/ 23 August 2013

Knowledge is the new currency of a thriving economy

The 2006 forensic report prepared for Zuma's trial that never saw the light of day ... now made available in the public interest.
The outcome of the ANC’s long-awaited KwaZulu-Natal conference was a win for the Thuma Mina crowd. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

In many parts of the world, including South Africa, it is still rare to find female researchers and women working in scientific fields. Even though this picture is changing, women remain grossly under-represented among people who continue to actively practice science after obtaining higher degrees.

It is vital that South Africa, along with other countries, does more. Science and engineering are critical for innovation and economic growth as well as for tackling the developmental challenges that face many of the most vulnerable communities- in the world.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) is responsible for supporting the development of human capital for research, technology- and innovation in all fields of science and technology.

It is one of the major players in the education and training of a new generation of scientists able to address the challenges both within South Africa as well as across the continent.

One of the NRF’s key interventions to transform the science cohort and facilitate the participation of women in science is the Thuthuka programme.

Initiated in 2001, the programme operates in the higher education landscape and aims to develop human capital and to improve the research capacities of designated (black, Indian and Coloured, female and the disabled) researchers to correct historical imbalances.

This is done in partnership with public higher education institutions (HEIs), science councils and other research institutions.

Thuthuka’s grant funding decisions are guided by the following principles:
Equity and redress —In keeping with the equity and redress objectives, the Thuthuka grants sets high targets for supporting individuals from designated groups, without compromising on merit;
Developmental — Even though the programme has a developmental focus, only quality proposals that are scientifically sound will be considered for funding;
Achievability — The research proposal must be realistic; in other words, achievable in terms of the research objectives, the resources required and the projected completion times;
Institutional co-funding — To be considered for Thuthuka funding from the NRF, the applicant’s institution must commit in writing to provide 50% of the awarded running costs for all approved projects.

This funding instrument, together with a host of others, is at the forefront of addressing the shortage of women researchers in scientific fields while also addressing broader equity issues in South Africa.

The NRF, as a government agency, is committed to doing more to increase uptake of science careers by women and growing -scientific knowledge as this is critical for economic growth.

This Women’s Month, the NRF wishes all women in all sectors, especially those in the natural and social sciences, success in their endeavours to contribute towards the improvement of quality of life of all South Africans.

For more on Thuthuka, contact Dr Thandi Mgwebi on 012 481 4022 or [email protected]