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Global partners seal ground-breaking science engagement project
Managing Director Dr Jabu Nukeri represented SAASTA at the launch of NUCLEUS – which is part of the European Union's (EU's) HORIZON2020 project – during the Beijing Science Festival.
HORIZON2020's stated aim is to lead the industry with scientific and technological innovation that addresses the needs of society. Its three main aims are generating excellent science, fostering industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges.
NUCLEUS, in turn, develops, supports and implements inclusive and sustainable approaches to Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) within the governance and culture of research organisations. Its founding document posits that it will focus primarily on stimulating research and innovation that reflect and respond to societal needs.
According to Nukeri, the official launch of NUCLEUS was long in the making. "It is a culmination of a process started in 2010 when SAASTA and the Beijing Association for Science and Technology (BAST) agreed to collaborate on science festivals, science communication, STEMI (science, technology, mathematics and innovation) competitions and teacher development," he says.
"We initiated the collaboration during the visit of a BAST delegation to South Africa in 2010. They invited us to attend the Beijing Science Festival in 2011 and we have sent an annual delegation there ever since.
"The SAASTA-led South African delegation has over the years included delegates from science centres and councils, and from NRF (National Research Foundation) facilities."
Nukeri adds that, in 2013, several organisations attending the Beijing Science Festival signed a memorandum of understanding that focused on science festivals. The signatories included SAASTA, on whose behalf Science Advancement Platforms Manager Shadrack Mkansi signed. Mkansi was leading the South African delegation that year.
"SAASTA is honoured to be the first, and only, African institution to be accepted as a partner in this initiative that focuses on creating dialogue between science and society," says Mkansi.
The other signatories were BAST, the European Science Events Association, European Network of Science Centres and Museums, German Science Day and City2Science. Completing the complement were The World Science Festival, Science Festival Alliance, Morehead Planetarium, and Science Communication and Science and Learning of the Australian Museum.
"After signing the memorandum of understanding, there was talk about a joint programme involving Europe, China, Russia and Africa," Nukeri says. "This is when NUCLEUS was conceptualised and SAASTA, which was the only institution from Africa, came to represent the continent in the project.
"It was decided then we should approach the EU to request funding for the project. This is how NUCLEUS became part of HORIZON2020."
The NUCLEUS project is divided into six cells. Cell 1 focuses on universities and research institutions, Cell 2 on public engagement, Cell 3 on civil society, Cell 4 on media, Cell 5 on public policy and Cell 6 on the economy.
"All partners in Cell 3 will undertake a capacity-building field trip to South Africa early next year," Nukeri says. "The field trip will allow partners to gain an understanding of how to embed RRI in different socio-political contexts."
2015 Beijing International Science Festival Roundtable Conference
Meanwhile, as is customary at the Beijing Science Festival, the delegates held a roundtable conference to foster an exchange of ideas and to exchange ideas. The 2015 Beijing International Science Festival Roundtable Conference was held under theme "New Road for Science Communication".
More than 30 delegates from 18 countries across the world participated in the conference that was held at the China Science and Technology Museum on 20 September 2015. The key speakers at the conference included Nukeri, the Director of International Relations at Universcience in France, Dr Sophie Biecheler and the President of Science Day in Germany, Joachim Lerch.
"All participants spoke about how they ran science communication in their organisations and how science engagement through education, awareness and communication can develop a critical public that actively engages and participates in the global discourse of science for the benefit of society," Nukeri says.
Other topics the delegates entertained include a last-year work report and 2016 work arrangement, and the website of the roundtable conference. New members signed the memorandum of understanding and were briefed on the implications of membership.
Staff Writer, SAASTA