ACCESS was formally launched in 2019 as a Center of Excellence (CoE). It had its origin as a sub-programme in the Global Change Grand Challenge which was a programme of the then DSI Decadal Plan. The original idea for an earth systems science and training programme for South Africa was conceived by Professor George Philander, a renowned South African scientist who lived most of his professional life in the USA. The programme has been managed and directed by Dr Neville Sweijd since then. ACCESS has been through 3 phases; an initial establishment phase when it was operating as a COE. Following that stage, ACCESS became a grant-managed sub-programme, of the Global Change Programme Office at the NRF. We are currently in the 3rd phase as described below.
The ACCESS programme, hosted by the CSIR, has been operating as a funded sub-programme of the NRF Global Change Programme. This phase of the programme succeeded the first phase of ACCESS when it operated as a DST Center of Excellence. Subsequent to the completion of the new DSI decadal plan (2021-2031), a contract between DSI and the NRF to execute the activities of the Global Change Programme has been concluded. This includes a sum of funding for a continuation of the ACCESS programme for a new phase of funding for a period of three years (from 2022).
Purpose and scope of the Programme: The ACCESS Programme operates as a consortium of partner organisations and researchers. The ACCESS Secretariat is based at the CSIR. It will maintain and grow its current membership through a variety of instruments including Memoranda of Understanding, Memoranda of Agreement and other contracting modes independently and/or by utilising the NRF Grant Management System. The ACCESS Programme is thus required to further develop and extend its membership with South African research partners and to leverage the investment in the programme with regional and international projects as these opportunities arise. The ACCESS Programme’s main purpose is to execute its science and education programme under the auspices of the Global Change Programme in association with the design and implementation of the Earth Systems Science Research Programme. ACCESS, in consultation with key stakeholders and the ACCESS community, has identified a focus for its research programme which will provide the programme with a directed research initiative in Earth Systems Science. ACCESS will drive a research agenda based upon the previous Annual Cycle and Seasonality Programme or ACyS which will be expanded into applications dealing with climate services and the management of extreme events. This should lead to ACCESS driving the process of developing new research consortia (led by ACCESS or partners) in response to new research opportunities in global change science. In addition to this research programme, ACCESS will also execute its education and training programme with a range of activities at school, undergraduate and post-graduate stages. This will be operated by the ACCESS Secretariat which is located at the CSIR and funded via an NRF grant allocated to the Director of ACCESS and constitutes the ACCESS ‘Operational Budget’. Furthermore, ACCESS will also assist the NRF and DSI to perform certain functions and duties in respect of reports, assessments, knowledge brokering and project management, and any additional or commissioned work, as the need arises. The Programme includes the funding of large, collaborative projects which align with knowledge needs, or which involve participants along the entire value chain from knowledge generation to application for decision-making. The duration of the Programme beyond this current cycle is based on future ACCESS work programmes to be approved and funded on three-year cycles, with annual progress reports and annual business plans required to facilitate annual funding transfers to the CSIR.