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Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor Wins 2016 AAAS Science Diplomacy Award

Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor is the current Minister of Science and Technology for the Republic of South Africa. She has also served as a Member of Parliament since 1994.| Department of Science and Technology, South Africa

Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, who has used science and technology to support development in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, has been chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to receive the 2016 Award for Science Diplomacy.

Pandor has been the Minister of Science and Technology for the Republic of South Africa since 2014, and previously held the role from 2009 to 2012. She has also served as a Member of Parliament since 1994, a member of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress since 2002. A teacher by training, Pandor has also served as South Africa’s Minister of Education from 2004 to 2009. She was honored by AAAS not only for integrating science in policymaking within her own country, but also for her advocacy for young scientists and women scientists by supporting initiatives that encourage international collaboration for both groups.

“Science not only enables us to more decisively respond to major societal challenges,” Pandor said, “but also plays a critical part in helping to foster international partnership, friendship and solidarity.” She explained that the role of science diplomacy is more important than ever, and said she is humbled and honored to receive this award.

“Under her leadership, South Africa has made numerous contributions to building science structures in organizations such as the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, to strengthening the science granting councils of other African countries, and to expanding the role of the Global Research Council,” wrote Tom Wang, AAAS’ Chief International Officer and Director of the Center for Science Diplomacy, in a letter to the AAAS Board of Directors.

Pandor promoted and expanded the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI). The program, established in 2006, is designed to attract and retain excellence in research and innovation at South African public universities through the establishment of research chairs at the institutions. In 2015, Pandor announced 20 new research chairs designated for women applicants, and the percentage of women in SARChI chairs has increased from 23 percent to 39 percent.

She also helped to initiate and host Science Forum South Africa in 2015. The event was the first of its kind on the continent, and drew over 1,300 participants in its first year. The Forum aims to provide a platform for debate on the role of science, technology and innovation in society, as well as to promote international science partnerships. Pandor returned to host the 2016 Forum, which built on the success of the inaugural meeting and drew over 2,000 participants from around the globe. . SFSA 2016 focused on how to strengthen scientific engagement and collaboration across the continent of Africa.

Pandor was nominated for the 2016 AAAS Award for Science Diplomacy by Jean Lebel, the president of Canada’s International Development Research Center. In a letter of support, Lebel wrote that Pandor has worked tirelessly to connect research with sustainable development goals. Lebel also noted that Pandor is leading numerous efforts to promote research capacities of young and emerging scientists, particularly female scientists. “Under Minister Pandor’s leadership, South Africa has become a catalyst for developing scientific capabilities across the African continent,” Lebel wrote.

Klaus Streicher, the deputy head of mission of the German embassy in South Africa, also submitted a letter of support. Streicher wrote that Pandor received the Grand Cross of Merit with Star and Shoulder Ribbon of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, one of the highest possible recognitions in Germany. Streicher explained that Pandor received the award to honor her commitment to promoting German-South African relations, particularly through scientific and technological cooperation. “Naledi Pandor is an outstanding woman committed to scientific advancement and cooperation not only in her own country, but with a global perspective,” Streicher wrote.

Pandor was selected to receive the award by an advisory committee, comprising of experts in science, international cooperation and diplomacy. The committee noted that Pandor has worked to integrate science in policymaking within her own country, and that she has launched numerous initiatives to promote collaboration regionally and with other countries. Pandor also led the implementation of South Africa’s Ten Year Innovation Plan and the National Research and Development Strategy.

Pandor earned a bachelor degree and Certificate for Continuing Education from the University of Botswana and Swaziland, and a master’s degree in education from the University of London. She also obtained a master’s degree in General Linguistics from the University of Stellenbosch in 1997. Pandor taught English in London and Botswana before joining the University of Cape Town as a senior lecturer in 1989. In addition to her service as Minister of Science and Technology and Minister of Education for the Republic of South Africa, Pandor was the country’s Minister of Home Affairs from 2012 to 2014.

The AAAS Award for Science Diplomacy was approved by the AAAS Board of Directors in 2010 (it was formerly the AAAS International Scientific Cooperation Award, established in 1992). It recognizes an individual or a limited number of individuals working together in the scientific and engineering or foreign affairs communities making an outstanding contribution to furthering science diplomacy. The Award consists of a plaque and an honorarium of $5,000.

The award will be bestowed upon Pandor during the 183rd AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Mass., February 16-20, 2017. The AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, February 17, in the Republic Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel.