2020 Science Forum to ignite conversations virtually

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Like many other events that have been hosted online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Science Forum South Africa (SFSA) will take place in virtual form.

This is according to the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), which confirmed the forum will be held online from 9 to 11 December, in partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) International Convention Centre (ICC).

“Albeit smaller and without the vibrant crowds gathered at the CSIR ICC, which will remain the home for the forum, we are confident the forum will still do justice to its maxim of igniting conversations about science,” reads a DSI statement. “As always, participation in the forum will be open to all and free of charge. We warmly invite anyone with an interest in the role of science and critical thinking in society to join the debate.”

Hosted annually in December, SFSA is an initiative of the science and innovation department, which aims to provide a stage for science, technology and innovation discourse.

The DSI says it is proud to present this year’s event in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council’s (HSRC’s) radical reason consortium.

The HSRC‐led consortium includes partners Sol Plaatje University, Academy of Science of South Africa, National Research Foundation, International Science Council, Universities South Africa, faculty of humanities at the University of Pretoria, Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape, as well as the environmental humanities south cluster at the University of Cape Town.

“The SFSA 2020 will also be an opportunity to reflect on the various science, technology and innovation partnership initiatives led by the department as part of South Africa‘s chairing of the African Union in 2020. As usual, Pan‐African cooperation in science will be a significant focus of the forum agenda.”

The 2020 SFSA will commence with an opening address by Dr Blade Nzimande, minister of higher education, science and innovation, on Wednesday, 9 December. The minister’s address will be followed by messages from the forum’s strategic international partners, including the African Union commissioner for human resources, science and technology, professor Sarah Anyang Agbor.

Internationally-acclaimed South African scientists, professors Quarraisha Abdool Karim and Salim Abdool Karim, will deliver the SFSA 2020 plenary lecture.

On Thursday, 10 December, the forum’s programme will comprise 32 different panel discussions and debates, all interrogating the critical interface between science and society.

Highlights will include sessions on topics such as the future of trans‐disciplinary in research, African histories of technology, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the future of data protection.

New to the forum’s programme will be a series of conversations with global thinkers, especially from the Global South and African community, with active audience engagement and debate continuing to be a hallmark of the SFSA programme.

The forum will conclude on Friday, 11 December, with a series of panel discussions interrogating the role of science in advancing social justice, which will be the theme for South Africa’s hosting of the World Science Forum in 2021.

A final plenary discussion facilitated by the South African Affiliate Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution will focus on the impact of disruptive technology in narrowing and widening inequality.

“We are confident that SFSA 2020, like its predecessors, will continue to enrich the public discourse on the role of science in society, advance Pan‐African cooperation and integration, and bolster the global solidarity and friendship our world so desperately needs.”

To view the programme or register for the forum, click here. For further information, contact or call +27 79 940 1498.

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