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South African science minister eyes bigger portfolio

Pandor.jpgPosted on behalf of Linda Nordling.

In a budget speech today, South Africa’s science minister said she wants to give “serious consideration” to bringing all of the country’s science funding under one roof—her own, to be precise.

The responsibility for funding African science councils is currently spread between several departments for historical reasons. For instance, the country’s Medical Research Councils gets its money from the Department of Health.

But speaking in Parliament in Cape Town earlier today, Naledi Pandor argued that her department, the Department for Science and Technology, should take over funding all the country’s science agencies to improve the efficiency of the resource allocation.

“Sector departments would still have the right to direct policy but we would ensure resourcing and full attention to research, technology development and innovation,” she said.

Pandor also announced that South Africa will get a new National Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation composed of ministers, scientists and other stakeholders to “ensure sustained political commitment and oversight of national research and development support”. The membership of the committee has yet to be announced.

South Africa’s public science budget will be 4.4 billion rand (US$628 million) in 2011/12—up from 4.1bn rand in 2010/11. The modest increase will among other things fund 62 new senior research positions and provide high-speed internet connections to all of the country’s universities.

Pandor’s proposal to gather all science funding under her own department was criticised by Wilmot James, MP for the Democratic Alliance, an opposition party. “Minister Pandor would do much better if she focused her efforts and created better efficiencies, before she makes a bid for science councils that presently do not fall under her Ministry,” he said.

Image: Science minister Naledi Pandor

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