Sociology of Land, Environment and Sustainable Development, launched in January 2016, is convened by Prof Cherryl Walker as Research Chair. Its central concern is to deepen our understanding of the complex web of social and environmental dynamics within which commitments to sustainable development must operate, with the arid Karoo region of South Africa as its primary research site. The Karoo is a compelling site through which to explore these issues, given its particular history, environment and contemporary social challenges. Adding to the mix are several globally networked developments that are promising major benefits locally and nationally, while also reframing established relationships to land, environment and place. These include astronomy, possible shale-gas mining (‘fracking’) and various renewable energy and conservation initiatives. The programme is organised around a set of individual, core-team and collaborative research projects. The commitment is to research that is empirically grounded, theoretically informed and alert to the importance of cross-disciplinary and comparative work. The Research Chair is funded by South Africa’s Department of Science & Innovation (DSI), administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and based in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University.

RESEP: Research on Socio-Economic Policy (RESEP) is a group of researchers in the Department of Economics at the University of Stellenbosch. It developed around a long-term research focus on issues of poverty, income distribution, social mobility, economic development and social policy. This was further stimulated when Servaas van der Berg in 2008 became the South African National Research Chair in the Economics of Social Policy, financially supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF). This led to further consolidation of research work in this area.

SANSA: The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) was created to promote the use of space and strengthen cooperation in space-related activities while fostering research in space science, advancing scientific engineering through developing human capital, and supporting industrial development in space technologies. The research and work carried out at SANSA focuses on space science, engineering and technology that can promote development, build human capital and provide important national services. Much of this work involves monitoring the Earth and our surrounding environment, and using the collected data to ensure that navigation, communication technology and weather forecasting services function as intended.

DARA Big Data: The Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) Big Data Project (https://www.darabigdata.com/) is funded by the United Kingdom Newton Fund via the Science & Technologies Facilities Council, and aims to develop big data skills using radio astronomy in a number of African countries. The DARA Big Data project will target the translation of data-intensive science skills from radio astronomy (Astro Big Data; ABD) to other big data areas such as Food Security & Sustainable Agriculture (AGRI Big Data; ABD) and Health Care (Health Big Data; HBD)

Given the proximity of these institutions (all based in South Africa), and the synergistic objectives, this event is a jointly hosted interdisciplinary workshop that brings together both science and development expertise in order to explore synergies and develop initiatives that would ultimately contribute to the achievement of SDGs by 2030. The focus would be on the benefits of cooperation across fields for advancing development in general and the SDGs in particular, with the main purpose of generating tangible interdisciplinary project ideas that can be carried out regionally or globally.

This workshop will create a space for conversation between natural scientists, who have many technical skills, and development economists, NGOs and social scientists, who are knowledgeable about development in practice.