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  • Southern hemisphere's oldest science journal is 100


[CAPE TOWN] One of the developing world's oldest science journals, and the oldest in the southern hemisphere, has celebrated its 100th birthday.

"The South African Journal of Science has developed an international reputation as the country's flagship research publication," said Wieland Gevers, executive officer of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Speaking last week (28 October) at the anniversary ceremony, Gevers said the journal had had a bigger impact than any other multi-disciplinary research journal in the South.

South Africa's science minister Mosibudi Mangena presented four awards to mark the centenary at the ceremony at Tshwane's Transvaal Museum.

Editor Graham Baker was honoured for reviving the journal in the 1970s when it faced collapse. He went on to edit it for more than 30 years.

When Baker arrived in then-segregated South Africa from a Washington DC posting with Nature, he found "an utterly divided society".

"What struck me was that if the vast majority of the have-nots were going to stand any chance of aspiring to a decent quality of life, science and technology would have a critical role to play once the politics came right," he said.

Baker told SciDev.Net that many concerns raised in the journal's original 1904 edition were strikingly similar to modern worries, including the shortage of young researchers, and how to best make use of science to benefit society. 

Describing his lengthy stretch as editor as a "marvellous apprenticeship" and "a historical accident", Baker said he had never planned to come to South Africa, and when sent was only meant to stay for six months.

"The award is obviously very nice but we simply provide a platform for people of talent to publish the results of their clever research," he said. "I'm just the intermediary."

Others disagree. "The journal plays an important role, not only highlighting the good science that is done here but also in maintaining high standards," said University of Cape Town oceanographer Johann Lutjeharms, whose prolific research on climate change received two awards at the same event.

"There are very few countries in the southern hemisphere that can boast a science journal of this longevity," noted Lutjeharms. "I hope it encourages more South African scientists to publish some of their material locally."

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