DSI and NRF Bridge Gap Between Academia and Public Policymaking

DSI and NRF Bridge Gap Between Academia and Public Policymaking

In a move aimed to enhance collaboration between academia and Government, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) launched the pilot phase of its DSI-NRF Policy Placement Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme. This initiative is designed to bridge the gap between research and public policymaking, thus addressing societal challenges through evidence-based approaches.

In today’s complex world, the role of research in shaping public policy cannot be overstated. The DSI-NRF Policy Placement Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme recognises this imperative and seeks to empower outstanding researchers and academics to contribute directly to Government institutions. This will allow the academics to play a pivotal role in informing policy-making processes.

“The NRF and DSI are committed to driving national development through research initiatives that have a tangible impact on society,” says Dr Thandi Mgwebi, Group Executive: Business Advancement at the NRF. “Through the creation of opportunities for collaboration between academia and Government, we aim to enhance the capacity of researchers in public policymaking, while at the same time ensure that investments towards research culminates into impactful policies.”

Dr Mgwebi

Mr Imraan Patel, Deputy Director-General: Research Development and Support at DSI states, “This programme fills two very important gaps: one in which we have PhD graduates who have a lot of insight and ways of thinking that can be used by the policy environment effectively, but which cannot be extracted, and the other in the policy environment where we have the need for deep insight into what is happening, what does the available evidence tells us, etc. This postdoctoral policy Fellowship brings together those two needs into what I think is going to be an exciting and innovative programme.”

DDG, Mr Imraan Patel

The pilot phase will focus on postdoctoral research Fellows and emerging researchers at a postdoctoral level to provide them with a unique opportunity to work within Government departments. Through close collaboration with key Government stakeholders, Fellows will engage in policy processes and activities aligned with the thematic areas outlined in the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Decadal Plan 2022-2032. These areas include energy, social sciences, agriculture, climate change adaptation and mitigation, health, and other relevant fields.

The pilot phase has seen the appointment of 14 postdoctoral Fellows, who have been assigned to strategic divisions within the DSI and NRF. The DSI Fellows will be placed at the Technology Innovation and Research Development and Support divisions, while the NRF Fellows will be spread across Business Advancement, Research Analysis and Advice, Knowledge Advancement and Support divisions, as well as Research Chairs and Centres of Excellence. The Fellows will support the following five policy focus areas:

Human capital development and Social Grand Challenges (HCD and SGCs)

  1. Research impact
  2. Internationalisation and partnerships
  3. Technology & Innovation
  4. Open science

The 2024 postdoctoral Fellows are:

Name Base Institution Policy focus areas
Dr Dignity Paradza Cape Peninsula University of Technology HCD and SGCs
Dr Lucia Masilela University of Johannesburg HCD and SGCs
Dr Nokubonga Makhanya University of Johannesburg Open science policies
Dr Farai Kapfudzaruwa University of Pretoria Technology & Innovation
Dr Phuti Ngoepe University of Pretoria Technology & Innovation
Dr Kelechi Nwambaekwe University of the Western Cape Technology & Innovation
Dr Sibaliso Mhlanga University of the Western Cape Open science policies
Dr Zakhele Ndala University of Witwatersrand HCD and SGCs
Dr Lethula Mofokeng University of Pretoria HCD and SGCs
Dr Faith Tinonetsana Durban University of Technology Research impact
Dr Kingsley Amaechi University of Venda Research impact
Dr Nhlanhla Hlongwa University of Cape Town HCD and SGCs
Dr Simbarashe Kativhu University of Venda Research impact
Dr Moloko Mathipa-Mdakane Council for Industrial and Scientific Research Research impact

The Fellowship programme is expected to be scaled-up over the next few years, with an open call for postdoctoral researchers to apply for the programme in 2025 and beyond.

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