The South African Genetics Society (SAGS) is one of the oldest of the formal academic societies in South Africa (founded in 1958) and this highlights the importance and central role of genetics in the broader life sciences. In fact, few will argue these days, genetics is the cornerstone of modern biology and drives the research agenda for exploration, experimentation, innovation and discovery in biology. Theodosius Dobzhansky, in 1973, wrote “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”; I think it is safe to say that “Nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of genetics”.

From the first humble experiments on peas to the most complete draft of the human genome to new gene editing technologies, genetics has become pervasive not just as a scientific enterprise, but in civil society, with applications in medicine, agriculture, bio-engineering and industrial processes, and conservation and sustainable development, and law enforcement. The importance and relevance of a national “Genetics Society” as the custodians of the discipline’s “knowledge wealth and collective wisdom” for South Africa, can therefore not be understated. With this, as knowledge experts and practitioners in the field we also have the duty to guard against potential elements of misappropriation and disinformation, that have in the past used scientific discovery to rationalise nefarious and unjust practices, and this is no truer than for genetics. We also have the very important task of inspiring and nurturing the next generation of geneticists to take our discipline into the future. This is an exciting time to be a geneticist. We might be diverse in the organisms that we study and the contexts in which we frame our research questions and hypotheses, but we are bound by the fundamental principles of heredity and its philosophy, experimental methodologies, and data analysis. Genetics unites biology and with the rapid development of technologies the horizon is endless.

To the outgoing executive and council, especially Prof. Sanushka Naidoo, as the outgoing President, I would like to thank you for the many years of service that you have rendered to the Society, under extraordinary and often difficult circumstances. You have left us with a solid foundation to work from, and I know that all of you will always be available for advice and support. To the incoming council and especially the executive office-bearers, thank you for availing yourselves and opting-in to walk this path with me. I look forward to working with you and every other member of the SAGS over the next term and taking our society to new heights!

 

Kind Regards,

Dr Clint Rhode  Associate Professor of Genetics, M.Sc., Ph.D. (Genet.), M.S.A.G.S. (Ord.), Pr.Sci.Nat. (Biol. Sci.)