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Injecting resilience into our systems

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SAEON welcomes Ms Naledi Pandor back into the science and technology fold and wishes her a successful second term

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A significant injection of equipment funds is set to amplify the amount of data that SAEON will produce and archive

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The scientific leadership that SAEON will gain from its leading international ecologist, William Bond, will act as a catalyst for increasing scientific productivity and quality and improving synergy between the nodes

By Johan Pauw, Managing Director, SAEON

 

As the southern hemisphere cools down and enters a period of rest during the winter months, we are reminded of the cyclic nature of resilient systems, not only natural systems but organisational and societal systems as well.

An example of the latter is the return of Ms Naledi Pandor as Minister of Science and Technology. Minister Pandor held this position for over three years prior to October 2012 when she was appointed as Minister of Home Affairs. SAEON would like to welcome her back into the science and technology fold and wishes her a successful second term - knowing that, proverbially speaking, she will ‘hit the ground running'.

At the same time we are saying goodbye to the outgoing Minister, Mr Derek Hanekom, and would specifically like to thank him for his concern over the state of equipment at national facilities.

Another example of a resilient system is the renewed appointment of the CEO of the National Research Foundation (NRF), Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, following his first five years in office. The NRF's growth and successes under his leadership has been a positive experience and we are encouraged and motivated by the knowledge that this state of affairs will prevail in the foreseeable future.

Increasing productivity and quality

SAEON's outlook for the rest of 2014 is indeed exciting and literally promises to take us places. The massive injection of equipment funds by the Department of Science and Technology through the NRF is raising the bar for SAEON several times and is expected to amplify the amount of data that SAEON will be able to produce and archive. Such is the elevated potential for observational data to be delivered, that SAEON are recruiting for the specialist skills required for data archiving, analytics and management.

With the additional scientific leadership that SAEON will gain from our leading international ecologist, William Bond, we will endeavour not only to increase our scientific productivity and quality, but also to improve synergy between the nodes. Eco-hydrology will initially be a key theme for this purpose and SAEON will soon recruit for the required skills to bring this theme to life.

Translating science into policy

We have also come to realise that we will soon require a go-between professional that can link SAEON's science to the needs of policy makers. The incumbent of this position will have to constantly circulate between and network with government departments, and where applicable, also with industry and society at large.

"It is no longer sufficient for SAEON scientists merely to publish in scientific journals and to present papers at conferences. Interpretation of the policy implications of SAEON's science has to be presented in policy language." - Johan Pauw, MD

It is no longer sufficient for SAEON scientists merely to publish in scientific journals and to present papers at conferences. Interpretation of the policy implications of SAEON's science has to be presented in policy language. Furthermore, a permanent link has to be forged with relevant policy makers to ensure that SAEON can respond timeously to particular policy needs.

The previous arrangement whereby this connection was established via the SAEON Advisory Board has outlived its relevance. It is time to adapt the way we operate in regards to supporting the evidence-based policy mindset of government. Our new approach will also require that we reconstitute our advisory structures to focus largely on the evaluation and development of SAEON science.

Putting down roots

For the first time in SAEON's 12-year history, we are to become the proud owners of fixed property. This should be seen as solid evidence that SAEON is maturing and has a secure future. Elsewhere in this newsletter, the reader is informed about the acquisition of Tierberg-LTER, as it will be known - the first time that SAEON will actually own a research site.

SAEON is also in the process of procuring permanent offices for its National Office as well as the Fynbos Node. It makes greater financial sense for the National Office to own its physical space than to rent it from a landlord. The Fynbos Node has outgrown its allocated space at Kirstenbosch and we must now make provision for that growth.

The SAEON Elwandle Node has been hosted by our sister facility in the NRF, SAIAB (South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity), an arrangement which has enabled the node to develop into a landmark in the marine science landscape, largely based on the coastal platform established in Algoa Bay. The maturity of the node and the 1.5 hr travel time between Grahamstown and Algoa Bay are good reasons for relocating the node to Port Elizabeth. Various possibilities for accommodation are currently being investigated, including construction and acquisition.

A change is as good as a holiday, or is it?

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