Research chairs initiative beginning to help generate knowledge

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is very happy with the success of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI), reports DST Director General Dr Phil Mjwara. He was speaking following the recent announcement by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe of the establishment of 54 new research chairs. This move followed the creation, in February, of new Centres of Excellence in the country.
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MeerKAT radio telescope dish foundations completed

The last of the 64 foundations for the dishes for South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope array was poured on February 11, SKA South Africa (SKA SA) recently announced. The 64-dish MeerKAT will be a precursor to the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, which will be jointly hosted by South Africa and Australia.
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Science and Technology Minister creates new Centres of Excellence

The Department of Science and Technology reported on Tuesday that Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom had authorised the creation of five new Centres of Excellence (CoEs). The purpose of CoEs is to drive joint interdisciplinary research between research institutions and to develop high level skills in “priority research areas”.

“The new CoEs will contribute to South Africa’s knowledge-generation capacity, increase the number of world-class researchers and attract and retain research excellence,” said Hanekom. His decision takes the number of CoEs created since 2004 to 14.

CoEs head research in areas that are regarded as being of national interest. They are intended to speed up the provision of the necessary human resources and knowledge capacity. They also serve to make South African research more internationally competitive and to stimulate research excellence and develop capacity.
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Walk Your Way to More Effective Leadership

In 1978, my wife, Ginger, and I began daily 30- to 60-minute walks in our neighborhood in a weight-control effort. We found that we enjoy this activity together. It is the time when we talk about a full range of topics: family issues, financial discussions, career decisions, information exchange, and even neighborhood gossip.

Walking has become an important part of our lives, enriching us physically, mentally, spiritually and professionally. With Ginger often with me, I have walked in almost every major city in the United States and numerous smaller ones in the course of my everyday activities over the past 36 years. I have walked in some 45 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Walking has definite health benefits not only for weight control but also for improving diabetes, reducing high blood pressure, possibly delaying the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other positive outcomes. But I have also used my daily walks as a tool for communication and leadership, including team building.

For example, in 1989, when I was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to serve as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), most of the agency heads and staff in HHS knew little, if anything, about me, because this was my first appointment to a position in the federal government. So during my initial meetings with HHS staff, I invited them to join me on my morning walks in Washington and in the 10 cities around the country where we have our regional HHS offices. This proved to be very popular: Between 10 to 150 people showed up to walk in Denver, San Francisco, New York and elsewhere. During my walk in Dallas, one excited HHS employee informed me that I was the first HHS secretary he had met and talked with during his 23-year tenure in the department.

During these walks I learned a lot about the history of the department, ongoing policy debates and current departmental morale. And my staff learned a lot about me: my history, my goals for my tenure as HHS secretary, my value system, my communications skills, and my hobbies. Most important was the bonding that resulted between me and the leaders and staff of the department. We became an effective team.

In September 1990 when I released Healthy People 2000 — a guide to enable Americans to improve health behavior and strengthen prevention activities by the year 2000 — I decided to use the occasion to illustrate the many benefits of walking. I invited the public to join me for a walk through Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. More than 300 people turned out for this event.

Daily walking has added to my knowledge and enjoyment of cities, countries, landscapes, and scenes of everyday life around the world. I have found that early morning treks not only give me a head start on my day but also afford an opportunity to see and enjoy sights and sounds I wouldn’t otherwise experience.

A few years later, I served as chair of Medical Education for South African Blacks (MESAB) — a nonprofit organization formed to help alleviate the shortage of black doctors, nurses, and other health professionals in that country. MESAB’s scholarships also facilitated the enrollment of blacks in universities, thereby accelerating the dismantling of apartheid. On my visits, I often invited South African members of the MESAB board to join me for my morning walk. These excursions proved invaluable for discussions of our operations there. This simple activity enhanced our communications and effectiveness.

The benefits of walking can go beyond personal health, enjoyment, and communications. One such example is an event I organized in 1989: an annual 5-K run/walk on Martha’s Vineyard. Each August, the proceeds from our sponsorships help to support the island’s only (and very important) hospital.

For me, walking has proved to be a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle, while facilitating my communications skills and leadership efforts. My life has been and continues to be enhanced by this activity, which is readily available to almost all of us.


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UK, SA scientists set to share notes at research workshop

As part of a bilateral R3-million Scientific Seminar Scheme between South Africa and the UK, the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the UK Department of Business Innovation and Skills will host a South Africa-UK Science and Technology Workshop to enhance research collaborations between both countries. The £200 000 workshop, which would run from February 10 to 11, in Cape Town, would see 75 scientists, researchers and officials identifying shared and specific areas of research interest, relevant for potential future collaborations, while exploring new and existing funding mechanisms to support ongoing research. It would also present an opportunity for the two countries to identify and make recommendations for future [national] collaboration on science and technology.
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Is Africa ‘Rising’ or ‘Falling’?

The question is not which narrative is true, but which will win?

Is Africa rising or falling? Over the last 50 years, the answer to this question has been debated and examined from every angle. Even today there exist vastly different views on what Africa’s future holds. At the heart of this discussion are more than 1 billion men, women, and children living within 54 nations that form the world’s most vibrant continent.

In recent years, conversations about African prosperity have become increasingly optimistic. And this optimism is supported by evidence.

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SA to host first Brics science, technology and innovation Ministerial meeting

Science and Technology Minister Derek Hankom would in February host the first Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) science, technology and innovation (STI) ministerial meeting, in Kleinmond, in the Western Cape. The meeting was one of the activities agreed upon in the declaration and work plan adopted at the fifth Brics summit, which took place in Durban in March 2013.
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