/ 2 September 2011

Knowledge creation is key

Knowledge Creation Is Key

Between the mid-20th century and the early 21st century the economies of the world shifted dramatically from the traditional resource-based model to one based on knowledge and intellectual capital.

Boosted by the rapid evolution of technology and fuelled by greater emphasis on research and development, the future prosperity of any country now largely depends on its ability to compete in the global knowledge economy and on centre stage in that race to prosperity are researchers and other knowledge workers.

To understand the foundation of the knowledge economy, one simply has to think of Silicon Valley in the United States. Fuelled by a group of Stanford University students and faculty who started their own technology businesses in the late 1940s, today it epitomises the very best of research, entrepreneurship and intellectual capital. South Africa needs to develop its own Silicon Valley equivalents capable of churning out masses of knowledge that have a real impact on the world. We need to encourage entrepreneurship among our own researchers to ensure that they are able to take their work from idea to market for the benefit of society as a whole.

Moving forward
The NRF Awards celebrate the excellence shown by South Africa’s rated researchers, highlighting not only their standing as leaders in their fields but also the world-leading nature of their work. They play an important role in South Africa’s move towards a knowledge economy. The number of PhDs produced by a country annually is an important indicator of the importance it places on knowledge creation. South Africa’s PhD output, while growing at a steady pace, needs to increase if it is to achieve the goals set down by government. Currently, only 29% of our university graduates are science, engineering and technology (SET) students, compared with 50% of graduates in countries like South Korea. By fostering our PhDs, encouraging them to continue research and rewarding them for their efforts, South Africa will be able to establish itself as a knowledge leader in the world.

The NRF ratings system, which encompasses five categories for established as well as emerging researchers, provides a valuable tool that not only enables researchers to successfully plot a career path for themselves but also ensures that they receive the recognition they deserve from their peers for their work. In doing so, we encourage local researchers to continue their work in South Africa, attract researchers from other countries as well as encourage young, emerging researchers and those who show potential to further their work.

The five categories of rating are as follows:
A Rating — Leading international researchers
B Rating — Internationally acclaimed researchers
C Rating — Established researchers
P Rating — Young researchers with the potential to become international leaders in their fields
Y Rating — Promising young researchers

P-rated researchers are particularly noteworthy as they represent the next generation of knowledge leaders, a valuable asset in a country where critical knowledge skills are scarce.

The NRF Awards also include three special awards:- the Champion of Research Capacity Development at South African Higher Education Institutions, which recognises the individual’s efforts in helping nurture the next generation of talented researchers; the Transformation of the Science Cohort Award, which recognises individuals who have played key roles in addressing the issue of advancing women and black scientists; and the Lifetime Achievement Award which recognises the lifelong research achievements of individuals and their impact on society.

South Africa stands on the threshold of stepping into the knowledge economy. With the right elements in place, we will be able to take that all important step. This will enable us to use science for the betterment of our society. These NRF Awards recognise the efforts of researchers towards achieving this goal and underscore the NRF’s commitment to advancing knowledge to transform society.

NRF Awards 2011

Special Awards

NRF Lifetime Achievement Award: Malegapuru Makgoba — University of KwaZulu-Natal

NRF Transformation of the Science Cohort Award: Bongani Mayosi — University of Cape Town

NRF Champion of Research Capacity at South African Higher Education Institutions Awards: Yusef Waghid — University of Stellenbosch

A-Rated Researchers:

Frank Brombacher: University of Cape Town

David Glasser — University of the Witwatersrand

Shabir Madhi — University of the Witwatersrand

John Pettifor — University of the Witwatersrand

Lyn Wadley — University of the Witwatersrand

George Janelidze — University of Cape Town

Alan Weinberg — University of South Africa

P-Rated Researchers

Cang Hui — University of Stellenbosh

John Terblanche — University of Stellenbosh

Trevor Vickey — University of the Witwatersrand

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement