Reconsider major cuts to Science and Technology budget – Belinda Bozzoli – POLITICS

DA MP says a number of new postgraduate students will be unable to pursue their studies as there will be no funding

DA calls on Treasury to reconsider major cuts to the Science and Technology budget

16 July 2020

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on National Treasury to rethink the major cuts to the Science and Technology budget which will leave thousands of postgraduate students unfunded and do profound damage to South African scientific research.

We boast of our ambition to embrace the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, yet these cuts are an assault on research. Especially at a time when South Africa is living through a pandemic which has brought home to us what the true value of science and research is.

It is almost unbelievable therefore that the budgets of the various entities which actually pursue scientific work, much of which is indeed in ”Fourth Industrial Revolution” fields, have been dramatically cut, with no indication as to their future security. The R1.7 billion Covid-related cuts to entities such as the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research (CSIR) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) – both of which are already underfunded – and other associated entities mean that:

A number of new postgraduate students will be unable to pursue their studies as there will be no funding for them for the 2021 academic year. We have asked the Department to provide us with precise figures;

Hundreds of highly qualified researchers, many in flagship programmes, working in areas ranging from nuclear physics to diversity studies, and who do all the training of postgraduates students,  will not receive sufficient funding for their research and teaching to continue as it should; and

Key projects and programmes in such cutting edge areas as Biomanufacturing, Precision Health, Robotics, Laser Science, Nano-science, Titanium science and Aerospace, will be severely cut, affecting researchers at Universities, the CSIR and elsewhere, country-wide.

In the case of the CSIR, which depends significantly on contract research, its ability to obtain and fulfil contracts will be damaged by the cuts, demonstrating the intertwined nature of its work. Indeed the entire research endeavour in the country consists of multiple interlocking and mutually reinforcing programmes and projects, running right across the country and through every University and research institution.

The DA, therefore, calls on Treasury to not only rethink these cuts, but to also firm up its ideas about funding in the outer years of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, and to come to terms with the delicate balance which characterises the research system. There is a genuine fear that these cuts will damage the system irrevocably and that one of the most precious parts of our society will deteriorate beyond repair.

Issued byBelinda Bozzoli,DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, 16 July 2020

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