AFRICANGLOBE – The launch of the Centre of Excellence for Palaeosciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg will help establish South Africa as a world leader in this field, according to the country’s Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom.
Hanekom launched the centre on Thursday in association with its partners: the National Research Foundation, the University of Cape Town, Iziko Museum in Cape Town, the National Museum in Bloemfontein, Albany Museum in Grahamstown and Ditsong Museum in Tshwane.
The opening came after two years of research and public consultation led by the Science and Technology and Arts and Culture Departments.
“The Centre of Excellence partnership between Wits and our South African partner institutions will comprise some 30 scientists and many more students and technical personnel, as well as established international research partnerships, making this one of the largest palaeoscience collaborations in the world,” the head of the centre, Professor Bruce Rubidge, said in a statement.
Some of the activities to be carried out by the centre include research on the development of new knowledge and technology, education and training, networking across national and international boundaries and knowledge sharing, among others.
‘Preserving and developing knowledge’
“With our geographic location comes the responsibility to protect, preserve and develop knowledge about our abundant fossil wealth,” Hanekom said at the launch.
“This strategy for the Palaeosciences sets out some of what the South African government plans to do to meet its responsibility in this regard.”
The Centres of Excellence programme was introduced in 2004 as part of the National Research and Development Strategy.
The Wits centre became the ninth centre of excellence in the country.
“Apart from knowledge development, a major outcome of this centre is without a doubt human capital development at different levels, from semi-skilled through to professional, and the creation of expertise and careers in newly developing fields such as palaeotourism,” Hanekom said.
The centres of excellence programme forms part of government interventions being introduced to strengthen research capacity in palaeosciences and encourage a thriving research environment.
“Because of its ancient rock history, [South Africa] has a remarkably diverse palaeontological and archaeological heritage, which includes the earliest evidence of life, a rich record of the origins of fish, reptiles, early dinosaurs, mammals, and it has an amazing record of distant human origins and culture,” Rubidge said.
“The establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Palaeosciences will enable Wits University and its partners to explore this heritage and establish South Africa as world leader in this field of research.”