2010 was the year in which the University’s three-year research investment began to produce substantive results. This investment was founded on a simple but effective formula: ensuring and growing a community of skilled and highlyqualified scholars, providing finance and creating an enabling environment.
By 2009, we had seen an increase of over 43% in the University’s accredited research output when compared with 2005. Our official submissions to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) for 2010 will raise this figure even further. Sixty percent of UJ’s accredited publications are in internationally-rated journals. By the end of 2011, we expect to have almost doubled our 2005 research output and this will have been produced by a significantly wider range of researchers than ever before. Our number of A-rated scientists, the top echelon of South African scientific achievers, now stands at five and we have a rapidly-growing number of B- and C-rated scientists, all working in fields that respond to national, continental and global challenges. We have established cooperative research agreements with institutions in developing countries including Brazil, India and China, and have continued to build our existing relationships in Europe, North America and in the southern African region.
By the end of 2010, the Next Generation Scholars Programme (NGS) produced its first tangible results. This programme was introduced in 2009, and provides generous funding to assist younger scholars to acquire master’s and doctoral qualifications. It is open to all applicants irrespective of population group, and doctoral graduates are guaranteed employment with the University. Most of those in the programme are expected to graduate in 2013 and 2014 and the University is currently preparing for a second round of NGS investment. This will see resources directed to a relatively limited number of doctoral candidates, who again will be expected to become part of the UJ academy.
Vigorous support to researchers at UJ has created a beneficent circle: the resulting increase in research productivity and publication earns further resources. Even when an increased proportion of research revenue has been ploughed back into the research accounts of individual researchers, as was decided early on, earnings have been such as to create an expanding pool of resources which are deployed to assist the overall research enterprise.
The 2010 review of the first phase of the University’s investment in research indicates that it has been an enormous success. As we look towards our 2020 goals, our focus remains largely unchanged: appoint and retain great academics, channel financial resources to them and create an enabling environment for them to work in. Currently, significant funding is being channelled to bursaries for honours students and postdoctoral fellows. From 20 in 2006, by the end of 2010 the number of postdoctoral fellows had grown to 39. Increased funding will also be directed towards master’s and PhD students. 2012 will again see another major tranche of honours-level funding. This is some of the most competitive in the country and allows us to continuously expand the pool of students whom we wish to attract and retain.
Guided by the findings of the 2010 review, the years 2012 to 2015 will be ones of consolidation with a continued focus on existing areas of research activity and with particular emphasis on postgraduate development, Next Generation Scholars and raising the level of staff qualifications. Opportunities within the University’s existing research programmes are being explored and exploited. Low-hanging research fruit will still be gathered for the next two to three years but above these are heavily-laden boughs for which we are reaching.
We will launch research initiatives in areas where we are currently insufficiently active, explore linkages between UJ researchers and colleagues at institutions in South Africa and elsewhere and incorporate these into the next cycle of investment. To realise this programme, we will embark on a new cycle of investment; enter into further strategic partnerships based on specific commitments; make new research-oriented appointments; continue to increase the number of postgraduate students, the backbone of any research endeavour and expand the cohort of honours students, the reservoir of future researchers. New research centres, which will bring the total to 19, will include mining, law and education rights and transformation. Research consultancies which have academic research spinoffs will also be continued.
We are in the midst of unprecedented expansion in UJ’s research endeavours and we have seen major successes in the form of increased numbers of research submissions, the establishment of research centres and the rapid growth in the number of postdoctoral fellows.
The University is going through exciting times. It is a privilege to be part of the team that is making this possible.
Professor Adam Habib
Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Advancement