Science Forum South Africa 2020 confirmed – Still igniting conversations about science


The South African Department of Science and Innovation is delighted to confirm that the 2020 Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) will be held virtually from Wednesday, 9 to Friday, 11 December 2020.  Although it will be smaller and without the valued opportunities for informal networking possible in previous years, we are confident that the Forum will still "ignite conversations about science".  As always, participation in the Forum is open to all and free of charge.  We warmly invite anyone with an interest in the role of science and critical thinking in our society to join the debate.

This year, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) is proud to present the SFSA in partnership with the Radical Reason Consortium, an initiative of the South African Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).  The consortium of South African social sciences and humanities institutions engages in activities which, prompted by the events of 2020 that brought life, science and race issues to the fore, seek to stimulate critical knowledge that reflects the full complexity of the lived experiences and conditions of the world.  The HSRC Radical Reason Consortium partners include the Academy of Science of South Africa, the National Research Foundation, Universities South Africa, Sol Plaatje University, and the Universities of Pretoria and the Western Cape.

The SFSA 2020 will also be an opportunity to reflect on the various science, technology and innovation partnership initiatives that the DSI has led as part of South Africa's chairing of the African Union in 2020.  As usual, pan-African cooperation in science will be a significant focus of the Forum agenda.  The diplomatic community in Pretoria continues to offer strong support to the Forum, and will be presenting several SFSA sessions.  Through the European South African Science and Technology Advancement Programme (ESASTAP), there will a special focus on cooperation with the European Union, with several sessions presented by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre and the Africa-Europe Innovation Partnership.

On Wednesday afternoon, 9 December 2020, the SFSA 2020 will commence with an opening address by Dr Blade Nzimande, South Africa's Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.  This will be followed by messages from the Forum's strategic international partners, including the African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor.  Two internationally acclaimed South African scientists, renowned for their work in the fight against HIV/AIDS and, more recently, COVID-19, Prof. Quarraisha Abdool Karim and Prof. Salim Abdool Karim, will be delivering the SFSA 2020 plenary lecture. 

On Thursday 10 December 2020, the Forum programme will comprise 32 different panel discussions and debates, all interrogating the critical interface between science and society.  Highlights on the programme will include sessions on topics such as the future of transdisciplinarity in research, African histories of technology, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the future of data protection.   An exciting new addition to the Forum programme will be a series of provocative conversations with global thinkers. Active audience engagement and debate will continue to be a hallmark of the SFSA programme.

The Forum will conclude on the morning of Friday, 11 December 2020, with a series of panel discussions interrogating the role of science in advancing social justice, which will be the theme for South Africa's hosting of the World Science Forum in 2021.  A final plenary discussion facilitated by the South African Affiliate Centre of the World Economic Forum's Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution will focus on the impact of disruptive technology in narrowing and widening inequality.

We are confident that SFSA 2020, like its predecessors, will continue to enrich the public discourse on the role of science in society, advance Pan-African cooperation and integration, and bolster the global solidarity and friendship our world so desperately needs.

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