ASSAf’s strength resides in the quality and diversity of its membership; internationally renowned scholars elected by their peers, who give of their time voluntarily in the service of society. The membership could be regarded as the ‘brains trust’ of the nation. ASSAf is able to use its membership as a collective resource for evidence-based solutions to national problems. Through the well-recognised convening power of academies, ASSAf is able to mobilise the best scientific minds from across the nation, as well as internationally, to provide authoritative advice to government and other stakeholders based on scientifically rigorous analysis of evidence and consensus of diverse experts. As such, ASSAf is an independent, non-biased and credible source of policy advice. The diversity of its membership, embracing the full disciplinary spectrum, enables ASSAf to focus on issues of a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral nature and to bring the strengths of a fully inclusive approach to bear on the issues of national and international concern.
The further value of the Academy is its promotion of excellence through election to Academy membership and awards, and the fostering of scholarly activity through the provision of fora for scholarly activities and debate.
Policy advisory activities are a common feature of academies around the world, all using an evidence-based approach based on the convening of experts with diverse perspectives to discuss and illuminate issues.
In a crowded policy advisory space such as exists in South Africa, it is important to distinguish the niche of the Academy from other organisations within the NSI. Key universal elements of Academy advice are that it is:
- Free of vested interests
- Based on volunteerism
- Based on rigorous analysis of evidence and peer review
- Locally based
and in the case of ASSAf because of the definition of Academy membership
- Multi-disciplinary and able to address complex issues that transcend disciplinary boundaries.