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South African science has changed markedly in the decade since the country's first democratic elections. Funding has fallen in favour of pressing needs such as sanitation and housing, and universities are striving to attract black students to a world of research and development that in 1994 was more than 90 per cent white.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is encouraging scientists to focus their research on South Africa's significant social issues, reports Charlene Crabb in this article. At the same time, the DST has identified areas of basic science, such as indigenous knowledge and palaeontology, in which South Africa has advantages. The government has allocated significant funds for research in these areas.

South Africa is now engaged in major research collaborations ranging from astronomy to genomics of the 'living fossil' coelacanth fish. Whilst some scientists contend that such projects are taking funding from important biomedical research, others claim that the success of these initiatives will attract future collaboration in other sectors such as health.

Link to the full article in Science

Reference: Science 304, 376 (2004)

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