The basic sciences are the building blocks for applied science and technology — and training schools for the PhD-level researchers required for a knowledge-intense, innovation-driven economy. In recent years the Department of Science and Technology has invested significantly in a wide range of technology development initiatives, including biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, battery technologies and nanotechnology. Success in many of these initiatives has given rise to a concern that the department may be prioritising applied sciences over the basic ones, to the long-term detriment of science in SA. These fears are not consistent with the evidence. Between 2010-11 and 2018-19, the department’s budget increased by 88.7%, but that of the National Research Foundation — the department’s major conduit for investment in basic science and research — increased by 152%. The proportion of the department’s budget allocated to the foundation increased from 35% to 47% over this period. In prop...

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