Science, transformation and society: a contextual analysis of South Africa’s SANCOR-managed marine and coastal research programmes

  • D Scott


The paper aims to describe and analyse three research programmes over the period 1995–2011 managed by the South African Network for Coastal and Oceanic Research (SANCOR), namely the Sea and Coast programmes I and II and the Society, Ecosystems and Change (SEAChange) programme, in relation to the context in which they were initiated. The paper consists of two parts: the post-apartheid context and a description and analysis of the three programmes. A qualitative methodology is applied and primary documentary and oral data are analysed to provide an understanding of the programmes in relation to the national and international context. There was widespread reform of policy and legislation in the post-apartheid period in order to redress apartheid inequalities in all sectors, leading to the transformation of science infrastructure and policy. In addition, the 1990s witnessed the institutionalisation of international environmental treaties and conventions to which South Africa was a signatory, impacting the content of the SANCOR programmes. In 1995, the first marine science programme was funded through a Joint Venture Agreement between the Foundation for Research Development and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The programme visions and themes show evidence of the influence of two discourses: the national discourse of transformation and the international discourses of biodiversity conservation and resource use management. Evaluation of the programmes reveals that they were considered successful by external reviewers and interview respondents in terms of output and human capital development, but lacking in broadening the knowledge fields and shifting the domination of the white, male oligarchy in marine science. Post-apartheid policy and legislative reform resulted in more equitable funding processes, the receipt of bursaries by black and female students, the embracing of applied goals to support government mandates, and the expansion of knowledge fields. The three dominant themes apparent in the evaluation of the programmes are the shift from basic to applied research, the inadequate representation of social science in marine research, and success in human capital development. There are positive future prospects for SANCOR-funded research in the marine and coastal environment because funding is in place for a fourth programme.

Keywords: applied science, discourses, human capital development, marine science, post-apartheid, social science

African Journal of Marine Science 2013, 35(3): 361–383

Author Biography

D Scott
School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Howard College Campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 4041, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1814-2338
print ISSN: 1814-232X