The University of Pretoria (UP), in partnership with the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), hosted a launch on 21 September for an open access book on research infrastructure written by Dr Rakeshnie Ramoutar-Prieschl, Head of Research Capacity Development in the Department of Research and Innovation at UP, and Dr Sepo Hachigonta, Director of International Relations and Cooperation at the NRF.
The launch was hosted virtually by UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Tawana Kupe and live-streamed to partner countries on the continent.
Titled Management of Research Infrastructures: A South African Funding Perspective, the book highlights the integral role that research infrastructures (RI) play in the science, technology and innovation ecosystem, and is based on significant strides made by the NRF and DSI over the past decade.
Dr Rakeshnie Ramoutar-Prieschl
Research infrastructures are recognised as critical enablers for advancing scientific knowledge, research outputs and innovations, as well as accelerating the training and development of the next generation of researchers. The successful provision of infrastructure for science, technology and innovation (STI) in South Africa is at three levels of engagement: government and policy level; the funding agency level; and the implementation level at research-performing institutions.
Adequate levels of funding and effective support and coordination at all levels are a prerequisite for establishing and maintaining research infrastructure platforms. Sustaining such vibrancy hinges on the development and retention of scarce, highly skilled scientists, operators, technicians, engineers and specialists. These human resources must receive priority attention and investment in order to maintain research and development activities at the globally competitive level.
Dr Daniel Adams, Chief Director of Basic Sciences and Research Infrastructure at the DSI, said the book serves as a useful guide for institutions and other sectors. “This book provides an overview of the building blocks necessary for effectively and sustainably managing, steering and guiding the establishment of RI,” Dr Adams said. “It offers valuable insights into RI investments and serves as a useful guide for national research facilities, science councils, public research-performing institutions, academics, students, policymakers and the private sector, not only in South Africa but across the continent.”
CEO of the NRF Dr Molapo Qhobela remarked that the book would assist in strengthening the capacities of science, technology and innovation landscapes. “Science, technology and innovation landscapes across developing regions generally have low capacities in research and research management,” Dr Qhobela said. “Strengthening the capacities of science granting councils in sub-Saharan Africa is an imperative in order for the continent to reap the benefits of STI-led development. This book therefore forms a useful resource for public funding agencies in Africa and other developing regions.”
Dr Sepo Hachigonta. Image: LinkedIn.
“The book highlights key aspects of the research and innovation value chain, and showcases South Africa’s national research facilities, which are at the forefront of innovation and global competitiveness,” added Dr Clifford Nxomani, Deputy CEO for National Research Infrastructure Platforms at the NRF. “This book succinctly outlines how research infrastructures play a catalytic role in the advancement of science, technology and innovation for the benefit of society.”
Along with the NRF and DSI, the Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa also lent its support to the book. The initiative aims to strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in the region in order to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to the continent’s economic and social development.
Author Dr Ramoutar-Prieschl believes that “the book will make significant strides towards achieving sustainable infrastructure platforms needed by the research enterprise not only nationally, but also continentally and beyond. Research infrastructures play a key role in advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) targets, as set out in the White Paper on Science and Technology and the National Development Plan, by strengthening the focus, facilitated access and investment in research infrastructure platforms”.
“Hosting such a launch will facilitate and broaden South African and African participation and its contribution to the global discussion on the benefits of effective and sustainable management of research infrastructure platforms,” added co-author Dr Hachigonta.
“In various fields of science, the leadership of universities, science councils, governments and other partner entities face decisions about the planning, funding and management of large-scale, world-class research infrastructures,” said Prof Kupe. “Often, these are of significant value to the national, continental and global scientific communities. This book highlights that the effective management of the research infrastructure life cycle, coupled to access, collaboration and partnerships, are critical enablers for realising a transformed society.”
The following partners lent their support to the book:
• National Research Foundation
• Department of Science and Innovation
• Science Granting Councils Initiative – participating countries
• University of Pretoria