Leading UP agricultural economist appointed to US National Academy of Sciences

Posted on May 11, 2019

Emeritus Professor Rashid Mekki Hassan of the University of Pretoria has received one of the highest honours in science by being elected to US research organisation the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). 

The NAS announced the election of 100 new members and 25 foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Prof Hassan, Emeritus Professor in UP’s Department of Agriculture Economics, Extension and Rural Development, was among the 25 foreign associates elected, and joins the likes of Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, all of whom were former members of the association.

This selection is an honour for the University of Pretoria, as Prof Hassan serves with scientists from some of the world’s highest-ranked universities, including Harvard, Cambridge, ETH Zurich and Stanford.

Established in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, the NAS works with the National Academies of Engineering and Medicine to provide independent and objective analysis and advice to the US government. It also informs public policy. These academies are so vital that the US Congress and White House have issued legislation to cement their role.

NAS membership is rare, with only 487 foreign associates currently active. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. “It is certainly a big honour because it is coming from an esteemed institution that is well recognised with high credibility in the world of scientific research,” said Prof Hassan, who is a graduate of Iowa State University and has a doctorate in Economics.

He explained that this nomination increases recognition of the contributions of social science and African institutions. Of the foreign associates who are active members, about 60 are from social sciences fields, and only six represent African institutions. Two associates come from South Africa, with Prof Hassan being the first foreign associate to be elected from UP.

Formerly the founding director of the Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa, Prof Hassan’s research focus is on natural resource and environmental economics, agricultural economics, and optimisation and modelling of economic systems.

Among his many international roles, he has served as a member of several international and national boards and science councils, including the UN CFS High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Climate Change, the UN Committee for Development Policy, the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, the Global Environment Facility, the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, Stockholm Environment Institute, and the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa Board. His participation in these and several other capacities has contributed to informing key global environmental and development initiatives and processes, particularly in advancing the sustainable development agenda.

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