Honouring top scientists

Besides being a landmark year for South African rugby and our then fledgling democracy, 1995 also saw the establishment of a body that has helped to revolutionise the way we regard science and technology in this country —- the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF).

Made up of the country’s top science, engineering, technology and innovation (Seti) organisations, the NSTF plays a consultative lobbying role in the government’s approach to Seti policy matters and, through its annual awards recognises the best South Africa has to offer in the Seti arena.

Often referred to as the “Oscars” of South African science, the NSTF Awards celebrate excellence in the country’s research and development community, in individuals, teams, NGOs and corporations.

This year’s awards has seen a bumper crop of 46 finalists with research and development projects as diverse as a study on the behaviour of rodents, compilation of an inventory of spiders, improvements in computer software for use in the field of civil engineering and teaching mathematics and science in schools.

From this group of 46, 13 winners have emerged, representing the crème de la crème of Seti in South Africa.

“It has been a remarkable year for the awards,” says NSTF executive director Jansie Niehaus. “We have been delighted with the response and the outstanding achievements being made in the SETI arena in South Africa. This is the most nominations we have had in the 11-year history of the awards and demonstrates the huge potential for scientific innovation this country has.”

The awards are divided into 10 categories.
These are:

Categories A, B and C: awards for individuals
These awards are made to those three individuals who have made outstanding contributions to ­science, engineering and technology in South Africa.

Categories D, E and F: research for innovation by teams/individuals through organisations
These three awards are made for an outstanding contribution to Seti from either a team or an individual where it can be demonstrated that: (a) either research carried out in South Africa has led to new science that, in turn, has led to new engineering or medical or social concepts, ie technology, or (b) where engineering or medical or social concepts, ie technology that have been developed in South Africa and have been applied and have led to a successful innovation that takes on the form of either an accepted innovation in science, a project, or a product, or a range of products or a methodology or any other form of applied output completed in the recent past.

Category G: Awards for research capacity developers
The purpose of these awards is to recognise individuals regardless of nationality or citizenship or gender based in South Africa, who have during their careers demonstrated outstanding leadership in increasing the participation of black researchers in their chosen scientific, engineering and technological fields.

Categories H and J: awards to black researchers
These awards, known as the TW Kambule NRF Research Awards, are made to those four black individuals in South Africa who have made outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology and who represent role models for others to follow.

Category K: science communication for public awareness
The NSTF science and technology communicator’s award is intended to encourage South African ­researchers, writers, educators and communicators (including journalists) to promote science and technology though conventional and/or innovative means.
Groups, or individuals, all of whom must be practising scientists, engineers and technologists who have made outstanding contributions to research across the system of innovation, are encouraged to submit nominations for the awards.
The awards are endorsed by the department of science and technology and supported by a number of stakeholders such as the National Research Foundation, South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement, the department of trade and industry, department of education and Eskom.

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