Natural Scientists

A Natural Scientist is not someone who is, by nature, a scientist – you know, like we say someone is a natural footballer, or a natural horsewoman: ‘Oh yes, Marcus, he’s a natural scientist.’ No, these are scientists who are professionally qualified in the natural sciences: for example, food science, microbiology, mathematics, zoology, and so on.1 Within these disciplines, there are professional, candidate and certificated scientists.

The National Scientific Professions Act 2003 governs these scientists – at least, when it comes to their education standards, training, professional status, and practice. The Act falls under the authority of the Minister of Science and Technology but, as with most professions, there is a South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions which effectively administers the Act.

A. Registration

  1. Any person whose registration as a Natural Scientist has been cancelled must return his registration certificate to the CEO of the Council (within 30 days of being directed to do so).2 If you fail to comply with this provision, you commit a criminal offence.3 4

  2. A person who is not registered in terms of this Act, may not:

    • perform any kind of work identified for any category of registered scientists;5
    • pretend to be, or in any manner hold himself out to be registered in terms of the Act;6
    • use the name of any registered person;7
    • use the titles ‘Professional Natural Scientist’, ‘Candidate Natural Scientist’ or ‘Certificated Natural Scientist’ (or their recognized abbreviations);8
    • perform any act likely to lead people to believe that he is registered in terms of the Act.9

    Any person who contravenes any of these prohibitions commits an offence.10

B. Disciplinary Hearings

The Council can appoint a disciplinary tribunal to hear and determine charges of improper conduct against any registered person. The tribunal has a wide variety of powers relative to such a hearing.

  1. It is an offence11 for any person who has been subpoenaed:
    • to fail to attend the hearing at the time and place specified in the subpoena without sufficient cause;12
    • to refuse to be sworn in (or to be affirmed) as a witness;13
    • to fail to answer, fully and satisfactorily, all questions lawfully put to him without sufficient cause;14
    • to fail to produce any book, document or object in his possession, custody or under his control which he has been required to produce.15
  2. A witness who has been subpoenaed must remain in attendance until excused by the chairperson of the disciplinary tribunal, and commits an offence by not doing so.16

  3. It is a crime knowingly to give a false statement on any matter.17

  4. It is a crime to prevent another person from complying with a subpoena, or from giving evidence, or from producing a book, document or object which he is required to produce.18
  1. There is a list of the various disciplines in Schedule 1 to the Act now under consideration. 

  2. Section 24. 

  3. Section 41(1). 

  4. The same applies to a voluntary association whose recognition by the Council has lapsed. 

  5. Section 27(3)(a). 

  6. Section 27(3)(b). 

  7. Section 27(3)(c). 

  8. Section 27(3)(c) read with sections 18 and 22. 

  9. Section 27(3)(d). 

  10. Section 41(1). 

  11. Section 41(1). 

  12. Section 32(8)(a)(i). 

  13. Section 32(8)(a)(ii). 

  14. Section 32(8)(a)(iii). 

  15. Section 32(8)(a)(iv). 

  16. Section 41(1) read with section 32(8)(b). 

  17. Section 32(8)(e). 

  18. Section 32(8)(f).