Scielo RSS <![CDATA[South African Journal of Science]]> vol. 114 num. 3-4 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Suffer, little children: Paying the price of 'free' higher education</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Open access in South Africa: A coherent strategy is needed</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Launch of the ASSAf Presidential Roundtable: University rankings</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>A tribute to storytelling, camaraderie and the Prince Edward Islands</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>A slice of higher education - the widening gyre</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Do specimens attributed to <i>Lystrosaurus murrayi </i>and <i>L. declivis </i>(Triassic Therapsida) represent one species?</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>A book regarding Kromdraai: Comments on Herries (2018)</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Four proposals for a more reliable scientific literature</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Diversity of participant representation within the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Working together for our oceans: A marine spatial plan for Algoa Bay, South Africa</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>A review of South Africa's National Research Foundation's ratings methodology from a social science perspective</b>]]> One of South Africa's National Research Foundation's (NRF) activities is to award ratings to academics who apply according to predefined categories. Explicitly or not, these ratings are part of submissions academics make for promotions and for employment in South African universities. As such, methodological assessment of the validity of this system is important. This paper seeks to conceptually evaluate certain characteristics of this system against certain general principles of reliability and validity. On the basis of the results of this evaluation, it is argued that assumptions that the NRF rating system is always valid or reliable as a differentiator of individual academics cannot be made unconditionally. Using Management Science as an example of a social science field that draws from multidisciplinary theoretical and methodological frameworks, this paper identifies certain validity issues associated with the current NRF rating system, and makes recommendations for improvements. SIGNIFICANCE: • Certain validity issues are highlighted and arguments are made to improve the methodology used by the NRF to rate researchers. • Issues related to multidisciplinarity and mode two knowledge production are considered. • Technological advances that have made it possible for scientific measurement of research productivity and impact are discussed. • Problems with subjective methodologies are identified, together with their ethical consequences. <![CDATA[<b><i>Sclerotinia sclerotiorum </i>disease prediction: A review and potential applications in South Africa</b>]]> Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a predominant plant pathogen, with host crops of agricultural and economic importance internationally. South African host crops of importance include canola, soybean and sunflower, which contribute significantly to the South African economy. This significance emphasises the importance of effective disease management strategies, including rotation with non-host crops, planting cultivars with a degree of tolerance, and using relevant cultural and chemical practices. The sporadic nature of disease outbreaks caused by Sclerotinia spp. can complicate fungicide application timing as a result of the pathogen's interaction with the host and environment. The use of prediction modelling for diseases caused by Sclerotinia spp. can contribute to increased fungicide application efficacy and a reduction in the number of unnecessary sprays. Predictive modelling is based upon the collection and statistical analysis of multi-locality and multi-seasonal, pathogen, disease and weather data. Incorporating the complexity of disease initiation and development into such models is dependent on selecting the correct statistical tools to interpret appropriate data, which can be used to develop a model that is accurate, precise and reliable. Internationally, forecasting models for diseases caused by Sclerotinia spp. exist and are applied commercially for multiple Sclerotinia spp. on important agricultural crops. The application of these models in a South African context has been limited but provides promise for effective disease intervention technologies. This review provides a platform to raise awareness of the potential applications of plant disease epidemiology and the use of statistics and mathematical modelling in agricultural systems. Plant disease forecasts are an important part of the future for sustainable and economically viable agronomic decisions. SIGNIFICANCE: • Optimisation of plant disease management through ensuring that fungicide applications coincide with disease-favourable conditions, thus targeting the disease more strategically. • The use of mathematical and statistical models to quantify the interactions among the host, pathogen and environment and predict future outbreaks of the disease. • The study of temporal and spatial interactions among the host, pathogen and environment on plant disease behaviour. <![CDATA[<b>Water for sustainable development in the Berg Water Management Area, South Africa</b>]]> Water is fundamental to human well-being and economic growth. Measuring how water contributes to sustainable development is an important aspect of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, 'Water and sanitation for all'. This importance is especially significant for water-scarce developing countries such as South Africa. Appropriate indicators can support decision-making and highlight key issues on inequality, unemployment and sustainability. In this paper, additional indicators for SDG 6.4 on water-use efficiency are proposed that focus on how individuals and households benefit, both directly and indirectly, from the allocations and use of water resources. The Berg Water Management Area (WMA) in the southwest corner of South Africa is used as a case study to illustrate the results. Residential per capita water use and municipal water losses were determined for all towns in the area. Figures for jobs and income per unit of water use were calculated for the heavily water-dependent industries, namely, agriculture, agriprocessing, freshwater aquaculture, mining and steel processing. This approach to measuring the socioeconomic benefits of water use are relevant for other countries seeking to measure the role that water plays in achieving inclusive sustainable development, and could be included in the final SDG 6 indicator suite. SIGNIFICANCE: • New measures of water-use efficiency based on jobs and income are proposed. • New indicators are proposed for SDG 6. • Water use, jobs and annual income are estimated for all heavily water-dependent sectors in the Berg WMA. <![CDATA[<b>System usability scale evaluation of online banking services: A South African study</b>]]> Online banking is a critical service offered by financial institutions to their clientele to facilitate easier and faster access to financial services and transactions. Banks currently spend huge amounts of money on development and maintenance of websites and backend systems that offer online banking facilities to clients. Here we address the effect of moderating factors on online banking usability assessment in South Africa. Using statistical analysis techniques that included f-tests, ANOVA and correlation, we investigated whether there are statistically significant mean differences in system usability scale (SUS) scores based on a variety of moderating factors in South Africa. Findings based on a sample of 540 respondents show that SUS scores differ significantly based on factors such as age, experience and income, whereas factors such as gender, use frequency and employment did not affect the mean SUS scores. Given the individual SUS scores for a variety of users based on different demographics, the financial institutions might improve service usability to target specific user groups and realise their return on investment in digital banking channels. Therefore improving service usability might go a long way in encouraging online banking adoption in South Africa. SIGNIFICANCE: • The overall assessment of online banking service by users based on a SUS measurement tool was investigated. • The effect of moderating variables on the mean SUS scores of different user groups was established. • An insight into areas of improvement with regard to usability based on demographic information of users is provided. <![CDATA[<b>Impact of a biomedical research project on the human capital development of emerging researchers</b>]]> Various evaluative studies have been carried out to obtain the views of multiple stakeholders involved in community-based biomedical research projects. However, rarely have the viewpoints of postgraduate students and junior faculty involved in such initiatives been explored. Thus, the aim of this study was to examine the views of postgraduate students and junior faculty at a rural-based university on the effect of a longitudinal biomedical research project on their acquisition of relevant skills. In-depth interviews and a focus group discussion were conducted. The thematic content analysis technique was used to analyse the qualitative data. Both postgraduate student and junior faculty groups indicated that they had acquired considerable research skills and knowledge; gained experience; were exposed to practical reality; and strengthened their interpersonal skills and general personal development. However, some respondents highlighted that they still believed that training in data analysis and exposure to new laboratory techniques would have strengthened their individual capabilities to conduct cutting-edge research. The results of this study highlight the need for community-based biomedical researchers to equip members of their teams with the skills and knowledge that will help them achieve their academic and career goals. SIGNIFICANCE: • The importance of engaging study participants to get their views on the 'hidden' value of biomedical research projects has been identified. • The need for community-based researchers to equip members of their teams with relevant research skills and knowledge has been emphasised. • The results of this study can be useful in the planning and implementation of similar projects in the future. <![CDATA[<b>Screening of the NIH Clinical Collection for inhibitors of HIV-1 integrase activity</b>]]> Drug repurposing offers a validated approach to reduce drug attrition within the drug discovery and development pipeline through the application of known drugs and drug candidates to treat new indications. Full exploitation of this strategy necessitates the screening of a vast number of molecules against an extensive number of diseases of high burden or unmet need and the subsequent dissemination of the findings. In order to contribute to endeavours within this field, we screened the 727 compounds comprising the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Collection through an HIV-1 (human immunodeficiency virus type 1) integrase stand transfer inhibition assay on an automated scintillation proximity assay platform. Only two compounds were identified within the initial screen, with cefixime trihydrate and epigallocatechin gallate found to reduce integrase strand transfer activity at IC50 values of 6.03±1.29 μM and 9.57±1.62 μM, respectively. However, both cefixime trihydrate and epigallocatechin gallate retained their low micromolar inhibitory activity when tested against a raltegravir-resistant integrase double mutant (FCIC50 values of 0.83 and 0.06, respectively), were ineffective in an orthogonal strand transfer ELISA (<30% inhibition at 100 juM) and produced negligible selectivity index values (<1) in vitro. While no useful inhibitors of HIV-1 integrase strand transfer activity were found within the NIH Clinical Collection, the identification of two assay-disrupting molecules demonstrates the importance of consideration of non-specific inhibitors in drug repurposing screens. SIGNIFICANCE: • This study is the first to screen the US NIH Clinical Collection for potential HIV-1 integrase inhibitors. • The pervasive nature of promiscuous inhibitors is emphasised. <![CDATA[<b>An approach for the determination and correlation of diversity and efficiency of software development teams</b>]]> We examined the impact of diversity on team efficiency. To do so, a model was developed to measure both the efficiency and diversity of the teams. Based on these measures, the correlation between efficiency and diversity was also analysed. In addition, to demonstrate the applicability of the model, it was applied to a real-life problem involving five teams dealing with different software development projects. Firstly, diversity indices were calculated based on age, experience, education and gender information on each member for each team by using Simpson's Diversity Index. Then, four key performance indicators (KPIs) were defined to measure the success rate of the teams. Depending on these KPIs, efficiencies of the teams were measured through data envelopment analysis (DEA). The correlation between team efficiency and each diversity factor was analysed and all four factors had positive correlation with efficiency. That is, in order to increase efficiency, teams should be composed of members with diverse characteristics. Education was the diversity factor that had the most positive correlation with team efficiency. This result highlights the importance of different educational backgrounds on team efficiency. SIGNIFICANCE: • This study represents the first attempt to measure team diversity using Simpson's Diversity Index. • A new technique is proposed to measure team efficiency through DEA. • Team efficiency is positively correlated with diversity, specifically educational level, which is important for many software development teams to consider. <![CDATA[<b>The role of the Square Kilometre Array in South Africa's economic development strategy</b>]]> This study was undertaken to understand factors inhibiting and enabling the impact of the Square Kilometre Array South Africa (SKA SA) on the South African knowledge economy. A critical review of relevant literature revealed four themes, which are considered to be the main pillars crucial for engendering a knowledge economy: institutions, interrelationships, innovation and individuals. These pillars form the basis for the 4I model developed in this paper, the relevance of which in stimulating a knowledge economy was investigated. This study revealed no additional pillars, thus validating the 4I model in relation to SKA SA's contribution to the knowledge economy. SKA SA's success is underpinned by open and inclusive institutions, fostering and leveraging interrelationships, promoting innovation that may be commercialised, and attracting, retaining and training suitable individuals. Furthermore, this study provides a deeper insight into the 4I model by revealing new sub-themes that apply in a broader context, including the role of a nation's inherent competitive advantage in informing its competitive and innovation strategy, the nature of interrelationships that may be multidimensional, and politically astute leadership that is crucial for the ongoing support of a publicly funded project. This deeper understanding of the 4I model forms a basis for strengthening each pillar and its impact on the knowledge economy. Significance. • The 4I model, which is necessary for engendering a knowledge-based economy, is introduced. • The role of a nation's inherent competitive advantage may inform its competitive and innovation strategy. • A nation's institutions must be both inclusive and open for a knowledge-based economy to thrive. • Interrelationships may be multidimensional in nature, including multidisciplinary, international and cross-sector collaboration. • Politically astute leadership is crucial for the ongoing support of publicly funded projects. <![CDATA[<b>Evaluating 'homegrown' research networks in Africa</b>]]> Attempts to improve the policy environment have led to a growing pressure on governments in Africa to embark on policymaking that is more evidence based and considers a wide spectrum of scientific and indigenous knowledge. Local - or 'homegrown' - research networks on the continent can help strengthen the role of scientific knowledge in policymaking by increasing the capacity of researchers and by enhancing the visibility and communication of the research produced. While a large number of regional and sub-regional research networks have sprung up in Africa, the mere existence of networks does not guarantee their success. In reality, the impact of research networks on the science-policy interface depends on how well the networks operate in practice. We present a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of research networks in a way that is comparable across networks. The evaluation framework was used to evaluate two sub-regional research networks: the NEPAD Southern African Networks of Water Centres of Excellence (SANWACTE) and the NEPAD Southern African Network for Biosciences (SANBio). The evaluation revealed some shared constraints limiting the effectiveness of both networks, including uneven regional representation, asymmetry between network members, and difficulties in securing sufficient, diverse and sustainable resources. Further research into network design and funding models is suggested in order to enhance the role of these networks in providing locally appropriate knowledge for policymaking on the continent. SIGNIFICANCE: • While a large number of research networks have sprung up in Africa, the mere existence of networks does not guarantee success. • Uneven regional representation, power asymmetries, and limited funding constrain the effectiveness of research networks. <![CDATA[<b>Temporal ranges and ancestry in the hominin fossil record: The case of <i>Australopithecus sediba</i></b>]]> In attempting to resolve the phylogenetic relationships of fossil taxa, researchers can use evidence from two sources - morphology and known temporal ranges. For most taxa, the available evidence is stronger for one of these data sources. We examined the limitations of temporal data for reconstructing hominin evolutionary relationships, specifically focusing on the hypothesised ancestor-descendant relationship between Australopithecus sediba and the genus Homo. Some have implied that because the only known specimens of A. sediba are dated to later than the earliest fossils attributed to Homo, the former species is precluded from being ancestral to the latter. However, A. sediba is currently known from one site dated to 1.98 Ma and, thus, its actual temporal range is unknown. Using data from the currently known temporal ranges of fossil hominin species, and incorporating dating error in the analysis, we estimate that the average hominin species' temporal range is ~0.97 Myr, which is lower than most figures suggested for mammalian species generally. Using this conservative figure in a thought experiment in which the Malapa specimens are hypothesised to represent the last appearance date, the middle of the temporal range, and first appearance date for the species, the first appearance date of A. sediba would be 2.95, 2.47 and 1.98 Ma, respectively. As these scenarios are all equally plausible, and 2.95 Ma predates the earliest specimens that some have attributed to Homo, we cannot refute the hypothesis that the species A. sediba is ancestral to our genus based solely on currently available temporal data. SIGNIFICANCE: • We correct a common misconception in palaeoanthropology that a species currently known only from later in time than another species cannot be ancestral to it. • On temporal grounds alone one cannot dismiss the possibility that A. sediba could be ancestral to the genus Homo.