The Rural Campuses Connectivity Project (RCCP)
The RISG would continue to oversee the RCCP, whose objective it is to provide access circuits to connect rurally-based university campuses to the South African National Research Network (SANReN). The initial phase of this project, implemented over four years from October 2010 to October 2014 from a R28 million grant from the DHET, had seen 22 campuses connected to the SANReN by the end of that phase. The DHET further granted USAf R71.127 million for a second phase that is being implemented over four years from March 2015 to March 2019. To date 32 sites have been connected and 57 more are in the process of being linked. A mid-term review conducted in the last quarter of 2017 yielded positive findings, overall. Meanwhile, universities were invited to indicate further sites by 26 March 2018 that would be considered for connection to the SANReN. Capacity development will receive focused attention in 2018 to ensure that the ICT infrastructure at connected sites is maintained, and that the improved internet connectivity is optimally utilised.
Initiation of Doctoral Training Centres in Collaboration with Universities UK
Following several conversations between Universities UK International and USAf on initiating joint UK-SA Doctoral Training Centres as an entry point for PhD training collaboration, a USAf-UUK-NRF Doctoral Training Partnership workshop was held from 7 to 9 March 2018 at the National Research Foundation. No fewer than 55 delegates attended. Approximately 15 delegates represented universities in the UK. The rest of the delegates were drawn from senior executives and heads of research at SA universities, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF).
The USAf-UUK-NRF partnership has identified three study areas as focus areas in doctoral training centres, namely mathematics, statistics, big data and information science; food security and energy security
Three study areas have been identified for Doctoral Training Centres, namely: Mathematics, Statistics, data and information science; Food security and Energy security. Modalities were worked out to keep up the momentum and to determine the next steps. There is a possibility that funding will be made available from the UK for this initiative. The workshop was funded by the British Council.
Study on Emerging Researchers
At a RISG meeting of October 2015, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) expressed a concern over what they called a “silent majority”, referring to a large number of early career academics at lecturer and senior lecturer level who were not pursuing research. To improve the sector’s understanding of the career positioning of the majority of black emerging researchers within universities, the RISG proposed a research project to investigate this phenomenon. DST supported and funded this initiative. USAf established a reference group and, following due tender process, contracted the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University, to conduct the study.
No less than 45 representatives of 18 universities, DST, DHET and the NRF engaged with the findings of the Emerging Researchers study. USAf will use findings of this study to inform future strategies to transform and capacitate the sector.
CREST completed data collection at the end of October 2017 submitted the draft report in this regard in February 2018. This report was subsequently presented and discussed at a stakeholder workshop on 8 March 2018. Forty-five participants representing 18 universities, DST’s Human Capital Branch; the Department of Higher Education and Training’s University Branch as well as the NRF engaged with the findings and the recommendations thereof. The workshop discussions were used to finalise the report before submitting it to DST and DHET. Findings of this study will inform USAf’s future strategies towards transformation and capacity building in the sector.
Biennial Research & Innovation Dialogue
Dates for the 2018 biennial research and innovation event have been confirmed for 31 May to 1 June. The event will indicatively focus on seven themes, namely: best practices for postgraduate student support; the results of the study on emerging researchers; Open Access and the National Site License Project; inter-institutional collaboration including the establishment of doctoral training centres; the macro climate for innovation; internationalisation of higher education and funding for post-graduate studies.
The biennial Research and Innovation dialogue, which gathers representatives from academia, researchers, policymakers and business has become a premium event on USAf’s calendar since 2010