South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA)

SAASTA is a business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF), with a mandate to advance public awareness, appreciation and engagement of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation (STEMI) in South Africa.

SAASTA contributes to the NRF’s mandate and key strategic objectives by supporting the communication and engagement of research and contributing to human capacity development in the critical areas of STEMI through science education, science communication and science awareness or engagement activities.

In the same vein, SAASTA contributes to the DST’s Ten Year Innovation Plan (2008) and Youth into Science Strategy (2006) and, thus, plays a key role in contributing to the National System of Innovation (NSI).

All science engagement programmes’ within SAASTA reside under one of the three key strategic areas that combine to form a seamless approach. The areas are interdependent, each enhancing the effectiveness of the other as follows:

Science Communication

The essence of good science communication lies in providing credible and accurate information that is accessible to all South African communities. Through the unit’s interventions, SAASTA shares science and technology’s achievements with the public, building up their appreciation of the benefits of science. Specialist areas within the unit functioning together to achieve good science communication strategies include: media engagement; scientific editing; ICT specialisation and discipline-specific science communicators. The unit’s focus areas include:

  • Science and Media: This includes media-scientist networking, events and the facilitation of workshops to assist media practitioners and scientists to popularise science.
  • Science promotion: This includes various communication tools and resources that are used to promote science to the general public such as the SA Science Lens – South Africa’s only scientific photographic competition.
  • Science Communication and Capacity Building: This includes developing the media and communication skills of researchers, enabling them to more effectively share their achievements in priority research areas.

View more information

Science Education Unit

Poor uptake of mathematics and science at secondary and tertiary levels is shrinking the pool of qualified scientists and researchers, in turn threatening the future of scientific development in South Africa. Through various support mechanisms and programmes, the unit intends to change this situation.

The unit thus develops, implements and manages projects that promote science, engineering and technology (SET) to learners and educators in the following focus areas:

  • School Science Support: This includes educator and learner programmes, science enrichment programmes and competitions.
  • SET Careers: This comprises career promotional material, role modelling (career profiling) campaigns and job shadowing.
  • Science Resources: This includes curriculum-based support resources, enrichment materials, web-based materials and online learning.

View more information

Science Awareness Unit

By growing the awareness of science through exploration, exhibition and actual experience, the unit inspires people about the wonder and application of the subject, while encouraging greater public awareness of and engagement with the wonders of science. This is done through, amongst others:

  • Exhibits: The unit manages a collection of travelling exhibits and programmes that help to spread the word on science at festivals and exhibitions throughout the year, and around the country.
  • Science Festivals: This includes appointing or collaborating with stakeholders of the NSI in facilitating science festivals, expos and fairs across the country.
  • Science and Technology Programmes: This includes in-reach, outreach and mobile programmes, such as exhibitions on engineering, optics, astronomy, astrophysics and space science, and learning facilities that include infinity room, forensic laboratories, telescope domes and a TRAC laboratory.
  • Science and Technology Centre Networks: This programme provides support to science centres around the country in among others human capacity development. It also provides training in the design, manufacturing, maintenance and outsourcing of exhibitory.

View more information