In September the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) will be hosting a workshop on the theme of ‘Science and Society in Africa’ at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University. The workshop is being organized by three SAYAS members: Professor Alex Broadbent at the University of Johannesburg; Dr. Mandisa Mbali at Stellenbosch University and Dr. Tolullah Oni at the University of Cape Town.
A call for papers was sent out to SAYAS members and to members of various other relevant scholarly networks in March. Twenty strong abstracts have now been accepted on themes which range from public debates around GMO importation into Kenya, the role of Africa’s philanthropists in relation to research funding and the prospects for nanotechnology for development in Africa. Participants will develop 5000 word papers which will be pre-circulated with the ultimate goal of producing a peer reviewed scholarly publication on the workshop’s theme.
The workshop will have 3 keynote speakers: Professor Thomas Pogge a philosopher and international relations specialist at Yale University will give a keynote address on efforts to incentivise pharmaceutical innovation for the world’s poor. It will also include a session led by Professor Saul Dubow a historian of science and expert on scientific racism in South Africa’s past. The third address on ubuntu and the scientific paradigm will be given by Thaddeus Metz, a philosopher at the University of Johannesburg.
The focus of the workshop will be on ‘closing the gap’ between science and society in Africa: a gap which has many dimensions. Papers will examine the particular ways in which science studies disciplines must be adapted – and even transformed – in order to be relevant to African contexts. For example, Africa faces the challenge of improving the critical understanding of science among non-scientists while respecting and responding to the fact that the history of science has been dominated by Europe and the USA. It will also explore the colonial-era legacies which confront African scientists.
SAYAS has decided to fund this event as understanding the interface between science and society is politically and socially critical for development on the continent, as well as of global intellectual importance. One of SAYAS’s goals is to provide platforms for young scientists to disseminate their research: in terms of this objective, the organisers are delighted that 40% of accepted abstracts will be given by early career scholars. This workshop is being jointly organised by SAYAS, the Philosophy Department of University of Johannesburg, the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University and the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Cape Town.