Good thinking at the CSIR

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been listed as one of the world’s top science and technology think tanks for the first time.

The US-based Think Tanks and Civil Society Program conducts the annual rankings, sifting through almost 6 500 think tanks.

The Pretoria-headquartered CSIR was listed among the top 25 science and technology think tanks, sharing the space with heavyweights such as the Max Planck Institute in Germany, the Santa Fe Institute in the USA and the Institute for Future Technology in Japan.

James McGann, the director of the think tank index, said South Africa as a whole was currently among the top 15 countries in the world when it comes to think tanks. South Africa placed 12th, with 85 think tanks. That places the country just behind Canada and Italy, and just ahead of Brazil and Switzerland.

McCann described think tanks as a “bridge between knowledge and power.” But part of South Africa’s prominence may be less scientific and more due to the need to resolve many of the continent’s political problems: the Institute for Security Studies, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Accord) and South African Institute for International Affairs were all listed among the world’s top 75 think tanks.

Africa as a whole has increased its share of the worldwide think tank traffic, moving up from eight percent of think tanks in 2009 to 11 percent last year. But it’s not all good news.

Despite the continent-wide boom in think tanks, McGann warned that Africa has ‘‘seen the least activity’’ in com- parison with the global growth.

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