|UFH Research Uptake Policy going strong|
|Friday, 14 February 2014 00:00|
The University of Fort Hare in South Africa has a well-established history and track record of doing research. However, the intensity and the urgency to firmly intitutionalise a culture of research only began around 2004. In 2008/9, the university embarked on a strategic repositioning and a new strategic research plan had to be formulated. The process was a thoroughly consultative one with internally and externally based stakeholders all contributing towards the plan. The UFH Strategic Research Plan was formally approved and accepted by the university structures in 2009.
Enter DRUSSA in 2012 and we began developing the DRUSSA-inspired Research Uptake project at the Govan Mbeki Research and Development Centre, which resulted in the UFH Research Uptake Policy, which was approved by Senate in September last year.
Luckily, aligning the Strategic Research Plan and the Research Uptake Policy was not a problem at all. The latter borrowed quite a bit from the former, but still a few challenges had to be negotiated. Firstly, the construct “Research Uptake” had to be debated and understood; secondly, the concept had to be institutionalised; and thirdly, we needed to ensure that we did not lose out on institutional legitimacy and credibility.
We started by brining together the 24-member Research Uptake implementation team, so that we could enter the debate and map the way forward. I had to prepare some discussion points to give direction. The group then gave me the task of developing a discussion document, which was circulated for input and discussion after a few months. The group then met again and a second round of consultations followed.
In the meantime, DRUSSA supported us with their inputs and an implementation event and workshop in May 2013. Prior to the event, I also attended the DRUSSA postgraduate short courses presented by Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, which helped me tremendously in putting the final touches to the document. Several drafts were also sent to the UFH implementation team for their input.
Before getting the Research Uptake Policy accepted by the University’s Senate in 2013, it first had to be recommended by the University Research and Development Committee, which is a sub-committee of Senate. Its ratification by Senate was a major relief. Since we are learning more and more about the challenges we need to confront, the policy is inevitably a work in progress.
One major obstacle and subsequent achievement was securing the services of a dedicated resource to be responsible for the “translation”, communication and dissemination of UFH’s research. Having secured financial backing from the university and the services of an experienced journalist/editor to devote her time to our Research Uptake portfolio, our profile is certain to be boosted in a very significant way.
Research Uptake is well out of the starting blocks at the University of Fort Hare.
Prof Gideon De Wet is the Executive Dean: Research and Development of the Govan Mbeki Research and Development Centre at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa