Global Change Research

Overview of the Global Change Research Plan (GCRP)

Global Change Grand Challenge (GCGC) is one of five Grand Challenges identified by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in its Ten-Year Innovation Plan. The GCGC supports knowledge generation and technological innovation to enable South Africa, Africa and the world to respond to global environmental change, including climate change, in an informed and innovative way. This grand challenge has three main aspects namely: (i) enhancing scientific understanding of global change; (ii) developing innovations and technologies to respond to global change; and (iii) understanding the social context within which solutions will have to be implemented. The DSI has further developed a detailed Ten–Year (2008-2018) Global Change Research Plan (GCRP) for enhancing scientific understanding of global change, which is still providing the basis for the existing GCRP Programmes but will be replaced by the (currently under development) Decadal Plan from DSI.. The research plan comprises 18 research themes within four knowledge thrusts: (a) Understanding a Changing Planet, (b) Reducing the Human Footprint, (c) Adapting the Way We Live, and (d) Innovation for Sustainability.

The research plan embraces the wider sphere of global change although its main focus is on climate change. It includes changes in economics, politics, land use and atmospheric conditions, as well as loss of biodiversity. It also includes palaeo-analysis and the geosciences in so far as they illuminate global change issues. The research plan follows a three-pronged approach aimed at: (i) Studying and understanding the changes; (ii) Understanding the implications of these changes for decision making and (iii) Stimulating innovation in responding to the challenges posed by global change. The GCRP will be further refined and aligned to the imminent Decadal Plan from DSI during 2021/22, and will include existing and new areas of focus, in accordance with the priorities identified in the Decadal Plan.

The GCRP which is managed by the Programme Management Unit (PMU) is hosted by the NRF, which has as part of its vision 6 pillars (People, The research enterprise, Research infrastructure, The relationship between science and society, The organisation we want to be, Resourcing for impact) that underpin the NRF vision 2030, within the context of Global Change the 2 pillars: “The research enterprise: Impacting society” and “The relationship between science and society” are particularly relevant.

“The research enterprise: Impacting society” states that for South Africa to thrive, knowledge creation and sharing must be at the heart of our efforts to transform and respond to the challenges facing our society. We take responsibility for shaping the national research enterprise across all domains of science, and enabling knowledge generation that responds to areas of national priority or advantage. We are also committed to the democratisation of knowledge for the benefit of society.

The second pillar of particular importance, “The relationship between science and society” states: Imagine a society in which knowledge is created, used, challenged, valued and shared by all. The NRF’s Vision 2030 seeks to turn that imagining into everyday reality, in the interest of addressing the needs and demands of all South Africans. We see society participating in knowledge production by identifying challenges or policy needs, evaluating impact case studies, or gathering data for research projects.

For more details on the NRF’s 2030 Vision see here:

In terms of the strategic overview and focus, the PMU is not only guided by the mandates of both the NRF and the DSI, but also by the Global Change Science Committee (GCSC), made up of a range of top scientists and researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds and institutions in South Africa.



Jonathan Diederiks

Director: Global Change
Directorate: Knowledge Advancement & Support (KAS)
National Research Foundation
Tel. +27 (0)12 481 4104
Cell. +27 (0)72 190 8702

Ntombizini Manana

Programme Officer: Global Change
Directorate: Knowledge Advancement & Support (KAS)
National Research Foundation
Tel. +27 (0)12 481 4358
Cell. +27 (0)83 556 4210