Excessive red tape is strangling biodiversity research in South Africa
Alexander, Graham J.; Tolley, Krystal A.; Maritz, Bryan; McKechnie, Andrew E.; Manger, Paul; Thomson, Robert L.; Schradin, Carsten; Fuller, Andrea; Meyer, L.C.R. (Leith Carl Rodney); Hetem, Robyn S.; Cherry, Michael; Conradie, Werner; Bauer, Aaron M.; Maphisa, David; O’Riain, Justin; Parker, Daniel M.; Mlambo, Musa C.; Bronner, Gary; Madikiza, Kim; Engelbrecht, Adriaan; Lee, Alan T.K.; Jansen van Vuuren Bettine; Mandiwana-Neudani, Tshifhiwa G.; Pietersen, Darren William; Venter, Jan A.; Somers, Michael J.; Slotow, Rob; Strauss, W. Maartin; Humphries, Marc S.; Ryan, Peter G.; Kerley, Graham I.H.
Preventing the over-exploitation of natural resources is vital to ensure that biodiversity is protected and conserved. Legislation and regulations are therefore necessary to manage resource utilisation, but overly stringent legislation and regulations can have unintended negative consequences. For example, biodiversity research, much of which is state funded, is now subject to excessive red tape to the extent that overregulation is impeding progress. Researchers must navigate a myriad of laws, rules, permit requirements, ethics clearances and approvals, many of which require annual renewal, progress reporting, and submission of amendment applications for ongoing
projects. Excessive red tape particularly hinders field-based research, and in our experience, has a negative impact
on research productivity in South Africa. If current levels of bureaucracy and managerialism persist, we believe that the impact on biodiversity research in the country will be debilitating. Former South African Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, has acknowledged the negative impact of red tape on small business enterprise and economic growth in South Africa, and there are now attempts to reduce it. So too, excessive red tape and overregulation of research should be rationalised to enhance knowledge generation and application.