UP’s Prof James Raftery awarded A-rating by NRF

Posted on August 02, 2019

The National Research Foundation (NRF) has awarded an A2-rating to Professor James Raftery from the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (NAS) at the University of Pretoria (UP)

The NRF is an independent government agency that promotes and supports research. South African researchers may submit their research outputs to the NRF for evaluation and rating every six years. 

Prof Raftery said: “My research focuses on algebra, logic and the interface between them.  Logic refers both to specific logical systems (classical logic and various non-classical logics) and also to the more abstract theory of logics in general. I use algebraic methods to solve logical problems.”

He said that he appreciated the NRF rating system because “in a world where administrative decisions need to be made quickly, there is a temptation to use crude indicators to evaluate research, people, departments, faculties, etc., and the rating system tries hard not to be crude. The NRF recruit experts to actually read and judge a candidate’s research papers, as opposed to relying on metrics like H-indices and impact factors that are sometimes used to make judgments without ever seeing the content of the research.”

Prof Raftery has published more than 60 journal articles. A gratifying feature of the award, he said, is that when he joined UP in 2013, the University temporarily created a position for him, rather than waiting for a retirement-vacancy in his department. He is grateful to be able to return that investment in a way that brings recognition to the University.

Prof Jean Lubuma, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences said: “According to the definition of the NRF rating categories, researchers in the A category are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their field for the high quality and impact of their recent research outputs. With Prof Raftery being an A-rated researcher, the Faculty has increased its pool of world leaders from six to seven. The exceptional achievement of Prof Raftery means a lot to NAS since we have now a world leader in a base discipline, namely mathematics.”

Prof Raftery says he was good at mathematics in high school, but not top of his class. He was inspired by Kurt Gödel and Alfred Tarski, two leading mathematical logicians of the 20th century. “What I took from them was an interest in concept formation and motivating questions well, so that the end product of research is natural, including the style in which it is presented,” he said.

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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