Page 4 - UCT2012 Research Development Initiatives

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Open Lecture titled
Heritage and Progress: a Dilemma of
Contemporary African Culture
In an effort to stimulate dialogue on interdisciplinary
research at UCT, PERC hosted a series of workshops and
seminars in 2012, led by a number of eminent researchers,
including prominent scholar and UCT graduate Professor
Frank Kessel of the College of Education at the University
of New Mexico. Professor Kessel strongly supports
the creation of innovative inter- and transdisciplinary
approaches to research, which is also being encouraged by
many global academic and funding agencies, as a way of
addressing urgent social problems such as poverty, health
inequities, violence, and sustainable development.
Research grants awarded through PERC are seen as
developmental and applicants are supported to construct
their research proposals, as well as to undertake the
research. In 2012, funding from the AW Mellon Foundation
enabled the awarding of three grants valued at R165,000
each, bringing the total number of current PERC projects
to 10 across four faculties. One measure of the success
of the PERC-funded projects is the extent to which these
projects establish research ties with partners in Africa. To
date, ties have been forged with researchers in Botswana,
Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia,
Nigeria, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia,
and Zimbabwe.
The Mellon Visiting
and Retired Scholars
Mentorship Project
The donor-funded Mellon Visiting and Retired Scholars
Mentorship Project is intended to establish a one-on-one
mentorship relationship between developing researchers
and a visiting or retired scholar within a mentee’s specific
discipline. This project dovetails with the ERP and PERC
to build and strengthen a new generation of researchers.
Visiting or retired scholars commit up to one year of their
time to the mentee. The AW Mellon Foundation has
extended its support until the end of 2014.
Since its inception, 37 mentors have participated in the
project, the majority of whom are from outside South
Africa: the United States of America, United Kingdom,
the Netherlands, Israel, Germany, Canada, Nigeria, and
Australia. Approximately 170 researchers have benefited
from mentoring interventions, which have resulted in a
wide range of outputs, such as peer-reviewed articles,
book chapters, conference papers, grant applications, and
doctoral graduands. In 2012, 35 mentees participated in
the seven active mentorships.
Next Generation of
Academics Project
Research support extends to ensuring that South Africa and
the rest of Africa can count on a vibrant academic profession
in the future. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation, the
Next Generation of Academics in Africa
project aims to
develop a cohort of trainee academics in the fields of
infectious diseases, civil engineering and economics to
create a competitive pool of young scholars who can be
recruited into academic careers in Africa. The initial two-
year grant (2011–2012) has been extended by a renewal
grant for a further three years (2013–2015). The fields were
selected on the basis of their importance in relation to
national and continental priorities, the inherent difficulty of
attracting students to academia in these fields, rather than
the lucrative public or private sector, supervisory capacity,
and a suitable pool of candidates who meet the Carnegie
dual criteria of a commitment to staying in academia and
coming from previously disadvantaged population groups,
including women.
The aim is to complete the training of 76 doctoral students
and 16 postdoctoral fellows by 2015 in the context of
innovative supervisory hubs that consist of a mixture of
doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, mentors, and
supervisors. The hub models vary across the relevant
disciplines, but common denominators include a
team-based approach, mentorship differentiated from
supervision, a teaching component, workshops, feedback
seminars, and support groups.
The project has a reference group consisting of the
universities of Ghana, Makerere, the Witwatersrand, and
UCT. Meetings of the reference group took place in Nairobi
(2011) and Kampala (2012) to share good practice and the
lessons learned in the training and development of a next
generation of African scholars. The third such meeting will
be hosted by UCT in 2013.
Thanks to extensive quantitative and qualitative data that
are being gathered from the project, the lessons learned
are being documented and will be analysed to contribute
to new ways of thinking about PhD training in the future,
institutionally, but also nationally and on the continent.