Today we celebrate World Science Day for Peace and Development. Declared by UNESCO in 2001, according to the organisation the purpose of this day is to renew the national and international commitment to science for peace and development as well as emphasise the importance of science in society and the need to engage the wider public in debates on emerging scientific issues.
The theme for this year is “Science for Global Understanding” which aims to promote the commitment of individuals and local communities in sharing knowledge about science to inspire action and change.
In South Africa, the National Development Plan (NDP) acknowledges science, technology and innovation (STI) as fundamental in changing people’s lives for the better. The NDP notes that developments in STI fundamentally alter the way people live, communicate and transact.
As a country still facing huge developmental challenges it is essential that we entrench the message about the role that science has to play in addressing some of our challenges and bolstering our economy. As such, science does not belong solely to scientists, but is also for individuals and communities to use to improve and propel themselves to new heights.
As a significant contributor in the NSI, the NRF is committed to strengthening and helping it to integrate and develop meaningful connections between science and society. To this end, the NRF has, in 2016/17, invested R1.2 billion in research grants for established researchers and R1.197 billion to support postgraduate students and emerging researchers.
In the same period the NRF invested R174 million in science engagement activities. This resulted in a total of 1 084 760 members of the public participating in various science engagement activities, 67 955 learners participating in the SET Olympiad, 227 200 learners participating in workshop and science cam. In addition a total of 17 997 educators were trained and 374 457 learners were engaged with.
While significant inroads are being made, more still needs be done by all in sharing knowledge about science so as to inspire action and change and therefore lead to the realisation of the dividend of peace and development promised by science.