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South Africa's contribution to global scientific output decreased dramatically with the country's post-apartheid shift of research and development (R&D) priorities to basic service delivery, but now government strategy is addressing the problem.

In this letter to Nature, Jerome A. Singh of the University of KwaZulu-Natal argues that several factors contribute to South Africa's current R&D crisis. These include the continued dominance of South African science by white males, a lack of school leavers qualified to study maths or science, and a high annual dropout rate from laboratories and universities.

It is too early to assess the success of the government's first national R&D strategy, which was launched in 2002, but it is already addressing the problem, he suggests. Initiatives adopted as part of the strategy include new funding mechanisms, promotion of maths and science among black and female students, and increasing women's participation in science, technology and engineering.

Link to full article in Nature

Reference: Nature 428, 891 (2004)

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