South Africaʹs launch of its first research infrastructure roadmap sees it joining the vanguard of scientific nations.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, unveiled the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR) in Cape Town today, on the sidelines of the International Conference on Research Infrastructures (ICRI) 2016.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) developed the strategy to develop big science infrastructure projects as a means to attract scientific talent to Africa. The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is one such initiative, bringing together scientists in disciplines such as mathematics, physics, computer science and other fields, to build the largest scientific infrastructure on the continent.
The Roadmap was also developed with the understanding that access to adequate and relevant research infrastructure is essential to promoting quality outcomes and research, so as to develop a competitive and sustainable National System of Innovation. Research infrastructure refers to facilities, resources and services used by the scientific community for research that enables the generation, exchange and preservation of knowledge.
South Africa has demonstrated its science and research capability and is acknowledged as a natural home to one of the world's most significant infrastructure projects, namely, the SKA.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Pandor said the development of national or regional research infrastructure roadmaps was a new phenomenon, and the SARIR put the country 'ʺin the vanguard of scientific nationsʺ.
The Minister said the strategy was the apex of a long and deep commitment by South Africa to infrastructure development, for which the Department had over the last eight years invested more than R2,7 billion in research and development infrastructure, R1,5 billion in cyber-infrastructure, and R3,5 billion in the Meerkat and SKA project.
ʺIn order to maximise the return on investment in research, scientists and researchers must have access to modern and appropriate infrastructure. To underpin this, adequate levels of funding for such infrastructure should form a key component of any national research system,ʺ the Minister said.
With additional funding from National Treasury, the DST will roll out seven research infrastructures over the next five years. These will include an expanded terrestrial and freshwater environmental observation network, a nuclear medicine research facility, a network of health and demographic surveillance sites and a national centre for digital language resources.
The commitment from National Treasury will also help to establish a long-term plan to sustain the implementation of SARIR.
Issued by the Department of Science and Technology
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