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SA's Leading Researchers Honoured at 2015 NRF Awards

The Minister of Science and Technology (DST), Mrs. Naledi Pandor acknowledged the 2015 National Research Foundation (NRF) Awards recipients at a ceremony held at the Coastlands Umhlanga Hotel and Convention Centre in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal on Thursday, 27 August 2015.

The award recipients, who are top researchers in South Africa, were celebrated for their continued pioneering work in advancing knowledge creation and innovation. The Awards recognised the significance and impact of their recent research outputs as judged by their peers through the NRF rating system.

Speaking at the function Minister Pandor noted that “South Africa’s progress towards a knowledge intensive economy rests on our ability, as a country, to develop a diverse – both in terms of race and gender- cohort of young researchers with high-end skills. The fact that today, only 4 black and 5 female researchers out of 28 researchers are to receive their A-rating is an indication of the long road still ahead. It is, therefore, awardees of today and their colleagues who bear the responsibility of ensuring that not only is South Africa globally competitive but also that there is a new generation of researchers that is ready to take up the reins and ensure that South Africa remains competitive well into the future.”

“We congratulate today’s awardees, especially Professor Michael Feast for receiving the lifetime achievement award. We are confident that today’s awards will motivate you to do even more to grow the outputs of our national system of innovation and to train more researchers. Your continued contribution to our National System of Innovation will play a significant role in ensuring that the vision of South Africa set out in the National Development Plan is indeed achieved,” concluded Minister Pandor

Dr Beverley Damonse, Acting CEO of the NRF, noted the progress made by the organisation in building human and institutional capacity, particularly with regard to achieving equity and transformation, within South Africa’s research sector. “Over the past five years we have seen an increase of 77% in the number of black rated researchers and 52% in the number of female rated researchers. Over the same period the NRF has invested R6,2 billion in research, researchers and students, and R653 million in improving the infrastructure baseline across the system of innovation, while we have consequently seen a 33% increase in ISI accredited research publications. The progress we are making bodes well for our efforts to strengthen South Africa’s global competitiveness in the knowledge creation and innovation arena,”

“We congratulate the award winners and thank you for your sterling work in advancing the frontiers of knowledge. You are an inspiration to all of us,” concluded Dr Damonse.

The top three awards of the evening were awarded as follows:

  • The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Professor Michael Feast of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Cape Town. This was based on a lifetime of extraordinary contributions, of international standard and impact, to the development of science in and for South Africa over an extended period of time, and for the manner in which his work has touched and shaped the lives and views of many South Africans.
  • The Champion of Research Capacity Development and Transformation at SA Higher Education Institutions award was presented to Professor Tshilidzi Marwala. He is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation, Postgraduate studies and the library at University of Johannesburg. Through his leadership he has been an important advocate for increased transformation of South Africa’s science community and landscape.
  • The Hamilton Naki Award, named after the largely self-taught medical researcher, recognised by Dr Chris Barnard as “one of the great researchers of all time in the field of heart transplant”. The award recognises an individual for outstanding efforts to advance his/her career in science against all odds, and for achieving world-class research performance, despite considerable equity challenges. This award went to University of the Western Cape’s Professor Alan Christoffels. He is the Director: South African National Bioinformatics Institute.

Other special awards for the evening were:

  • The Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers, were awarded to Ms Nasreen Peer of the Department of Zoology at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and Mr Ethan Newman from the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University. They were recognized for outstanding academic performance as final year doctoral students.
  • Dr Nuraan Davids, Department of Education Policy Studies, Stellenbosch University, and Dr Ntobeko Ntusi, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, walked away with the Research Excellence Award for Early Career/Emerging Researchers, which recognises Thuthuka grant holders for exceptional research performance
  • The award for Excellence in Science Engagement honours individuals in the research community at South African higher education institutions and science councils for making outstanding contributions to public engagement with science over a sustained period. This award was given to Professor Marcus Byrne of the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand. The aim of the award is to encourage academics, while working in their fields, to also contribute substantially and be committed to enhancing the public’s awareness and engagement with science, technology and innovation.
  • The Excelleration Award for South African Research Institutions went to the Central University of Technology and the University of Limpopo.

The P-Rating, which is normally assigned to researchers under 35 years of age who have held a doctorate award or equivalent qualification for less than five years at the time of application, was received by Dr Reinette Biggs of the Centre for Studies in Complexity at Stellenbosch University. P-rated researchers are considered likely to become a future international leader in their respective field, on the basis of exceptional potential demonstrated in research performance and output during doctoral and/or early post-doctoral careers.

A-Ratings are aimed at researchers who are unequivocally acknowledged by their peers as leading international scholars in their respective fields for the high quality and impact of recent research outputs. Acquiring an NRF rating generates considerable acknowledgement and respect for the individual researchers as well as their institutions. The awardees are as follows:

 

Researcher Institution Number of ratings received so far

Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim

Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA)

University of KwaZulu-Natal

1st A-rating

Professor Eric Bateman

Department of Medicine

University of Cape Town

2nd A-rating

Professor William Bond

Chief Scientist

South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)

 

4th A-rating

Professor Jean Cleymans

Department of Physics

University of Cape Town

7th A-rating

Professor Richard Cowling

Department of Botany

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

4th A-rating

Professor Romeel Davé

Department of Physics

University of the Western Cape

1st A-rating

Professor George Ellis

Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics

University of Cape Town

7th A-rating

Professor Andries Engelbrecht

Department of Computer Science

University of Pretoria

1st A-rating

Professor Michael Henning

Department of Mathematics

University of Johannesburg

2nd A-rating

Professor Christopher Henshilwood

Evolutionary Studies Institute

University of the Witwatersrand

1st A-rating

Professor Isabel Hofmeyr

School of Literature, Language and Media

University of the Witwatersrand

2nd A-rating

Professor Steven Johnson

School of Life Sciences

University of KwaZulu-Natal

2nd A-rating

Professor Rajend Mesthrie

School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics

University of Cape Town

2nd A-rating

Professor Daya Reddy

Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics

University of Cape Town

3rd A-rating

Professor Bruce Rubidge

Evolutionary Studies Institute

University of the Witwatersrand

1st A-rating

Dr Roger Smith

Natural History Department

Iziko Museums of South Africa

1st A-rating

Professor Mark Solms

Department of Psychology

University of Cape Town

2nd A-rating

Professor Andrew Taylor

Department of Astronomy

University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape

1st A-rating

Professor Yves van de Peer

Department of Genetics

University of Pretoria

1st A-rating

Professor Jill Farrant

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology

University of Cape Town

2nd A-rating

Professor Maxim Finkelstein

Department of Mathematical Statistics and Actuarial Sciences

University of the Free State

1st A-rating

Professor Jacques Grosset

KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH)

University of KwaZulu-Natal

1st A-rating

Professor Charles van Onselen

Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship

University of Pretoria

3rd A-rating

Professor Johannes van Oort

Department of Church History and Church Policy

University of Pretoria

2nd A-rating

Professor Melanie Walker

Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development

University of the Free State

1st A-rating

Professor Brian Warner

Department of Astronomy

University of Cape Town

6th A-rating

Professor Patricia Whitelock

Astronomer

South African Astronomical Observatory

1st A-rating

Professor Robert Wilkinson

 

Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine

University of Cape Town

1st A-rating

 

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