South Africa needs to adopt a transdisciplinary approach to science studies if it hopes to achieve its space and astronomy goals and aspirations, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said at the National Research Foundation’s Re-emergence of Astronomy in Africa Conference, held at the Cradle of Humankind in September.
Some of these goals included: the generation of high-resolution satellite data, available for Africa from a constellation of satellites designed and manufactured in Africa; the undertaking of a space launch from South Africa, in partnership with other space nations, including a 20-year launch-capability plan; the specification and cobuilding of a communications satellite, which includes a secure launch date for its operations; becoming the preferred destination for major astronomy projects and associated international investment in construction and operations; as well as the construction of a power- ful radio astronomy telescope.
A transdisciplinary approach could be used to assist in earmarking the challenges African intellectuals face in the linking of the metanarratives of ancient astronomy with the science and technologies that drive the modern development of communication systems in Africa.
Owing to the intertwined nature of research from the physical scientists and the social sciences, current research is formulated through the transdisciplinary approach by combining social, human and physical science for all government’s policy-orientated studies.
Université du Québec à Montréal professor Bernard Schiele added that modern participation in this approach of science was dependent on four parameters: environmental awareness, the impact of technosciences on society, the growth of communication and the economic imperative.
“These parameters have transformed the way knowledge is produced, circulated, acquired and mobilised,” he said.
The conference was aimed at discussing the historical use and the impact of astronomy in the development of humanity’s understanding of the universe. It also hosted speakers from the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.