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Molecular biologist named new head of professional science body

Nompumelelo Obokoh aims to grow membership and influence of SA Council for Natural Scientific Professions

The new chief executive officer of the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions, Nompumelelo Obokoh, is looking to strengthen existing links and forge sustainable partnerships with the public and private sectors.

Obokoh, who was appointed on 1 October, told Research Professional News this week that there was untapped potential to grow Sacnasp, a registration and regulatory body for natural scientists.

Currently, she noted, the body’s membership comes nowhere close to reflecting the number of natural scientists working in South Africa. “We need to overcome this challenge by highlighting the benefits for natural scientists to be registered,” Obokoh said.

She also wants to enhance the participation of women and Black people in science, technology and innovation. “These are key drivers of economic growth and will in return enable the country to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, and other grand challenges that the country is saddled with,” she explained.

To develop the next generation of natural scientists, Sacnasp will work with voluntary associations to mentor science graduates, Obokoh said. She noted that the body was planning campaigns to increase its visibility, and hoped that this would highlight its offerings to the science community and general public.

Obokoh holds a PhD in plant molecular biology from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. She also chairs the governing board of South Africa’s National Research Foundation and is vice-chair of the Independent Science for Development Council of the world’s largest agricultural innovation partnership, the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres.