Impact of Science: The Transformative Power of Research

Impact of Science: The Transformative Power of Research

The National Research Foundation (NRF) was the co-organiser of a three-day conference on the Impact of Science that took place from 23 to 25 June 2021. The conference was hosted virtually from the University of Cape Town and was organised by the Network for Advancing and Evaluating the Societal Impact of Science (AESIS Network). This year’s conference focused on the Transformative Power of Research and brought together experts on research impact to discuss how to advance and evaluate the impact of science and research across the globe.

Drawing together 350 participants from more than 30 countries, the conference was chaired by Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. It covered ground from the transformative nature and role of science in society, and strategies to implement impact at an institutional level, through to inclusive approaches for excellence and impact assessment. The Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation in South Africa, Mr Buti Manamela and Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, opened the conference and welcomed participants.

Speaking during the opening session of the conference, the NRF’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, said “The NRF believes that the science system can play an important role in transforming society through the type of research that it focuses on and the changes that this brings about in society. For this reason, the NRF’s Transformation Framework emphasises not only demographic change, but also transforming both the knowledge enterprise and the relationship between science and society.”

The NRF has developed a conceptual research impact framework which outlines how the organisation can best advance the impact of research. In the session addressing the issues and lessons learnt in developing the regional or national impact agenda, and what models or approaches one can implement, Dr Genevieve Simpson, Acting Executive Director in Strategy, Planning and Partnerships, explained that, “The impact agenda provides the research system with an opportunity to rethink what it does, how, and why. If we want to see different outcomes, we need to evaluate our processes and thinking and introduce new measures to advance changing priorities.”

Dr Beverley Damonse, NRF Group Executive for Science Engagement and Corporate Relations, spoke about the transformation of science in the closing session of the conference, emphasising how “There is a need to make room for talent, which in South Africa translates to our transformation agenda. The transformative power of research, transformation of the equity profiles of our researchers, postgraduate students, of the knowledge agenda itself, as well as the transformation of the relationship between science and society remain crucial. These must all form part of the space being created”.

For more information on the AESIS Network, please visit:

Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation in South Africa, Mr Buti Manamela
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