News Roundup

The Meaning of Timbuktu

The Meaning of Timbuktu

Dr Olive Shisana (CEO, HSRC), Professor Adebayo Olukoshi (executive secretary, CODESRIA) and Dr Shamil Jeppie (co-editor), line up to sign the first hand-bound copies of the publication, The Meaning of Timbuktu, co-published by HSRC Press and CODESRIA.

The copies were sent to President Thabo Mbeki, former President Konare of Mali and Minister Pallo Jordan, minister of Arts and Culture, who funded the book with the Ministry in the Presidency.


Grant for Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators
 Professor Michael Kahn
The National Research Foundation has announced the award of a grant to the HSRC Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) in the framework of the South Africa-Argentina Science and Technology Bilateral Agreement. This follows the organisation's participation as the contact point for the Social Sciences and Humanities in a Ministerial level visit to Buenos Aires last July. 

CeSTII is South Africa's resource for the production of indicators on research and development, and innovation, and recently published the detailed report on the 2005/06 offi cial R&D Survey. 

The grant will enable CeSTII to co-operate with Centro REDES in Buenos Aires to carry out a comparative study of the South African and Argentine systems of innovation over three years. Centro REDES carries out research on innovation, and is also one of the main hubs of the Latin American network for science and technology indicators (RICYT). 

Grant holder Professor Michael Kahn, HSRC executive director, expressed his delight at the award. ‘This project will allow our two countries to build closer links in the measurement and economics of innovation, with special attention being given to the automotive sectors of the two countries. There are many similarities between our country systems of innovation. Deeper analysis concerning issues such as brain drain and brain gain are of special interest to both partners,' Kahn said.


Queen honours HSRC research fellow

Professor Michael Noble, a research fellow at the HSRC’s Child, Youth, Family and Social Development (CYFSD) research programme.
Queen Elizabeth II of England has honoured Professor Michael Noble, a research fellow at the HSRC's Child, Youth, Family and Social Development (CYFSD) research programme by making him a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his research on poverty and deprivation.

Prof. Noble, a South African citizen, is based at the Social Policy, Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of Oxford and is a director of both the Centre for Analysis of South African Social Policy (CASASP) and of the Social Disadvantage Research Centre.

He has worked as a social welfare lawyer in a community work/welfare rights project and has been an advisor to the UK Government on small area indicators of poverty and deprivation. He is currently working with the South African government's Department of Social Development (DSD) to develop the evidence base for pro-poor policy. His major research interests are in the areas of poverty and social exclusion and income maintenance policy.

Professor Noble has produced ward-level provincial indices of multiple deprivation in South Africa together with the HSRC and Statistics South Africa. He has also recently produced a municipality-level South African index of multiple deprivation for children together with the HSRC. A collaborative project is now under way to take this work forward, both in terms of drawing from more recent data sources and producing the measures of relative deprivation at a smaller area level.


The 3rd South African HIV survey pushed into the field

The 3rd South African National HIV, Behaviour and Health Survey, which was launched at the end of May, aims to reach the largest number of people since its inception in 2002, namely 28 000 in 1500 randomly selected households.

Isidingo actress Hlubi Mboya stoically looks the other way while nurse Zamandlovu takes a blood sample. Mboya, who plays HIV-positive Nandipha in the soapie, said her dream is 'to see an AIDSfree generation'.

The fieldwork for the survey, undertaken by a consortium of research institutions led by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), will be completed over a period of about 4-5 months. The study aims to find out the levels of HIV infection in South Africa,and to learn what South Africans know, believe and feel about HIV/AIDS.

Says Dr Olive Shisana, CEO of the HSRC. This survey is a key instrument in our understanding the extent of the disease and reach of HIV prevention messages in our country. If we cannot reliably ascertain the extent of the disease in the country, we cannot plan accordingly. We need reliable figures so that a host of health and social interventions in response to HIV in the public, private and NGO sectors, can be targeted and implemented accurately.'

The survey involves asking participants to be pricked on a fingertip or heel (in the case of babies) using a small pin known as a lancet, which will yield a few drops of blood that will be collected on special paper. Those aged 12 years and older will also answer questions about their health and sexual behaviour. Participation is voluntary and all participants will remain completely anonymous.

The point is not to give participants their results, but rather to gain a clearer understanding of the extent of HIV/AIDS in South Africa and people's responses to the epidemic.

Over the last few weeks, some high profile people have lent their support to this important study to promote participation in the survey.

In Pretoria, actress Hlubi Mboya, in Johannesburg Gareth Cliff of 5fm Radio, and in Cape Town Olympic swimmer Natalie du Toit all gave blood samples in support of the survey. They all joined in the call for South Africans who are approached by researchers, to participate in the study.

Information from this survey will inform policy makers about the HIV/AIDS situation in our country. It will also help to inform HIV prevention campaigns and contribute to the expansion of services for people and families infected and affected by AIDS and people living with HIV/AIDS.


HSRC Policy Briefs summarise relevant research for decision makers

South Africa's university graduation rate of 15% is one of the lowest in the world. A Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) study, led by Moeketsi Letseka, shows that higher education also reflects broader inequalities, with the graduation rate for white students more than double that of black students.

Policy Analysis and Capacity Enhancement (PACE) executive director Dr Themba Masilela and Moeketsi Letseka, principal investigator of the Policy Brief on High university drop-out rates, at the media launch.

Black students are generally under-represented at universities, a demographic reality that promises to reproduce racial inequalities well into the future.

This study, conducted among seven South African universities, has lead to the first three HSRC Policy Briefs, or policy recommendations. The launch of the policy briefs took place on 25 April in Johannesburg.

The series of policy briefs aim to provide in a concise and digestible format, policy relevant research information which has been refined through a consultative process of policy dialogues. The HSRC's Policy Analysis Unit will produce 12 policy briefs per year, linked to government's policy priorities (various clusters). The policy brief on High university drop-out rates: a threat to South Africa's future recommends broader steps to tackle poverty and inequality to address these disparities in higher education. The authors also recommend a voucher system to support lower income students (read the article in HSRC Review, Volume 5, No.3, September 2007).

The second policy brief, Age of hope or anxiety? Dynamics of the fear of crime in South Africa, (read the article on page 9) says the fear of crime has the effect of reducing the sense of trust and cohesion within communities. It limits people's mobility and hastens retreat from public spaces. One of the findings is that urban dwellers, living in informal settlements, are the most concerned about crime.

In the third policy brief, titled No sign of a dependency culture in South Africa, (read the article in the HSRC Review, Volume 5, No. 4, November 2007) the authors say in recent years, a worrying notion has begun to infiltrate public opinion on social security in South Africa, particularly with regard to the future of social grants. This notion suggests that social grants foster dependency and discourage people from working.

But a survey has shown that there is no evidence of a dependency culture. In fact, both unemployed South Africans and the recipients of social grants have a positive attitude towards work. The study, conducted by Michale Noble and Phakama Ntshongwana, recommends a general support for extending the social security system to support the unemployed.

Download all three policy briefs from the HSRC website, or order hard copies from