SOUTH AFRICA: Funding for science research diverted

A multi-billion Rand plan to boost South Africa's scientific research has taken a knock, after the Department of Science and Technology failed to secure R180-million (US$23 million) in funding for this year from the national treasury, reports the Mail & Guardian. Robin Drennan, the National Research Foundation's executive director of grant management, said there had been "a massive delay" in the allocation of new research positions.

It is understood by the Mail & Guardian that the department lost out in a bidding process for funds, which treasury allocates according to priority areas.

The department launched the South African Research Chairs Initiative three years ago to create world class research positions at universities. The target was to set up 210 chairs by 2010, representing an investment of close to R10-billion in research capacity over the next 15 years. Since the initiative's launch 70 chairs have been allocated. However, only 18 of the 70 chairs planned for this year will be awarded, increasing the number of chairs to 88, far below the target of 140.

However, sources at universities said a spat between the science and education departments over the distribution of the existing 70 chairs has also played a role in the delay. The sticking-point was reportedly the Education Department's insistence that the chairs are more evenly distributed across all 23 public universities, rather than being concentrated at leading research institutions.
Full report on the Mail & Guardian site