Scielo RSS <![CDATA[South African Journal of Science]]> vol. 112 num. 5-6 lang. es <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Flowers born to blush unseen?</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Citizen science tools available for ecological research in South Africa</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Rising expectations</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>An actuarial artificial intelligence for the game rock-paper-scissors</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Comparison of Holocene temperature data (Boomplaas Cave) and oxygen isotope data (Cango Caves)</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Genres of science news in the Nigerian press</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>A global roadmap for climate change action: From COP17 in Durban to COP21 in Paris</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Scientific networks in the production of knowledge in South Africa</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>DNA-based identification of aquatic invertebrates - useful in the South African context?</b>]]> The concept of using specific regions of DNA to identify organisms - processes such as DNA barcoding - is not new to South African biologists. The African Centre for DNA Barcoding reports that 12 548 plant species and 1493 animal species had been barcoded in South Africa by July 2013, while the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) contains 62 926 records for South Africa, 11 392 of which had species names (representing 4541 species). In light of this, it is surprising that aquatic macroinvertebrates of South Africa have not received much attention as potential barcoding projects thus far - barcoding of aquatic species has tended to focus on invasive species and fishes. Perusal of the BOLD records for South Africa indicates a noticeable absence of aquatic macroinvertebrates, including families used for biomonitoring strategies such as the South African Scoring System. Meanwhile, the approach of collecting specimens and isolating their DNA individually in order to identify them (as in the case of DNA barcoding), has been shifting towards making use of the DNA which organisms naturally shed into their environments (eDNA). Coupling environmental and bulk sample DNA with high-throughput sequencing technology has given rise to metabarcoding, which has the potential to characterise the whole community of organisms present in an environment. Harnessing barcoding and metabarcoding approaches with environmental DNA (eDNA) potentially offers a non-invasive means of measuring the biodiversity in an environment and has great potential for biomonitoring. Aquatic ecosystems are well suited to these approaches - but could they be useful in a South African context? <![CDATA[<b>A broader view of stewardship to achieve conservation and sustainability goals in South Africa</b>]]> Stewardship is a popular term for the principles and actions aimed at improving sustainability and resilience of social-ecological systems at various scales and in different contexts. Participation in stewardship is voluntary, and is based on values of altruism and long-term benefits. At a global scale, 'earth stewardship' is viewed as a successor to earlier natural resource management systems. However, in South Africa, stewardship is narrowly applied to biodiversity conservation agreements on private land. Using a broader definition of stewardship, we identify all potentially related schemes that may contribute to sustainability and conservation outcomes. Stewardship schemes and actors are represented as a social network and placed in a simple typology based on objectives, mechanisms of action and operational scales. The predominant type was biodiversity stewardship programmes. The main actors were environmental non-governmental organisations participating in prominent bioregional landscape partnerships, together acting as important 'bridging organisations' within local stewardship networks. This bridging enables a high degree of collaboration between non-governmental and governmental bodies, especially provincial conservation agencies via mutual projects and conservation objectives. An unintended consequence may be that management accountability is relinquished or neglected by government because of inadequate implementation capacity. Other stewardship types, such as market-based and landscape initiatives, complemented primarily biodiversity ones, as part of national spatial conservation priorities. Not all schemes related to biodiversity, especially those involving common pool resources, markets and supply chains. Despite an apparent narrow biodiversity focus, there is evidence of diversification of scope to include more civic and community-level stewardship activities, in line with the earth stewardship metaphor. <![CDATA[<b>From research excellence to brand relevance: A model for higher education reputation building</b>]]> In this article we propose a novel approach to reputation development at higher education institutions. Global reputation development at higher education institutions is largely driven by research excellence, is predominantly measured by research output, and is predominantly reflected in hierarchical university rankings. The ranking becomes equated with brand equity. We argue that the current approach to reputation development in higher education institutions is modernist and linear. This is strangely out-of-kilter with the complexities of a transforming society in flux, the demands of a diversity of stakeholders, and the drive towards transdisciplinarity, laterality, reflexivity and relevance in science. Good research clearly remains an important ingredient of a university's brand value. However, a case can be made for brand relevance, co-created in collaboration with stakeholders, as an alternative and non-linear way of differentiation. This approach is appropriate in light of challenges in strategic science globally as well as trends and shifts in the emerging paradigm of strategic communication. In applying strategic communication principles to current trends and issues in strategic science and the communication thereof, an alternative model for strategic reputation building at higher education institutions is developed. <![CDATA[<b>Plagiarism and ghostwriting: The rise in academic misconduct</b>]]> The aim of this paper is to review the current situation regarding plagiarism and ghostwriting, and to stimulate debate about how universities should respond to the rise in these forms of academic misconduct. The apparent upsurge in academic misconduct means that universities today face one of the greatest challenges to academic integrity they have had to deal with ever since the university system came into existence some 800 years ago. Plagiarism and ghostwriting are undermining the integrity of university degrees to an extent not seen before. Academia and fraud are not strangers. Universities have a long history of cheating of one sort or another, often associated with examinations, but also with research. In the past this cheating involved activities such as smuggling notes (commonly called 'crib sheets') into examinations, and consulting them even under the watchful eyes of invigilators. It also involved students obtaining sight of an examination paper in advance. The fraudulent creation of research results has also been an issue. However, in the 21st century, the opportunities for cheating have exploded. This has resulted in universities becoming more concerned about ensuring the integrity of their examination processes and the degrees they award. Our paper focuses on cheating in the writing of dissertations or theses required at undergraduate or postgraduate level, with an emphasis on plagiarism and ghostwriting. We do not propose a simple solution to these problems, as preventing or stopping cheating is not just a matter of catching the wrongdoers. Cheating is endogenous to the current university education system, and needs to be addressed in terms of not only prevention and detection but also how people who are found to engage in such misconduct are treated. We suggest that creative ways of promoting learning would help to minimise cheating at universities. It is also important to ensure that the issue is discussed openly among students and faculty staff. <![CDATA[<b>A hominin first rib discovered at the Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa</b>]]> First ribs - the first or most superior ribs in the thorax - are rare in the hominin fossil record, and when found, have the potential to provide information regarding the upper thorax shape of extinct hominins. Here, we describe a partial first rib from Member 4 of the Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa. The rib shaft is broken away, so only the head and neck are preserved. The rib is small, falling closest to small-bodied Australopithecus first ribs (AL 288-1 and MH1). Given that it was recovered near the StW 318 femur excavation, which also represents a small individual, we suggest that the two may be associated. Three-dimensional geometric morphometric analyses were used to quantify the rib fragment morphology and compare it to extant hominoid and other fossil hominin ribs. While only the proximal end is preserved, our analyses show that South African Australopithecus share derived features of the proximal first rib more closely resembling A. afarensis and later hominins than great apes. <![CDATA[<b>The composition of ambient and fresh biomass burning aerosols at a savannah site, South Africa</b>]]> Atmospheric aerosols play a key role in climate change, and have adverse effects on human health. Given South Africa's status as a rapidly-developing country with increasing urbanisation and industrial growth, information on the quality of ambient air is important. In this study, the chemical composition of ambient particles and the particles in fresh biomass burning plumes were studied at a savannah environment in Botsalano, South Africa. The results showed that Botsalano was regularly affected by air masses that had passed over several large point sources. Air masses that had passed over the coal-fired Matimba power station in the Waterberg, or over the platinum group metal smelters in the western Bushveld Igneous Complex, contained high sulfate concentrations in the submicron ranges. These concentrations were 14 to 37 times higher compared with air masses that had passed only over rural areas. Because of the limited nature of this type of data in literature for the interior regions of southern Africa, our report serves as a valuable reference for future studies. In addition, our biomass burning study showed that potassium in the fresh smoke of burning savannah grass was likely to take the form of KCl. Clear differences were found in the ratios for potassium and levoglucosan in the smouldering and flaming phases. Our findings highlight the need for more comprehensive chamber experiments on various fuel types used in southern Africa, to confirm the ratio of important biomass burning tracer species that can be used in source apportionment studies in the future. <![CDATA[<b>The early history of research funding in South Africa: From the Research Grant Board to the FRD</b>]]> The South African government has a long tradition of supporting research at public higher education institutions. Such support commenced in the early 20th century, although the exact nature of the support at that time is poorly documented. The oldest research funding model in the country was agency funding, which started as early as 1911 through the Royal Society of South Africa. A few years later, in 1918, a more coordinated funding body called the Research Grant Board (RGB) was established in the Union of South Africa. The RGB offered competitive funding to individual academics in the natural and physical sciences. The human sciences were only supported much later with the establishment of the Council for Educational and Social Research in 1929. Here we review the history of research funding in South Africa, with a special focus on the work of the RGB between 1918 and 1938. <![CDATA[<b>Creationist and evolutionist views of South African teachers with different religious affiliations</b>]]> Concerns have been raised in the scientific community that many teachers do not accept evolution as a scientific, testable phenomenon, and this is evident in their teaching. The non-acceptance of evolution theory is often heavily influenced by religious groups that endeavour to eliminate evolution from the curriculum. In South Africa, the inclusion of evolution in the curriculum is a recent event. This study focused on teachers' views of evolution in relation to their religious affiliations. A questionnaire was developed and was validated by the Biohead-Citizen Project, and was then administered to more than 300 South African teachers and student teachers. Equal numbers of pre-service and in-service teachers were sampled. The groups included equal numbers of biology, English, and generalist teachers at primary school level. The results showed differences between teachers from different religions with regard to their views of evolution. Among teachers who identified as agnostic or atheist, 17% held creationist views. Among teachers who identified as Protestant, other Christian, or Muslim, 70% held creationist views. This study also examined, for the first time, the views of teachers belonging to religions not included in previous research. Of these, only 25% of Hindus held creationist views. Fewer adherents of African Independent Churches held creationist views compared with teachers from traditional Protestant denominations; for example, only 30% of Zionist followers and 40% of Shembe followers held creationist views. This study adds important knowledge by including the views of teachers from religions not previously researched. <![CDATA[<b>Climate change threats to two low-lying South African coastal towns: Risks and perceptions</b>]]> Climate change poses a considerable threat to low-lying coastal towns. Possible risks include flooding induced by sea-level rise, increased discomfort from changes in temperature and precipitation, more frequent extreme events, biodiversity shifts, and water shortages. For coastal towns that attract many tourists, these threats can have far-reaching economic effects and may compromise the continued viability of the tourism sector. A growing number of studies are being published on the inter-relationship between climate change and tourism in the global North. As yet, little equivalent research has been conducted in developing countries with economically significant tourism sectors. This paper presents a mixed-method pilot study on two adjacent coastal towns, St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. We explored the climate change threats in this region, and perceptions of these threats within the tourism sector. The tourism climate index results showed that the towns are climatically well suited to tourism, but a decrease in these index scores between 1978 and 2014 suggests that climate change experienced in recent decades has detrimentally affected tourist comfort. A digital elevation model sea-level projection for the towns indicated a high risk of sea-level induced flooding by 2050, particularly for properties along the coastline. Interviews with tourism establishment respondents showed that people are aware of climate change threats, yet little adaptation is forthcoming. Rather the government is deemed responsible for adaptation, despite its limited capacity. A disjuncture therefore exists between the perceived severity of risk and the risk that is evident from scientific analyses. This gap results in poor planning for the costs associated with adaptation. <![CDATA[<b>Two-dimensional mapping of scientific production of nations in the fields of physics and astronomy</b>]]> The quantity and quality of scientific production in the fields of physics and astronomy over a period of 16 years (1996-2012) was studied. The level of analysis was national, with the scientific output of 108 countries being analysed. The measurement unit was the number of papers published in peer-reviewed journals, as listed on the Scopus database. Modified versions of the number of publications (Pm) and citations (Cm) were employed as indicators of quantity and quality, respectively. A two-dimensional method, the Pm-Cm diagram, was adopted to provide a coherent and simultaneous approach to study the positions, rankings, and temporal evolution of countries in the global context. A static approach to studying the Pm-Cm diagram resulted in countries being grouped into five main categories based on average positions. A dynamic approach to analysing the Pm-Cm diagram also resulted in five groups (i.e. when considering the temporal evolution patterns of the countries during the studied years). The rank and temporal-evolution group associated with each country are listed in two tables in this paper. These tables, together with the Pm-Cm diagrams (showing different scales) present a general view of the scientific activity in the field of physics and astronomy for each country. This methodology allows each country's output to be compared with that of other countries or the world average. <![CDATA[<b>Multimodal spatial mapping and visualisation of Dinaledi Chamber and Rising Star Cave</b>]]> The Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star Cave has yielded 1550 identifiable fossil elements - representing the largest single collection of fossil hominin material found on the African continent to date. The fossil chamber in which Homo naledi was found was accessible only through a near-vertical chute that presented immense practical and methodological limitations on the excavation and recording methods that could be used within the Cave. In response to practical challenges, a multimodal set of recording and survey methods was thus developed and employed: (1) recording of fossils and the excavation process was achieved through the use of white-light photogrammetry and laser scanning; (2) mapping of the Dinaledi Chamber was accomplished by means of high-resolution laser scanning, with scans running from the excavation site to the ground surface and the cave entrance; (3) at ground surface, the integration of conventional surveying techniques as well as photogrammetry with the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle was applied. Point cloud data were used to provide a centralised and common data structure for conversion and to corroborate the influx of different data collection methods and input formats. Data collected with these methods were applied to the excavations, mapping and surveying of the Dinaledi Chamber and the Rising Star Cave. This multimodal approach provides a comprehensive spatial framework from individual bones to landscape level. <![CDATA[<b>Does the DHET research output subsidy model penalise high-citation publication? A case study</b>]]> South African universities are awarded annual subsidy from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) based on their research publication output. Journal article subsidy is based on the number of research publications in DHET-approved journals as well as the proportional contribution of authors from the university. Co-authorship with other institutions reduces the subsidy received by a university, which may be a disincentive to collaboration. Inter-institutional collaboration may affect the scientific impact of resulting publications, as indicated by the number of citations received. We analysed 812 journal articles published in 2011 by authors from the University of Cape Town's Faculty of Health Sciences to determine if there was a significant relationship between subsidy units received and (1) citation count and (2) field-weighted citation impact. We found that subsidy units had a significant inverse relationship with both citation count (r= -0.247; CI = -0.311 - -0.182; p<0.0001) and field-weighted citation impact (r= -0.192; CI= -0.258 - -0.125; p <0.0001). These findings suggest that the annual subsidy awarded to universities for research output may inadvertently penalise high-citation publication. Revision of the funding model to address this possibility would better align DHET funding allocation with the strategic plans of the South African Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation and the South African Medical Research Council, and may better support publication of greater impact research.