Interview with Kefiloe Monageng, Fund Management System Head at the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), on funding technological development and what they look for in research projects. She also discusses Dr Nico De Bruyn's project on ‘How to weigh an elephant seal with one finger’ and why the Agency chose it.
The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) is an entity of the national Department of Science and Technology. Its purpose is to ‘fund technologies, technologies that basically can address issues or challenges that are also shown [to be of] economic importance to the country and ultimately resulting in the improvement of the economy,’ explains Kefiloe Monageng, Fund Management System Head at the Agency. TIA follows technological developments, through the research projects it funds, right up to commercialisation.
Monageng’s role in TIA is to make sure that the Agency runs efficiently and effectively according to its mandate and objectives. This means selecting projects to fund that will result in apparent change in South African society, but also selecting technological projects that have the potential for commercialisation – ‘in that manner we are building or broadening the technology development space in South Africa,’ she says.
The Agency is funding development of the multi-camera system being developed by Dr Nico de Bruyn from the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria. For his PhD, Dr de Bruyn was looking for alternative ways of weighing large terrestrial mammals. The current widely-used methods are labour and resource intensive, and anaesthesia is a stressful experience for the animal itself. Dr de Bruyn’s project showed ‘How to weigh an elephant seal with one finger’ by using 3D automated photogrammetric technology.
Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. The science is used in topography, measurement and 3D modelling. In Dr de Bruyn’s application, it involves the ‘close-range’ type of photogrammetry where the subject (in Dr de Bruyn’s project, an elephant seal) is photographed in different dimensions using a multi-camera system. The photographs are then transmitted to computer where a software programme, using a predictive equation, calculates the weight of the subject.
TIA saw the potential for the use of this technology in another industry – the livestock industry. Having a measuring tool that enables you to weigh animals quickly and accurately, in both the wildlife and livestock industries, makes determining various factors like health and nutrition immediate. ‘When Nico’s project came it was mainly focussed on the wildlife because that’s where the data need is and, considering that South Africa or Africa as a whole has a bigger wildlife industry, so that component became a driver for [TIA] to [consider] the project.
‘So now then what transpired when we engaged with Nico was that the project will not only be of great benefit to the wildlife industry […] but it will be of great benefit if he also focussed in the livestock industry,’ explains Monageng.
The project was initiated in March 2015. The Agency has contributed R5.6 million to fund the entire life-cycle of the project. The money will be used to fund data set collection, the development of the software and the commercialisation of the technology.
If the progress review reports that the project is delivering as originally set out and they are ready to take it to the commercialisation phase, TIA will select the third party company that will be involved in commercialisation of the development. Through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the technology will be developed and the Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) will commercialise it. This model ensures that the project get done in a ‘linear sequential manner’ which, Monageng explains, enables them to get to the ‘end value’ of the project. This third phase of the project will still require the expertise of Dr de Bruyn and the software developer. The University is also involved since it is the holder of the intellectual property (IP): ‘It needs to be comfortable with the terms and conditions of the commercialisation,’ says Monageng.
‘What I can also say is that Nico’s project is one of those projects that, personally, I feel that it can contribute significantly to the country. And I also feel that it addresses a specific need and a specific market need to the country, which relates to an industry that’s not only big in South Africa, but is big to the continent as a whole,’ Monageng reveals. If this project gets off the ground and is successfully piloted in South Africa’s wildlife and livestock industry, it can be transported across the borders to other African countries, innovating the way animal health and nutrition is evaluated.
Research support divisions are ‘able to understand all the issues that impact researchers’ – Funding Management System Head at TIA
The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) tells us why they prefer to work with researchers through their institutions’ research support division.
23 June 2015
Hi. I’m Nolwandle Zondi, science communicator at the Department of Research and Innovation Support. I spoke to Kefiloe Monageng, Funding Management System Head at the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), who explained to me why funding agency’s prefer to work with researchers through their institution’s research support division.
So I really actually find it much easier to work through your Research Support because you have multiple researchers at the University and you don’t want to deal with these multiple researchers. One of the examples in the Animal Health Technology and Innovation Programme, which funded about 13 projects at the University. So you can imagine if it’s handled by the Research Support Division, they’re able to understand all the issues that impacts all the researchers that are funded. They’re able to address all the issues at once. They’re able to have a meeting (this is internally at the University) to be able to address all the issues. When they meet with the funder, all the issues are addressed and we are talking with one person who has an understanding of all the issues that take place at the University. Unlike if you has to deal with issues of the people individually, and I think that if you deal with Research Support, what plays a significant role is that they get a better understanding, before you fund them, of what exactly you are looking for. So when they engage with all their researchers, they are able to give them a proper guidance of what you are looking for as a funder.
Selected links from podcast
Δ TIA's latest calls for proposals.
Δ Donate to Dr Nico de Bruyn's mammal research project on Givengain, Marine mammal research: Southern Ocean sentinels.
Δ Dr Nico de Bruyn's publications.
Δ Marion Island Marine Mammal Project website
Music by Bonobo.
Director of the Wellcome Trust, Professor Jeremy Farrar talks to DRIS about research and innovation models, and what makes it successful.
My name is Professor Jeremy Farrar, and I am the director of the Wellcome Trust.
I think there are all sorts of different models for how a research and innovation can thrive and what is true here in South Africa may be different to what’s in Kenya; may be different to what’s in the west coast of America. But I think the underpinning of it, the critical element in it, ultimately comes down to having really good people inspired by what they are doing, creative in the research they do, and a willingness to take their research and make it applicable to the societies they live in.
And often those are going to be local solutions rather than global solutions. We talk about globalisation a lot and it has huge positives but many of the solutions and many of the research has to be firmly based in local issues, local questions and addressed by people who understand those and who are based where the problems are their greatest.
Music by William French.
12 June 2015
Q&A with Dr Prashilla Soma, senior lecturer at the Department of Physiology, and now a full-time PhD student.
‘A major barrier to advancing research and postgraduate training at South African universities is the low proportion of academic staff with the appropriate qualifications to drive postgraduate research and to advance knowledge creation.’ This statement is made in the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) Sabbatical Grants Framework. In 2009 only a third of full-time academic staff in science fields held doctoral degrees, which created a so-called burden of supervision. The framework measured the ratio students: supervisor. In 2005 it was 5,2:1 at master’s level and 2,2:1 at doctoral level.
To increase numbers, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the NRF established the Improving Academic Qualifications of Academic Staff and Researchers Grant, also known as the Sabbatical Grant. This sabbatical grant programme helps increase the number of academic staff with doctoral degrees as it affords lecturers time to pursue doctoral research.
A senior lecturer in the Department of Physiology, Dr Prashilla Soma, was awarded an NRF Sabbatical grant this year to pursue her doctoral research in the Ultrastructural findings of the coagulation profile in patients with diabetes. Her sabbatical will last for 12 months and began officially in March.
‘I’m a medical doctor. I started working at Steve Biko in 1997 and worked there until 2003, when a lecturing post became available in the Department of Physiology. At the time, the HOD of internal medicine was Professor Ker. He said: “You recently got married and you’ve just had a baby. Do you really want to do night calls and weekend ward rounds? Why don’t you think about a lecturing position?” It found it impossible to say no to my mentor and so I applied for the lecturing post without having any teaching experience apart from a bit of clinical teaching done during ward rounds which only involved 10, 12 students at a time. I had never stood in a lecture hall and taught 200 and 300 people at a time. I applied; I filled in the application form; I was short listed; I came for the interview; and here I am today. I started at the Department of Physiology on 1 April 2003 – just over 12 years ago – and I haven’t looked back. I’ve enjoyed every minute of teaching.’
How did you come to do your PhD?
‘Prof Resia Pretorius joined the Department in 2011, almost 10 years after I started. She said: “But you write so well; why have you not done a PhD?” I was unsuccessful in getting one of the professors to supervise me and besides, I enjoy teaching and I still do some clinical work. As a medical doctor I am allowed to do this: I have a six-hour post at Steve Biko where I teach medical students. So I have the best of both worlds, thus no need or urgency to commence a PhD.
‘I think if I did not have the opportunity to do clinical teaching in the hospital I would have missed it. On the other hand, I did not know that I would enjoy lecturing as much as I do and so, three years ago, I decided to register for a PhD with the support and motivation of an amazing supervisor, and here I am. Last year I applied for a 12-month NRF Sabbatical Grant. It was my second application and I was fortunate to succeed. My sabbatical officially started on 1 March this year.’
What made you step out of your comfort zone at the hospital?
‘Prof Ker, for sure. I’m telling you, I was so happy at Steve Biko, you would have needed a tractor to drag me out of there! I just couldn’t say no to Prof Ker – he is an inspirational person, genuine and sincere. If he recommends something; you know it’s for your own good. I reckoned if he thought I would not cope he would not have suggested it. Still, I was quite nervous at first when I realised I would have to stand in a lecture hall and address 200 students!’
How long did it take you to get used to lecturing?
‘Fortunately the lecture orientation induction programme I attended was really good. We were taught amazing skills and given amazing teaching tools. A video was made of me while teaching. When I looked at the video afterwards I was astounded at the mistakes I had made and I thought “The poor students I have been teaching these three months had to endure my pacing up and down, which is extremely irritating.” I also said yes, yes at the end of every sentence. I had no idea that I was doing it.
‘I’m not bragging, but I know I am a better lecturer now. Ten years down the line there are courses I’ve taught for the fourth or fifth time and I have really gained confidence. I think you also expect more from your students the longer you teach a certain topic and I’m not sure if that is always a good thing …’
What do you think your students like about you?
‘They are really fascinated with my clinical experience. For example, I would teach them about the neurophysiology of the brain. Then I could tell them, based on my medical background, how we do a lumber puncture to rule out meningitis. They did not have to know about lumbar punctures, but it made the lecture so much more interesting. I would lecture on reflexes using the knee reflex as an example. I would call a volunteer and elicit the knee reflex in class so that the students could see what it actually is. They loved my notes; they said they loved my enthusiasm; they loved my knowledge of the topic. I have been fortunate in that things do not always turn out so well when you start a new job. Now, if you were to tell me to go back and do calls, even though I thought that was what I meant to do in life, I don’t think I would be able to work in casualty for 24 hours.’
Why did you apply for the NRF sabbatical?
‘I am now a senior lecturer in this Department. The next level is associate professor. Without a PhD I will not be considered for a promotion, and I’ve been quite happy with that since I feel I’ve had the best of both worlds. But then I met such a keen supervisor who motivated me … I’ve done the lab work and data collection– it’s taken me three years – but now I have to write it all up.
‘Sometimes you have so much momentum you can write ten pages. Other days it’s like a drought season and you can’t think of a word to link the first paragraph with the second.
‘Even though I am great at speaking, I find writing to be very hard work. You need to sit down and concentrate. There must not be any interruptions, which is hard when you lecture because it’s not only the time it takes to give the lecture, you also have to prepare the next lecture, or submit test questions. Then there are departmental duties like journal club, committee work and meetings.
‘I just could not achieve the continuity needed to complete my PhD, which is why I applied for the Sabbatical Grant. I thought, “Let me see what will happen to me if I can get a whole 12 months” and I can already see the difference – continuity in my work. If I hadn’t been on sabbatical I don’t think I would have reached the review article stage with my thesis.
‘I undertook to complete my PhD by the end of the sabbatical, on 28 February 2016.’
You said you applied for the sabbatical twice. How did you feel when you did not get it the first time round?
‘I was devastated, but the critique I got made my second application much, much better. Sometimes one needs a little failure before to push that much harder for success. The NRF is giving us amazing opportunities and we should grab them with both hands.’
How far have you progressed with your PhD?
‘I have completed the literature review. My supervisor was quite pleased with the content. She’s recommended minor changes, but nothing huge. At present I am working on my review article. I’m quite happy with my progress to date and I’m 80% confident that I’ll have finished my degree by the end of November this year.’
12 June 2015
The African Centre of Excellence for Information Ethics (ACEIE) has been awarded funding from UNESCO to raise awareness across the continent on information ethics.
Information communication technologies (ICTs) have become a fundamental element in the functioning of our post-modern society. With the advent of computers and the internet, information has evolved past the pages of books, and knowledge is no longer confined to the shelves of libraries. A wealth of information generally freely available in the palm of your hand at an instant.
The evolution of information has however brought along with it its own sets of challenges and ethical questions, questions about ownership, privacy, the ‘digital divide’ and e-waste. Academia’s response to these questions came from the field of information ethics, which started gaining traction in the 1990s. ‘Information ethics in the field of applied ethics where we look at the impact of information and communication technologies on our everyday interaction,’ elucidates Rachel Fischer, research officer at the African Centre of Excellence for Information Ethics (ACEIE). The field investigates what is called the ‘information lifecycle’. They don’t only focus on the use of ICTs but also on how research is done, how information is compiled and used, how it is distributed and how it is disposed of.
The development of African information and knowledge societies is an important mandate of many leaders in Africa, and the need for education on the dimensions of information is an ever present necessity. Information ethics in Africa is a field still in its infancy and not many people on the continent are aware of it. ‘We realised there’s a need for a hub in Africa because in 2002/2003, there was the international conference on information ethics. Of all the attendees, only two were from Africa and both were expats -they both resided in America. You know, it doesn’t make sense: how can you have an international conference, with international societies, and nobody is represented from Africa?’ asks Fischer.
In response to the lack of African representation in the global discourse on information ethics, the African Network of Information Ethics (ANIE) was established in 2007 by a group of academics from across the world. ANIE saw that the best way to tackle Africa’s under-representation would be to get African academics to begin researching, publishing and educating key sectors and industry on information ethics.
Since its inception, ANIE has entered into partnerships with the national Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), UNESCO and a number of local, regional and international universities. The DTPS entered a formal agreement with the University of Pretoria in 2012 to establish the African Centre for Excellence in Information Ethics (ACEIE). The Centre is the first of its kind in Africa.
The ACEIE aligned its objectives with those of UNESCO, Government and the University in order to simplify and combine their activities. The Centre’s main objectives are to act as a facilitator and conductor of research in information ethics locally and internationally, and to coordinate awareness and knowledge-enhancing activities locally and across continent. The Centre has created an information ethics curriculum for higher education institutions.
As part of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the University and the DTPS, the ACEIE developed an information ethics curriculum, which was supported by UNESCO. The curriculum was developed in response to the need for creating awareness amongst information communication technology (ICT) users in Africa on the risks and opportunities inherent in the use of ICT.
The ACEIE has published a curriculum framework instead of a traditional curriculum. ‘Unlike an actual curriculum, which tends to be prescriptive, curriculum frameworks are flexible, creating opportunities for the development of curriculum offerings particular and appropriate to different institutions,’ states the Curriculum to teach Information Ethics at universities in Africa. This book is the outcome of all the consultative conferences and workshops with various stakeholders. The fact that the ACEIE produced a framework shows their commitment to the various contexts information ethics applies to. The curriculum is licensed under a Creative Commons license and is freely available on the ANIE/ACEIE website.
In 2011, the ACEIE hosted an international workshop on the design of an information ethics curriculum which was co-funded by UNESCO. The event was attended by participants from Germany, America and a number of other African countries. The idea, explained Fischer, was to create a curriculum that is unique to Africa and South Africa in particular.
The Centre has trained government officials, held awareness-raising workshops in the country and across Southern Africa, and recently they have engaged with the media. ‘[W]e are interested in the media because suddenly now you have these citizen journalists. They contribute to your research done on world events or current local events but they don’t maybe adhere to a journalist’s code of ethics and so we start to work on those issues,’ said Fischer.
With the recent funding from UNESCO, the ACEIE hosted five awareness-raising workshops in the Southern Africa region. The workshops focussed on the information ethics curriculum, providing an in-depth analysis of it, and provided participants with a practical decision-making toolkit so that they are safer when online.
Information ethics has been well received across the UNESCO’s Southern and Eastern Africa regions. Since Coetzee Bester, director of the Centre, did a presentation on the relevance of information ethics in Africa, the activities of the ACEIE have spread to include more African countries. ‘And I think even, you know, then the numbers of course in attendance [at the workshops] are give or take but the outcome...is what is most valuable to the people. And you get the same stories across the board [that] say this field is so important,’ said Benson Lechaba, junior research officer at the ACEIE. The outcomes of their activities have been a pleasant surprise for them.
Some of the African countries they have visited are now also planning and hosting their own information ethics events. Fischer mentioned being invited to Uganda and Kenya. But funding is a major challenge since, when hosting a conference, one incurs a lot of expenses. ‘They have the people that are interested but they might not necessarily have funding for catering, for books or for flight tickets,’ explained Fischer. There may also be a quite a few people interested in attending an event but they may not be able to afford travelling to the hosting country. ‘People had to lessen the scope because the finances weren’t there to accommodate everybody,’ said Fischer.
Africa is a continent that is new to ICT and its ethical dimensions. In light of Africa’s goal moving towards a knowledge and information society that function well and can compete with the rest of the well-established information societies, the work being done by the Centre is laudable in that they are bringing Africa closer to the world’s debate on information and information ethics. ‘We view ourselves as a hub,’ says Fischer on the role of the ACEIE, ‘a point of connection between different role players and we wish to facilitate that hub to strengthen these participants.’
Claiming Pivot profile Q&A.
To stay up-to-date with the research funding opportunities, researchers sign up with Pivot. To get the most out of your Pivot account, you need to claim your profile.
What is a Pivot profile?
It is a profile created and maintained by Pivot. It includes all your details such as name, surname, faculty and institutional affiliation. Your profile will then appear on your affiliation’s page, e.g. University of Pretoria, under the field of study/faculty you are in.
What does "claiming a profile" mean?
Claiming a profile means connecting it to your account. Doing this allows you to see the advisor and suggests options. It also enables you to update your profile.
How do you do this?
• Click on the right arrow on top of your page. If there is an option for claim profile that means your profile has not been claimed.
• Click ‘claim profile’ to begin the process.
• Pivot will search all profiles with you name. If you see your name, click on the box that says ‘this is me’. If you do not have a profile, click on ‘suggest scholar’ on the left hand side to create a new profile.
• Your identity will have to be verified via email.
• You will get a list in your emails. Click on the email you would like the verification to be sent. If you do not have access to any of the listed emails, click ‘I do not have access to any emails listed above’.
• Click ‘verify’ to continue.
• Your request will be sent to Pivot’s editorial team for approval. This will take one working day.
Why is it important for a user to claim their profile?
It is important because it allows Pivot to send funding opportunities according to your profile.
29 May 2015
The need for a new way of thinking about science and research was the topic of this session at the ACU-SARIMA Conference.
The year 2015 is the year for global action, says the United Nations. The organisation will be adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September this year. The list has doubled in length going from eight MDGs to 17 SDGs. The goals are more oriented to sustainable development.
What these new development challenges need from leadership is a reconsideration of the way disciplines and sectors cooperate with each other. In research and innovation, for example, it has been standard practice to operate in silos of elitist institutions and organisations that see development as being driven by competition and the outputs as their closely guarded secrets.
‘We’ve got to a certain point where things are evolving at a micro-second,’ says Dr Anthon Botha, a self-dubbed futurist. In order for research and innovation to have an effective and impactful relationship with an evolving world, it needs to keep up with the evolution. Innovation, Dr Botha points out, is being delayed by out-dated financial systems and archaic international relations, both in politics and research institutes. A direct resultant of globalisation is the confluence of contexts: a problem in a developed country may be caused by political conflict in a developing country and vice versa. ‘We are approaching a moment in history where if we don’t learn how to work together our species won’t survive,’ states Prof Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor of Wits University.
The contemporary challenges facing the globe require a different way of thinking compared to the antiquated divisive ways of thinking about nations, education, industries and societies. ‘What we need is new thinking and open science is a new way of thinking,’ says Dr Botha. Open science is a movement towards encouraging a collaborative environment where anyone can partake in this game of pursuit. ‘At the heart of the concept is the idea that data methods and findings should be openly shared to encourage scientists and others to collaborate to solve scientific problems,’ says Naser Faruqui, Director of science and innovation at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The IDRC is among the first funding agencies to commit to creating and implementing an open science policy.
Academic scientists won’t be the only producers of knowledge. Faruqui retells us of the Foldit game where people were invited to unlock the way proteins develop in the HIV virus. A group of 14 year olds with a discerning eye for patterns solved, in 14 weeks, what scientists had been working on for 10 years. Expect to see the word ‘citizen-scientist’ showing up more often.
In order for open science to become a possible reality, there needs to be a complete paradigm shift across all levels. Institutions and heads-of-state will need to have earnest conversations with agendas that are equalitarian in nature, and business will need to revise their intellectual property policies. Creations of the mind, in open science, are nodes in a network. Dr Botha also adds a ‘citizen science’ curriculum to the list. Civil society needs to start focussing on creating a culture of volunteerism. Fortunately, Generation Yers (those born from the early 1980s up to early 2000s) have been found to be more community-minded than the previous generations.
But this movement towards a redefined relationship of collaboration is not only about being socially responsible human beings. ‘They won’t be developed unless they work in concert with the developing world,’ says Prof Habib of the elite-underclass dichotomy. ‘Don’t play games about internationalisation because frankly 70% of internationalisation is really not internationalisation. It’s transnational arrangements established by some institutions in the North.’
The national Department of Science and Technology (DST) is looking into research data infrastructure and how they can support the development of open science in this country. Professor Colin Wright, advisor to the DST’s National Integrated Cyber-Infrastructure System (NICIS) explains the focus is on developments in information technologies (IT) and how they can affect the practices of modern scientific research and the rollout of open science in South Africa. The DST’s mandate to invest more in IT to support the top-end of science resulted in the establishment of the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC).
In response to the emergence of big data projects, the most notable being the SKA project, the Department was ‘persuaded’ by NICIS to launch the Data Intensive Research Initiative for South Africa (DIRISA). Prof Wright describes it as being the ‘national framework and backbone upon which institutional and regional networks and establishments can rest.’ Through DIRISA, NICIS wants the entities to operate more synergistically.
Research organisations and heads-of-state will need to incorporate the CUDOS principles into their mission statements if they want to produce good scientific research that meaningfully contributes towards social development and change.
Communalism: equal access to scientific goods and a sense of common ownership to promote collective collaboration.
Universalism: contribute to science regardless of race, nationality, culture, or gender.
Disinterestedness: we need to act for benefit of common scientific enterprise, rather than personal gain.
Organized Scepticism: scientific claims exposed to critical scrutiny before being accepted.
‘Our vision,’ says Faruqui of the IDRC, ‘is to improve people’s lives and you can’t improve people’s lives if the knowledge we help support is not documented, shared and built on in a way that can actually improve people’s lives.’
29 May 2015
At the ACU-SARIMA conference, Professor Gideon De Wet from the University of Fort Hare presented his experiences of running a community-oriented research programme.
Research and innovation in society is the driver of change and development. If it is aligned to the environmental context it is conducted in, it drives that change in a more effective direction where research outputs can be measured in terms of real-world impact and not just as intangible data.
The University of Fort Hare (UFH) wants to transfer its research findings into the community in a direct way that will foster positive development in Alice, the town it is located in. The surrounding area, Nkonkobe Municipality, is an archetypical underdeveloped community in South Africa. The area is fraught with poverty that is hard to ignore: ‘[It is] sort of in your face every day,’ says Prof Gideon de Wet, Dean of Research at the University. Prof de Wet noticed the need for a ‘direct impact relationship’ with the community they do their research in. ‘Every year hundreds of these guys are being let loose into the community to do research towards Masters and PhDs,’ said Prof de Wet. Once researchers receive their degrees, they leave the community without having contributed to the development of that community. ‘Across the fence from the university’s ivory tower people are asking us: what have you done for us? And the difficulty is we simply don’t have the answers,’ admits Prof de Wet.
The University and Government are the highest employers and biggest contributors to the economic wealth here. These two sectors employ 44% of the active work force in the Municipal area. The rest of the active work force is employed in the agriculture industry and in private households. The agriculture sector in Nkonkobe is now in a state of dysfunction. Due to a lack of technical support, the fresh produce market has declined to a measly 30% operating capacity. Economic dependence is also fairly high: for every one person earning an income there are 10.5 who don’t (Alice Regeneration Programme: High Level Feasibility Assessment Report, 2010).
Herein shows the importance of the UFH to the community and the work Prof de Wet and the researchers are doing in agriculture. The University has repositioned itself as a research institution with a problem-solving ideal, and its objective is to direct research towards providing solutions to the community’s problems and challenges. ‘How do we establish a platform that can facilitate community development based on research findings?’ asks Prof de Wet.
The Professor admits that answering this is a lot harder when the people that are working on it are not developers themselves. Creating a positive relationship between the community and researchers is very important. Since the Tyume valley is a rural area, it is ruled by chieftains. The University had to ‘navigate’ this political environment, which comes with its own complexities that are very distinct from bureaucratic norms. Winning over the traditional leadership would ensure that the UFH would have access to other resources. Taking an inclusive approach towards their research projects in the community won over the 11 chiefs of the area: they were given the opportunity to buy-in and the UFH involved community members in the development think-tanks.
UFH embarked on multi-sectorial agriculture research project with a ‘direct impact’ approach. The project comprised of academic, business and community involvement. For the dairy project, the UFH provided land and research facilities, the community provided labour and business provided the market. The research outputs were focused on milk production and the labourers could take home some of the produce.
What has happened now though is that business is becoming too ambitious, edging out the community. ‘Business is selling in bulk to the big organisations in the country and the communities are missing out on that,’ explains the professor.
The second agriculture research project, called the AgriPark development project, wants to capture economic activity is fresh produce and provide a solution to hunger. The University approached the subsistence farmer community and asked them do donate fresh produce. The University, through its food processing plant, dries the vegetables and distributes them, as 300 gram lunchboxes, throughout the community as a part of the school feeding scheme. ‘But we’ve got a problem. It’s failing. Why? Because people don’t like the packaging. It compares not favourably with what you can buy at Pick n’ Pay,’ says Prof de Wet.
The University and its community development projects in agriculture are crucial in the maintenance of the sector and keeping it nationally competitive. But Fort Hare is facing some challenges.
The University is using its funding from the Ford Foundation to establish a database that will be indispensable to the University. ‘We can’t rely on StatsSA for some of these things because the intricacies of these communities is sometimes of such a major [sic] that you can’t actually work with some stats that you would be dealing with.’
Alice is being run by a defective municipality. ‘As a town it doesn’t exist in terms of basic support services anymore,’ explains Prof de Wet. If Alice fails as a town so does Fort Hare.
The local government has walked away from the AgriPark development project because there are too many risks involved with supporting the project. They have walked away from it to save their reputation ‘because they need the vote’. Support from the community is weak. ‘We are losing the support of the community because they don’t see the benefits coming through the AgriPark development project,’ concedes the professor.
‘We have reached the stage in our academic and research life at the university where we simply can’t ignore the needs and the challenges that we have to face coming from the local communities across the fence.’
Such complex and far-reaching challenges require a transdisciplinary approach and a collaborative environment. The local government could draft development policy that is informed by the community-centric research from Fort Hare. Community and business will have to voluntarily participate in the project in order to see if it is viable or not. The real benefits often take time to appear. Fortunately he University will not be closing these programmes, but the rest of those at the table need to be persuaded.
Q&A on funding alerts
The Department of Research and Innovation Support (DRIS) has compiled a funding alert request form that you can complete if you want us to consolidate your searches for funding on one easy-to-use platform and send you regular updates of funding opportunities specifically related to your research.
What is a funding alert form, and how does it work?
The funding alert form captures details about a researcher and his or her research. The researcher should take care when completing this form as the information will be used to identify funding opportunities. The keywords provided are particularly important as the quality of the keywords will ultimately determine the quality of funding results.
Is the form connected to all the databases that post funding opportunities?
By completing this alert form, researchers will receive funding alerts from subscribed funding databases, namely Research Africa and Pivot. In addition, DRIS will pass on information about funding opportunities received directly from funding agencies, UP faculties or UP Management.
Do I have to have a user account on any databases or on the DRIS website to use the alert form?
You do not have to register on any website to be able to use the alert form. However, you must have a UP email address because the form caters only for researchers at UP.
Will I receive alerts about both external and internal funding?
All funding opportunities that match your keywords, be they internal or external, will be passed on to you.
How many alert forms can I submit?
You can submit multiple forms on condition that each concerns a different research discipline.
What do I need to have at hand when filling in the form?
All you need is a UP email address, your research keywords and a clear idea of the type of funding you require.
Do I have to upload any documents?
You do not have to upload any documents.
What happens to the alerts when I have secured the funding that I need?
Where can I access this form?
If I register today, when can I expect to receive my first alerts?
Funding alerts are dealt with every Tuesday. If there are any open calls for funding you can expect to receive alerts as soon as the request is processed. However, if there are no open calls you will receive alerts as calls become available.
As soon as your alerts are created, DRIS will send you a confirmation email.
If I have any other questions, is there anyone at DRIS I can contact?
You can contact Vuyi Mvundla at 012 420 5847 or email@example.com.
List of available resources.
Embarking on research is exciting for most researchers. It presents the opportunity to pursue and investigate innovative ideas that you are passionate about, and that may provide solutions to the challenges and problems facing the 21st century.
But before you can embark on your research you will need money. Identifying and securing research funds can be time-consuming, laborious and at times a little complicated, but finding funding and the right organisation to support your research is the only way to get started.
There are various funding opportunities available to you. It is just about finding it and adequately following the procedure. The Department of Research and Innovation Support (DRIS) has a number of resources on www.upresearch.co.za that ease the laborious processes. These resources will assist you throughout the process from the initial step of sourcing funding to the end where you sign the grant agreement.
Here is a list of the top resources available to UP researchers:
Resources for searching
1. Research Africa funding database
Research Africa posts funding opportunities from sponsors that are focused on African science and development. Research Africa is a popular source for UP researchers with 1 773 registered users.
2. Pivot funding database
Pivot has 1 231 registered UP users and offers opportunities that total an estimated US$33 billion. This database takes the hassle out of finding suitable funding opportunities by suggesting funding opportunities via email alerts straight to your inbox.
3. InfoED SPIN funding database
According to the InfoED website, SPIN Global Suite is the world’s largest database of funding opportunities. There are over 40 000 opportunities from more than 10 000 global sponsors.
4. National Research Foundation (NRF)
The NRF is a South African government entity that promotes and supports research funding in South Africa. The Foundation provides funding opportunities to higher education institutions in all fields of natural and social sciences, humanities and technology. Researchers can consult the NRF website at www.nrf.ac.za for the latest funding opportunities. Designated Authories at DRIS can assist researchers with the online application process and institutional approval.
This is the most definitive source for United States Federal funding opportunities. Researchers can apply directly via the website to calls for applications but must register individually as a user before starting with an application. It is also imperative that DRIS is informed of the application because it has to be approved by the Department before Grants.gov can accept the submission. Researchers can consult the Grants.gov website at www.grants.gov for the latest available funding opportunities. The Research Grants Management Division within DRIS can assist researchers with the online application process and institutional approval.
6. Research Funding Bulletin
This bi-weekly Bulletin contains funding opportunities, notices on conferences, training and other events, calls for research papers and other research-related news at UP. The Bulletin is compiled and distributed by DRIS and is circulated internally to staff, students and researchers that have signed up on the DRIS mailing list with their UP mailing account. Know of a funding opportunity that you would like to share with other researchers within your faculty? You can add funding opportunities to the Bulletin which will be uploaded and circulated among other researchers at UP.
7. Funding Alerts
Tired of trolling the funding databases for the right call? DRIS can assist by setting up funding alerts that will deliver only funding opportunities that will suit your needs straight to your inbox. Tell DRIS about your researcher and the type funding you seek by completing this online funding alert form.
8. Call Schedules
On the DRIS website, you can access the Call Schedule, which is an inclusive list of all the anticipated funding opportunities, with deadlines, in a given year. This resource gives you the ability to plan and prepare ahead of time. The organisations in the Schedule include the MRC, NRF, Newton Fund and UP.
Resources for submitting
As soon as you have identified the right funding opportunity for your research, you can consult the DRIS website for resources that will help you with the application.
9. Institutional information
Most application forms require some information regarding the institution such as institutional numbers, names of the executive members, etc. On www.up.ac.za you can access the institutional information most often required by funders.
10. Application appendices
Some funders may require additional documents as appendices such as financial statements, confirmed bank details on a letter head and stamped by the bank, tax clearance certificates and policies. You can access the most often requested appendices on www.up.ac.za.
All funding applications contains a budget — a breakdown of how the researcher will spend the funds. On www.upresearch.co.za you can find resources to easily compile a budget. The website also provides additional information such as the 10% institutional costs and clarification on subvention levies.
Resources for tracking
12. Check my application status
Once you have submitted your application to a funding agency, you can inform DRIS that you have submitted your application directly to the funding agency and request DRIS to regularly follow up on the status of your application. By doing so, DRIS can attend to minor queries that may arise from the funding agencies. If your application is unsuccessful, DRISt can request meaningful feedback which can be incorporated in future applications.
Resources for signing
13. Report Reminder Form
If your application is successful, you will receive an agreement which will stipulate reporting requirements. Submitting your report on time and in the correct format is an important aspect in maintaining a good rapport between you and your funder. It gives them, and you, a tangible view on your progression and improves your chances of renewed funding.
By completing the Remind Me of Reports & Invoices form, DRIS will notify you in advance when reports and invoices are due.
Using this list, finding and securing funding becomes an achievable pursuit. There is a solution to the task of registering yourself on to many databases. Register with DRIS using the Check My Application Status form. This will save you time and ensure that your application is not rejected because of a missing document. The task is simplified, the procedure is readily available, and efficiently organised.