South Africa has tripled its black science PhD graduates over the last decade, and since 2013 has been graduating more black PhDs than white ones—a marked change from the situation under the apartheid regime. But the academic space still has a long way to go before it reflects the populations of the multi-racial country.
African women — the largest demographic in the country — are significantly under-represented in terms of science graduates at some of South Africa’s top performing higher education institutions. The University of Stellenbosch and the the University of Cape Town (UCT) were the worst performing universities with African women accounting for 3% and 16% of their science bachelors graduates.
Academics in South Africa are in uproar after a government research agency announced plans to cut the budget of a prestigious grant programme that rewards the country’s best researchers. The move is “catastrophic”, according to George Ellis, a top-rated mathematician at the University of Cape Town who receives funding from the programme. He said it would “leave many of the best researchers in the country high and dry”.
It started with technology innovators looking online to access the deep pockets of venture capitalists. Now scientists are following suit. SA’s researchers, feeling the pinch of fiscal austerity, are turning to the internet to fund their research. Whether it is for tracing the history of human disease back to the early ancestors, monitoring the country’s groundwater, or establishing a new penguin colony, researchers are asking citizens to fund their science.