Celebrating 20 years of NRF-SAEON
By Dr Mary-Jane Bopape, Managing Director, NRF-SAEON
This issue is dedicated to celebrating SAEON’s twenty years of existence. Having spent just over six months in the organisation, I would like to congratulate the SAEON team and stakeholders, together with the former Managing Director, Mr Johan Pauw, for the many milestones SAEON achieved in the last 20 years.
When this newsletter was launched in September 2005, only the Ndlovu Node had been established, while the process was under way to identify hosts for the Elwandle, Egagasini and Fynbos nodes. These nodes are still thriving, with Elwandle now also host to the Shallow Marine and Coastal Research Infrastructure (SMCRI), and Egagasini to the South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI). SMCRI has just had a five-year review, with positive feedback from the review committee.
The Egagasini Node is now hosting the South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI). The vision of SAPRI is to enable balanced and transformed research across polar disciplines, and to maintain and further expand the world-class, long-term observational research infrastructure and datasets already established within South Africa’s polar and oceanographic research.
The Grasslands and Arid Lands nodes have also established landscapes of great importance to the understanding of our environment and human interactions. Following a thorough consultative process, six landscapes have been identified for the Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON) Research Infrastructure. EFTEON has also had a five-year review which was generally positive.
The platforms established by the uLwazi Node make it possible for SAEON’s data to be open, without a need for researchers and students to engage with SAEON staff before access to data can be granted.
The nodes are hosted by important and relevant stakeholders, namely South African National Parks (SANParks), the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Nelson Mandela University and Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, whose contributions have been valuable. Engagements have started with other stakeholders regarding the hosting of components of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR) Programmes – SMCRI, EFTEON and SAPRI.
The appointment of outreach and education coordinators and officers right in the inception stages of SAEON showed a commitment to taking science from the lab/field to the community and ensuring that school learners become aware of careers in environmental sciences earlier on. The story of Tania Duba is a beautiful one that shows some of the visible successes of the SAEON learner programme.
The story of Tania Duba shows some of the visible successes of the SAEON learner programme.
EMS Africa technician Jens Judt (with red hat) working with the EFTEON team on the Benfontein sites. (Photo: Amukelani Maluleke)
“As we look to the future, SAEON will continue to position itself to respond to national policies and societal needs towards the attainment of the National Development Plan and Sustainable Development goals.” – Dr Mary-Jane Bopape
The establishment of the Graduate Student Network is also exemplary, and I have had the pleasure of engaging, although for a short time, with the students that attended the latest Indibano event, with positive feedback.
As we look to the future, SAEON will continue to position itself to respond to national policies and societal needs towards the attainment of the National Development Plan (NDP) and Sustainable Development goals. This is in line with the National System of Innovation (NSI) becoming increasingly focused on deriving increased impact, while its development continues.
The areas identified as limiting the contribution of science, technology and innovation to solving socio-economic challenges are well noted by SAEON and will be prioritised where relevant. We note the societal grand challenges of i) climate change and sustainability, ii) future-proof education and skills and iii) the future of society listed in the Department of Science and Innovation’s decadal plan.
SAEON will continue to contribute to these while holding on to the six values of the National Research Foundation, namely Passion for Excellence, World Class Service, People-centred, Respect, Integrity & Ethics, and Accountability.
National Office staff members celebrating NRF-SAEON’s 20-year anniversary. The National Office is the administrative and coordination hub of the organisation.
A special cake for a special celebration, flanked by the new managing director of NRF-SAEON, Dr Mary-Jane Bopape (left), and the former managing director, Johan Pauw.