The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) is conducting a Consensus Study on the state of biosafety, biosecurity and bioethics awareness and implementation within South African laboratories. The data from this study will be highly influential in developing future biorisk management policies and provide important information relating to the practice of life science activities in the country. This study consists of two separate parts.
1. The first part (which has been completed) aimed to build a database of life science research and diagnostic facilities in the country. During this phase facilities were invited to provide data on the focus of their life science activities, the size of their laboratories and the source of their funding. This information, together with available databases, has led to the development of a comprehensive map of life science activities in South Africa.
2. The second part of the study involves administering a self-assessment questionnaire to scientists at a representative sample of animal, plant and human health research and
diagnostic laboratories. This questionnaire, developed by the World Health Organisation, will contribute perceptions and experiences of issues relating to the practice and context of
work at each laboratory.
By participating your staff will be engaging with key topical issues currently under discussion within the life sciences. Theresults from your facility’s participation will be collated into a short report for your f
acilitysummarising the key findings. The findings will inform laboratory heads about the current perceptions of excellence in research, bioethics and biosafety within their facility, with a view to stimulating discussion within the facility about particular areas of strengths and those that may be improved upon. This report is designed solely to inform participating facilities about their results and can be utilized at their own discretion. If further clarification is requested, however, the researcher at ASSAf are available for discussion.
The anonymized results will also be collated on a national level for analysis. These results will form the basis of a feedback report that will be issued to the government and key stakeholders. These data will be important in fostering a better understanding of the current state of life science regulation, and inform future initiatives to strengthen a culture of responsibility amongst life science
research and diagnostics in South Africa. If your facility chooses to participate it may do so either online or via a visit:
1. An ASSAf researcher will visit your facility and administers the survey to scientific and managerial staff. The survey takes no more than 15 minutes and can be completed at the bench or desk. Alternatively, a time may be set aside (such as a lab meeting) during which all staff may complete the survey together. The data will be analysed directly and the written report issued within 48 hours.
2. ASSAf will provide you with an information sheet containing a link to the survey online to circulate amongst your staff. Your facility will be issued with an individual identifying number that will only be used to collate the data gathered online and prepare the facility feedback report. This identifier will be removed prior to the incorporation of your facility data into the national database. If this option is desired, we ask that you encourage your staff to complete the survey within a set time period (usually 3 – 7 days) so as to speed up the feedback process.
Your facility’s participation will be invaluable to the success of the overall survey, and thus play an integral part in furthering current understanding of the state of life science activities in South Africa. We very much hope you will be able to participate in this project. The model survey and the ethics approval from UCT have been attached to this letter for your consideration. If you could let me know at your earliest convenience if your participation would be possible, and what option would be preferable it would be most helpful.
Professor Roseanne Diab
Executive Officer: Academy of Science of South Africa
Contact address for the return of questionnaires aswell as any queries:
Prof Jill Farrant
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
University of Cape Town
Dr Chandre Gould
Institute for Security Studies