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NRF Awards

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 The mandate of the National Research Foundation (NRF) stipulates that the organization supports and promotes research in the broadest sense.  The annual NRF Awards function recognises South African scientists for their achievements as indicated through the NRF rating system. In addition, to the rating linked awards special awards provide a platform to honour researchers for career contributions to knowledge creation and dissemination as well as capacity development and transformation in the national research system.

Awards are made annually in the following categories at the NRF Awards function:


1.               A-rated Researchers;

2.               P-rated Researchers;

3.               *Champion of Research Capacity Development at SA HEIs;

4.               *Transforming the Science [1] Cohort, and

5.               *Lifetime Achiever.

(*nominees in these categories may not necessarily be a researcher rated by the NRF)

 Participating institutions

Institutions from the National System of Innovation (NSI) may submit a nomination in the categories, ‘Transformation of the Science Cohort’, ‘Champion of Research Capacity Development at SA HEIs’ and ‘Lifetime Achiever’ awards. All nominations must be submitted through the research offices of a Department of Science and Technology recognised research institution or responsible authorities within the institution (endorsed by the CEO).


Guidelines for nominations

This document provides an account of the process for the identification of nominees for the NRF Awards in the categories 1 – 5 listed above.

 Definition of Research

For purposes of the NRF, research is original investigation undertaken to gain knowledge and/or enhance understanding.


Research specifically includes:

-        the creation and development of the intellectual infrastructure of subjects and disciplines
(e.g., through dictionaries, scholarly editions, catalogues and contributions to major research databases);

-        the invention or generation of ideas, images, performances and artefacts where these manifestly embody new or substantially developed insights; and

-        building on existing knowledge to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products, policies or processes.

It specifically excludes:

-        routine testing and analysis of materials, components, instruments and processes, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques; and

-        the development of teaching materials and teaching practices that do not embody substantial original enquiry.

  1.   Applicants awarded an A- or P-rating by the NRF on (re)evaluation

       The definitions of A- and P-rating categories are given in the table below:






Researchers who are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their field for the high quality and impact of their recent research outputs.


A researcher in this group is recognised by all reviewers as a leading scholar in his/her field internationally for the high quality and wide impact (i.e. beyond a narrow field of specialisation) of his/her recent research outputs.


A researcher in this group is recognised by the overwhelming majority of reviewers as a leading scholar in his/her field internationally for the high quality and impact (either wide or confined) of his/her recent research outputs.


Young researchers (normally younger than
35 years of age), who have held the doctorate or equivalent qualification for less than five years at the time of application and who, on the basis of exceptional potential demonstrated in their published doctoral work and/or their research outputs in their early post-doctoral careers are considered likely to become future international leaders in their field.


Researchers in this group are recognised by all or the overwhelming majority of reviewers as having demonstrated the potential of becoming future international leaders in their field on the basis of exceptional research performance and output from their doctoral and/or early post-doctoral research careers.



  2. Transformation of the Science Cohort

 This category honours the challenge of attracting more black scientists moving towards world class research performance by giving them encouragement and recognition for their efforts and the challenges they had to overcome. The award is focused on transforming the science cohort to be more representative of South African demographics.  

 Criteria (eligibility) for nomination

 The nominee for the Transformation of the Science Cohort award must:

·      be a black South African citizen or permanent resident;

·      be an active researcher at a South African research institution in any research field which could qualify for support from the NRF; and

·      have an impressive research performance record as indicated by the standard research performance indicators and/or judged by peers.

3. Champion of Research Capacity Development at SA HEIs

 This category recognises individuals within the research community who contribute to the transformation of South Africa’s community and landscape. The aim of this award is to encourage and promote this activity across the South African research community. It should be noted that the award is dependent on the number of students in the designated groups that had been trained, as well as the quality and impact of research outputs of the students.

Criteria (eligibility) for nomination

The nominee for the Champion of Research Capacity development at SA HEIs award must:

·     clearly indicate the number of Masters and PhD students who are black;

·     clearly identify the strategy in place to develop capacity;

·     clearly indicate research outputs by students under their supervision;

·    be a permanent or contracted employee employed at the institution that selects the nominee;

·     be characterised by his/her peers as an active researcher in any discipline;

·     be acknowledged to have made, or to be making, a significant contribution to the:

o Identification of research talent within designated groups,

o The nurturing of this talent,

o Moulding and developing of research excellence;

·     have achieved this through the respect of everyone in the research institution; and

·     have a track record of success in achieving transformation for at least the past three years.

 4.  Lifetime Achiever

The Lifetime Achiever award honours a deserving South African individual who is considered to have made outstanding or extraordinary contribution(s) to the development of science in and for South Africa over an extended period of time. These contributions must be of international standard and impact. 

Criteria (eligibility) for nomination

The selection of the candidate for the Lifetime Achaward must fulfil the following criteria:

·     Be a South African citizen or permanent resident generally above 60 years of age;

·     Her/his science/innovation-related contribution and/or achievements in and for South Africa must be of international standard and have been recognised internationally;

·     Must have made a contribution to the lives of South Africans, through her/his science/innovation-related work and achievements that can be categorised as being significant, recognisably developmental, beneficial and have made significant impact; and

·     Need not be associated with a research or higher education institution at the point of being recognised for this award. 

Call for nominations

 The process comprises the following steps for the identification of nominees in categories 2, 3 and 4 above.

·        A call for nominations in these categories for the NRF Awards will be announced.

·       The NRF will advertise the call through the Designated Authorities (DAs) at Department of Science and Technology recognised research institutions and will also advise DAs of the closing date for nominations.

·        Institutions will be requested to identify no more than one nominee per category.

·        An appropriate internal nomination and screening process should be employed by the institution

·       Written motivations on the template provided for the different categories as well as the curriculum vitae (CV) of the applicant, should be included with each nomination and submitted to the NRF.

 NRF Advisory Committee


·             Executive Evaluation Committee

 Terms of reference

·             To evaluate the nominations from each category against set criteria;

·             Identify nominee(s) in each category; and

·             Refer the nominees and recommendations to the NRF CEO for a final decision.

 NRF selection process

 A- and P-rated researchers (re)rated during the last (peer-reviewed) rating cycle who are recognised at the awards function are pre-selected through the rigorous Evaluation and Rating System of the NRF.

 The selection of nominees in the categories, ‘Transformation of the Science Cohort’, ‘Champion of Research Capacity Development at SA HEIs’ and ‘Lifetime Achiever’ awards will be managed by a Selection Committee convened by the NRF.

 The following process will be adhered to:

·           The applications received from nominees in the categories, ‘Transformation of the Science Cohort’, ‘Champion of Research Capacity Development at SA HEIs’ and ‘Lifetime Achiever’ awards will be sent to members of the Selection Committee to short-list nominees in each category.

·            The shortlist of nominees for each category will be submitted to the office of the NRF CEO for a final decision.

·            The names of the nominees selected by the NRF CEO and supporting documents shall be submitted to Corporate Communications for further processing.


 The outcome of the selection process will be conveyed to employing institutions as soon as the decisions have been finalised. The formal announcement of awardees which will include the hand-out of the award to each recipient will be made at the annual NRF Awards Banquet (to be held annually in September) at which the NRF recognises individuals for their extraordinary achievements and contributions relating to the mandate and vision of the NRF.  

 The office of the CEO will be responsible for all aspects related to the promotion, the banquet and the publicity of the awards.  

NRF Knowledge Management & Evaluation 

 The following Knowledge Management & Evaluation staff members are involved with nominations for the NRF Awardees: 





Dr Daisy Selematsela

Executive Director: Knowledge Management & Evaluation


Ms Joyce Olivier

Manager: Monitoring & Evaluation

012 481 4106

Mrs Diane Monteiro

Professional Officer: Monitoring & Evaluation

012 481 4033

Postal address:                 PO Box 2600



Physical address:             NRF Building

                                         Meiring Naudé Road



Internet address:    

Telephone number:         (012) 481 4000

Fax number:                    (012) 481 4010 

 [1] Science = Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology as well as Social Sciences and Humanities

Download Nomination template_Champion of Research Capacity Development_2013 [597.44 KB] 

Download Nomination template_Lifetime Achiever_2013 [598.20 KB] 

Download Nomination template_Transformation of the Science Cohort_2013 [597.75 KB]