The appointment of South Africa's new minister of science and technology, Naledi Pandor, is a welcome step towards putting science for development at the centre of government policies, says an editorial in the South African Journal of Science.
Pandor is the first science minister for 15 years to be a member of the ruling party — and therefore to have access to the "corridors of power", says the editorial. And her experience as education minister means she understands that the problem facing South African science lies in the school system.
Very few school-leavers are attracted to research careers, says the editorial — a problem related to low salaries and poor working conditions. Pandor's predecessor, Mosibudi Mangena, increased research and development spending to 0.92 per cent of GDP but researchers outside centres of excellence have not benefited.
The editorial suggests that Pandor should take the bold step of putting all the research councils under the administration of the science ministry to better coordinate the nation's research efforts. Appointing a chief scientist to government may also help bring science to the fore, it adds.