The Department of Science and Technology (DST) leads a national campaign to build a society that is knowledgeable about science, able to form opinions about science issues and scientifically literate. Science centres are integral to the attainment of this goal. In 2005, the DST, through a consultative process involving the local science centre community, adopted the National Norms and Standards for a Network of Science Centres in South Africa. This policy framework identifies the following four strategic focus areas through which science centres contribute towards the envisioned society:
Promoting science, technology and innovation
Providing mathematics, science and technology education support.
Identifying and nurturing youth talent and potential in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Providing STEM career development services.
In order for science centres to respond adequately to the four strategic focus areas, the aforementioned policy framework advocates the establishment of a national network of science centres. The South African Network of Science Centres (SANSC) is a group of science centres that are interconnected, aligned with and supported by the DST.
In 2014, the Minster of Science and Technology approved the Framework for the Promotion of Excellence in a National Network of Science Centres. The framework uses a quality assurance manual and accreditation criteria to admit individual science centres to the SANSC. Self-evaluations and peer evaluations are carried out and reconciled, following which science centres may be recognised in three categories – Budding, Emerging and Limited Service, or Full Service. The reconciled evaluations are used to determine development gaps in the operations of each evaluated science centre, which in turn informs a customised development plan to improve the centre's operations. The implementation of the development plan is supported by the DST through a combination of appropriate interventions.
Download the Framework for the Promotion of Excellence in a National Network of Science Centres here.