Centres of excellence to advance interdisciplinary research

February 21st, 2014, Published in Uncategorised articles

The Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, has approved the establishment of an additional five new centres of excellence (CoEs) to promote collaborative and interdisciplinary research among research-performing institutions, and to provide high-end skills development in priority research areas.

The new centres bring to 14 the total number of centres established since 2004 by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

The CoEs research various areas of national interest and are designed to accelerate the delivery of appropriate human resources and knowledge capacity, and to enhance the international competitiveness of South African research in pursuit of research excellence and capacity development.

The centres provide the next generation of South Africans with the skills and knowledge which will help make South Africa a knowledge-based economy. This intervention also supports the National Development Plan, which calls for an ambitious expansion of the country’s science and technology system.

The new CoEs, which will be hosted by various higher education institutions, will address the following themes:

  • Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (University of the Witwatersrand).
  • Scientometrics (the study of measuring and analysing scientific research) and Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy (Stellenbosch University).
  • Food Security (Universities of the Western Cape and Pretoria).
  • Child Development and Livelihoods (Universities of the Witwatersrand and KwaZulu-Natal).
  • Mineral and Energy Resource Analysis (University of Johannesburg).

The CoE for Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, to be hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand, will focus on two themes reflecting the pure and applied nature of the mathematical sciences.  These themes are mathematics paradigms for the Earth and the environment and mathematical, statistical and computational modelling of the Earth and the environment.

The second CoE, for Scientometrics and STI Policy, will be hosted by Stellenbosch University and is aimed at increasing the efficiency of the country’s use of its knowledge resources by advancing the production of high-quality, research-based evidence on the impact of South African science and technology to improve decision making for the national science system.

Co-hosted by the Universities of the Western Cape and Pretoria, the CoE for Food Security was established in the context of a changing food system facing ecological, social, economic and physical challenges. Experts will pool their knowledge to help improve access to sustainable and sufficient amounts of nutritious food for poor, vulnerable and marginalised populations. The centre’s research will inform and identify science-based programme interventions and policy mechanisms to overcome food insecurity and ensure sound nutrition for all South Africans.

The co-hosted Centre of Excellence in Child Development and Livelihoods of the Universities of the Witwatersrand and KwaZulu-Natal will focus on increasing the country’s understanding of its child development and livelihood challenges, and on finding cost-effective interventions to overcome these challenges and give children a better start in life.

The centre will bring together research expertise in the social sciences, humanities and health sciences, specifically in the areas of economics, sociology, social policy, health and HIV/Aids, to improve decision-makers’ understanding of the conditions, dynamics and efficacy of policies among socially and economically marginalised societies in South Africa, southern Africa and the rest of the developing world.

The CoE for Mineral and Energy Resource Analysis, hosted by the University of Johannesburg, will integrate academic research with strategic applications in wealth generation and human resource development, throughout Africa. This approach will ensure proper alignment of activities with the SA vovernment’s strategic focus on mineral and fossil fuel resources. This is the first CoE to be hosted by the University of Johannesburg.

Contact Tommy Makhode, Department of Science and Technology, Tel 082 379-8268, tommy.makhode@dst.gov.za

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