Professor of the Graduate School of Technology Management at the University of Pretoria, David Walwyn says the draft White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation should look at closing down inefficient science councils.

The White Paper, which is based on extensive review of the national system of innovation, sets the long-term policy direction for the government to ensure a growing role for science, technology and innovation in a more prosperous and inclusive society.

More than 20 years after the adoption of the 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology, South Africa government is developing an updated STI policy.

Walwyn says the paper must look at the performance of science councils as they consume a large amount of the budget and are inefficient and also they have full time scientists, but very little delivery.

He says, “It does not make sense to keep some of these science councils functioning. They are inefficient. If an entity is not doing its job it should be trimmed back or shutdown. I think that is what the paper needs to be more explicit about.”

Walwyn says the draft does not provide direction and clear leadership on science and technology, and needs to trim interventions.

“Just to give an example, the draft white paper contains a list of 340 policy actions which are spread over a wide range of policy objectives. That is an incredible large number of policy actions. There is no chance that those policy documents will be implemented. It’s kind of a wish list that a policy document,” he adds.

The professor says science and technology has been undervalued in the policy spectrum.

“This is a shame because it really has a potential to lift this country of the problems it faces, from a social science perspective where we are talking about social objectives such as equality, alleviation of poverty and economic growth.”

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