International cooperation has been most beneficial for the development of scientific capacity in developing countries, and South Africa is no exception. So pointed out South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) acting deputy director-general for research development and support Dr Daniel Adams in his address to the first day of the fourth South Africa-Japan University Forum Conference, at the University of Pretoria, on Thursday.
He pointed out that the twenty-first century had been marked by the proliferation of global systems for research. This was happening across many disciplines, in some (such as physics) because of the huge expense of the required experiments, but in many others it was because many of the problems needing to be addressed, such as climate change and HIV/Aids, were international.
In parallel, the complexity of many problems was requiring interdisciplinary research programmes. And, increasingly, the results of research programmes were being published in open access sources.
Regarding South Africa, he reported that the DST oversaw what he described as a "rich and diverse portfolio" of cooperation with some 500 international partners. Such cooperation provided a platform for skills transfer, and helped address the issue of the lack of research supervisory personnel in South Africa, as well as producing actual research outputs.
He observed that South Africa's research system was still "very small", with a small budget, and had not yet been demographically transformed. These were among the issues the country's new White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, approved by the Cabinet earlier this year, sought to address.
Other important objectives were the development of the skills necessary for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the development of research capabilities at the historically black universities, and the development of a more science-educated and science-informed society. The White Paper also stressed the importance to South Africa of "science diplomacy" and international cooperation.
"International cooperation enhances South Africa's [scientific] visibility," affirmed Adams. Regarding such cooperation with Japan, the agreement underpinning this had been signed in 2003. Since then, "many successes have been generated".
"International scientific cooperation has tremendous potential to help solve the problems facing mankind," he stated. In fact, such cooperation was needed to address these issues.