As she reported on the three breakaway sessions of the Research and Innovation Strategy Group (RISG), Professor Thoko Mayekiso, Chairperson of RISG and Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Mpumalanga, said the three sub-themes that they had unpacked, were interconnected. These were Research Impact; Research Integrity and Research Collaborations (domestically and internationally).
Professor Mayekiso (right) said what had come out of these discussions would largely influence the future agenda and action plan of the RISG – especially for 2022. Below are the key outtakes from the three respective sessions.
- Delegates had highlighted the importance of creating an enabling environment for the conduct of research with potential to solve national and global challenges, e.g. CoViD-19.
- They stated that the research we conduct needs to create positive impact and facilitate innovation for the benefit of society.
- Impact must be pursued across all disciplines and fields of study. It is important to embed impact pathways in all research designs.
- Noting that the National Research Foundation (NRF) had developed an Impact Framework that took into consideration knowledge impact as well as societal impact, the RISG was able to help shape the NRF Framework as well as its implementation plan.
Research Integrity and the Engaged University
- Delegates had stated categorically that research integrity must be fostered by individual researchers, research funders, institutions, and journal editors.
- Institutions must invest adequately in research integrity and capacity within their faculties and systems. They must also provide training in research ethics and integrity.
- Institutions must create a healthy publication climate which incentivises researchers to prioritise quality and integrity over quantity.
- Engaged universities should create a climate that encourages and supports researchers in active adherence to ethical principles and professional standards essential for the responsible conduct of research.
- Institutions were therefore encouraged to develop indicators for responsible research practices.
Research collaborations domestically and internationally
- Delegates had identified engagement and collaborative approaches as key enablers in the conduct of research.
- There was a need to embrace both national and international collaboration to advance the quality and impact of research and innovation.
- Research collaboration required inclusive partnerships between higher education institutions, government, industry, non-governmental organisations, science councils, etc. that were mutually beneficial and were based on shared principles, goals and objectives.
- Development challenges were transnational and transdisciplinary by nature. They therefore warranted both domestic and international collaborations to address them effectively and meaningfully.
- The need to foster, enhance and expand collaboration among scientists in Africa had been highlighted, as was the need to strengthen collaboration amongst universities in South Africa — beyond geographical boundaries.
- Insufficient funding was also highlighted as a potential barrier to sustained and quality research.
True to Professor Mayekiso’s projection, some of the insights from the 2nd Higher Education Conference have already influenced the 2022 priorities and action plan of the RISG. These focus areas, which have since been endorsed by the USAf Board of Directors, are:
- Innovation and entrepreneurship.
- Research impact.
- Cooperation and collaboration on internationalisation; and
- Engaged science and scholarship.
The RISG Chair expressed appreciation to all the presenters for their insights and contributions, and to members of the strategy group and delegates for posing questions during these sessions, that enriched discussions.
The writer, ‘Mateboho Green is the Manager: Corporate Communication at Universities South Africa.