Young academics urged to participate in research

Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has called on young and black academics to partake in the department’s research support provided to South African public universities.

The research support is implemented through the department’s “Policy and Procedures for Measurement of Research Output of Public Higher Education Institutions”.

Nzimande said in the 2022/23 financial year, the department invested R5 226 955 000 in research productivity in the university sector, up from R1 124 807 000.06 in the 2004/05 financial year.

He said the policy uses research publications in peer-reviewed journals, published peer-reviewed conference proceedings, peer-reviewed books, and research Master’s and Doctoral graduates as proxy for research activities within universities.

The subsidy also includes creative and innovations research, which are subsidised through the Policy on the Evaluation of Creative Outputs and Innovations, produced by public higher education institutions.

“Since the inception of the research policy in 2003, the number of units used to calculate all the research outputs, as enumerated above – publications, graduates, artefacts and innovations - grew from 12 051 in the 2004/05 financial year to 40 847 units in the 2022/23 financial year,” Nzimande said.

In the earlier years of the implementation of the policy, Nzimande said the department made available developmental funds to institutions that struggled to meet their set research output norms.

He said this has since been converted into the University Capacity Development Grant, which covers several projects within institutions, including the development of researchers and young academics.

“The Sibusiso Bengu Development Grant - allocated to the institutions defined as historically disadvantaged - allows for coverage of such a need, depending on the priorities the affected institutions identify,” the Minister said.

Nzimande said since its inception in 2003, the policy has aimed to sustain current research strengths and to promote research and other knowledge outputs required to meet national development needs.

“The purpose of the policy is to encourage research productivity by rewarding quality research output at public higher education institutions. Therefore, the department has been subsidising research productivity at the universities through this policy,” Nzimande said.

The Minister said the policy was revised and improved, and now bears a new title -- Research Outputs Policy, 2015". He, however, assured that the original aim and objectives have been maintained.

He said independent analysts have further associated the growth of research productivity in the higher education sector in recent years to the positive impact of the stated policies and therefore, it is believed that the “policies and projects of the department have instilled a research culture in universities".

“However, institutional policies and practices do also play a role too in this regard. Plans are underway to also deal with its unintended consequences, such as predatory publishing and a focus on quantity rather than quality,” the Minister said.

Source: South African Government News Agency