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ICSU President supports SAEON's approach to science education outreach and data management


ICSU President Professor Yuan Tseh Lee is a Nobel Laureate for Chemistry and is recognised worldwide for his contribution to science.

By Sibongile Mokoena and Leazill Peenze, SAEON

During his recent visit to the International Council for Science (ICSU) Regional Office for Africa in Pretoria, ICSU President Professor Yuan Tseh Lee said one of the proven methods to attract and encourage young students to pursue careers in the sciences is through science camps and the integration of scientists into education.

Prof. Lee's view on science education is a welcome endorsement to the SAEON Education Outreach approach.

Prof. Lee, a Nobel Laureate for Chemistry, is recognised worldwide for his contribution to science. He shared with the SAEON and ICSU–RoA staff how, as a young student, he enjoyed the hands-on experience doing science and interacting with scientists. He passionately recalled how, as a child, science camps would "take away the stress and bring joy" to the learning experience.

Prof. Lee emphasised that South Africa's pool of scientists should be encouraged to play a role in science education.

The SAEON Education Outreach programme has nine years' experience of successfully running science camps for Grade 9-11 learners. The scientists design the camp activities and guide learners on the scientific methods of environmental monitoring. At the end of the camp, learners present their projects and share how the camp changed their views of science. Some of these learners have continued to study science at higher education institutions.

Data portals and research collaborations

During the discussion with Prof. Lee and Dr Carthage Smith (Deputy Executive Director of ICSU), Dr Smith confirmed the sterling role that SAEON's Chief Information Management Officer, Wim Hugo, was playing in the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

When the ICSU-RoA staff spoke about their areas of speciality, certain areas were mentioned that could see the start of collaborations between SAEON and ICSU. One of these is nutrition. A possible collaboration might be explored in terms of the type and quality of food being consumed by people living in rural areas in the northern parts of South Africa. One of their main sources of protein, Mopani worms, is becoming very scarce as Mopani trees are being chopped down to serve as fuel wood. ICSU-RoA staff members were encouraged to liaise with SAEON's Research Administrator, Beate Hölscher, about further opportunities for collaboration.

Prof. Lee's and Dr Smith's acknowledgement of SAEON's role in the GEOSS and data management arena confirms the status and progress SAEON has made in the last few years.


SAEON and ICSU-RoA staff members with ICSU's President, Professor Yuan Tseh Lee and Deputy Executive Director, Dr Carthage Smith. From left: Bongani Mahlalela, Punyezwa Chitambala (SAEON), Dr Daniel Nyanganyura, Hazael Naidoo, Dr Carthage Smith, Dr Edith Madela-Mntla, Leazill Peenze (SAEON), Prof. Lee, Sibongile Mokoena (SAEON) and Dr Richard Glover.

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