Explanatory and contextualizing note.
This document is not a Faculty Research Plan but a framework that has been developed from School Research Plans and a document developed by Research entities in the Faculty. This framework should therefore be read together with these documents. In the School Plans there are targets set for specific research activities and outcomes which are partly determined by University norms and partly by the specific circumstances of each School. The framework should also be read together with the Faculty's revised criteria for appointment, confirmation and promotion adopted in 2007.
This framework begins with the principles of research in the Faculty that were adopted last year.
- Faculty Research Objectives
* To produce research of the highest quality, ensuring that the Faculty retains and enhances its reputation as one of the leading centres for research and graduate studies in Africa
* To encourage and enable all academic staff to be research active
* To produce research of a pure or theoretical nature that contributes to the fundamental understanding of the disciplines and the relation between the disciplines in the humanities
* To produce research of an applied nature that contributes to the solution to problems in the Southern African region particularly, and the continent more generally
* To produce a culture of intellectual interest and engagement and a community of scholars dedicated to the development of knowledge and the rational appraisal of ideas, and ready to use their intellectual skills and expertise to engage in debate in the public domain
* To help produce the next generation of researchers through the prioritising of graduate studies and through the commitment to developing research capacity amongst young or new members of staff and graduate students
- Research criteria for appointment, confirmation and promotion
In 2007, the Faculty adopted revised criteria for appointment, confirmation and promotion, with the goal of being research intensive. This goal would broadly align faculty with the Wits 2010 strategy. The PhD as the highest research degree or its equivalent in professional fields is now the entry qualification and publications or ability to do research are an expectation for appointment. Further, the quantity and quality of publications required for appointment, confirmation and promotion were revised upwards. The revised criteria therefore strongly signal the importance of being productive in research for all academics in the Faculty. A related development is the new process of approving sabbaticals by the Staffing and Promotions Committee, which sets strict norms for sabbatical outputs and unambiguously links sabbatical leave to research productivity.
- NRF Ratings
The Faculty does not have, as the University does, a policy that all academic staff should get an NRF rating. Over the years there have been lengthy debates about the issue without any conclusion. In practice, some staff in the Faculty have applied and hold ratings including the highest rating category A. Some Schools have targets for how many staff should be rated by 2011. It is true also that the Faculty encourages staff to apply for a rating when they are ready and can get a good rating. For purposes of promotion, the Faculty takes into account an NRF rating as one of the measures for a person?s research standing. There is increasing recognition in the Faculty that an NRF rating provides access to important funding for research activities and for postgraduate students.
- Increasing publications output
The Faculty recognizes the importance of setting targets as norms for research productivity. The Faculty's criteria for appointment, confirmation and promotion have numerical requirements, however the Faculty believes that quality is also important. The Faculty therefore requires that staff publish in both peer reviewed local and international preferably accredited journals and also publish peer reviewed book chapters and books. For promotion to the higher ranks there is a strong expectation of a single authored monograph. The Faculty also recognizes peer reviewed conference proceedings. In the creative fields, the Faculty recognizes creative work as research as long as it goes through the process designed by the University Research Committee and approved by Senate.
- Increasing the number of staff with PhDs
The Faculty recognizes the relationship between a PhD and the ability to do high level research and supervise research students. A Therefore, the Faculty is actively pursuing strategies to enable staff who do not possess or were appointed without PhDs to attain PhDs. Among such strategies was the development of a new type of PhD for staff who teach in creative disciplines to do a PhD with creative work. A fairly large number of staff in the Wits School of Arts for example have now embarked on a PhD with creative work. In other Schools, including the School of Education, large numbers of staff who taught at the former Johannesburg College of Education have also embarked on a PhD. To support these staff members and PhD students, most Schools and the Faculty's Humanities Graduate Centre, have developed PhD seminar programmes and writing workshops.
- Individual researchers, South African Research Chairs Initiative, research groups, research programmes and research entities
Research in the Faculty is carried out by individuals, research groups, postgraduate programmes and research entities which include Centres and Research Institutes.
The Faculty is also participating in the national South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARCHI) which seeks to develop research capacity and train a new generation of researchers. The Faculty has two Chairs one in History and another in Mathematics Education. It is the Faculty's strategy to apply for more Chairs.
This architecture or ecosystem of doing and locating research has evolved over time and is still evolving. Beyond the individual researchers (an important node in the Faculty), research is carried out in research groups, programmes, centres and institutes and through collaborative arrangements which include individuals. A The Faculty encourages these relationships and collaborations because they will result in the development of a dense network of researchers and practices that will contribute to increasing productivity. A Such relationships include secondment of staff to research institutes for defined periods to embark on or complete research projects. The allocation of Faculty research funds to individuals and to research entities is something that has caused tensions in the past. The Faculty Research Committee is progressively addressing the issue, to ensure that it equitably nurtures both the individual researchers and research entities.
- Nurturing a new generation of researchers
The Faculty is conscious of the fact that among its most productive researchers are senior staff members some of who will retire in the next 5 - 15 years and that the there is gap between the younger generation of academics and this senior cohort. A This gap means that in the next 5 - 15 years there could be a drop in the Faculty's research productivity as well as loss of research leadership that would undermine the Faculty's standing and ability to offer sound academic programmes and experienced supervision to postgraduate students. The Faculty therefore runs a number of programmes that has developed and needs to further develop programmes to nurture a new generation of researchers. A generous grant for the Faculty from the Mellon Foundation provides emerging researchers who have completed a PhD in the last 5 years to develop a research project leading to publications that can develop and deepen their research experience. The Faculty has also used other internal sources of funds including the Strategic Planning Allocation of Resources Committee Fund and the Carnegie Foundation grants for the same purpose.
- Attracting and hosting Postdoctoral fellows
The Faculty recognizes the importance of attracting and hosting postdoctoral fellows as part of its research culture. The Faculty hosts a number of postdoctoral fellows but needs to do more to attract larger numbers. The presence of postdoctoral fellows engaged in research needs to be seen as part of the research culture and climate of a School, Centre or Institute.
- Publications by and with PhD students
The Faculty promotes publication by PhD students during their studies and from their theses after completion. To this end since 2007 the Faculty has operated a limited scheme from the Dean's discretionary funds for short term postdoctoral fellowships. The scheme has demonstrated that it is possible for PhDs to be highly productive soon after completion and to improve their chances of getting employment as academics or getting postdoctoral opportunities elsewhere. The Faculty also encourages, where appropriate, joint publication between staff and postgraduate students.
- Improving the intellectual climate: Hosting Distinguished Professors
The Faculty runs a number of programmes to improve the intellectual climate to enable a research orientation for academic staff and postgraduate students. A In this regard, it recognizes the importance and value of multiple forms of interaction with international scholars. Among such programmes which raises the levels of debate is the Mellon funded Distinguished Professors. These Distinguished Professors are hosted by Schools, Institutes and Centres in the Faculty. They address seminars, run workshops for emerging researchers and postgraduate students and public lectures in Schools and for the Faculty and the university more broadly. In some cases the Mellon Distinguished Professors also co-supervise staff members who are doing PhDs and therefore assist the Faculty in nurturing a new generation of researchers.
- Research promotion and time out grants
The Faculty recognizes the need for staff in Schools to get time and access to funds to advance their research careers. Pursuant to this goal, the Faculty operates a research promotion grant and time off schemes which staff can apply for, to pursue and complete research projects. The grants are financed from the Faculty Research budget.
- Supporting Conference attendance
The Faculty operates a conference fund from its Faculty Research Committee budget that is linked to publication for conferences that are funded. This scheme has proved that it returns high value for the funds allocated. In the past, various demands on the Faculty Research Committee budget resulted in funds drying up early in the year. The situation has improved with recent adjustments to the Faculty Research Committee budget. Two WISER salaries are now paid for from the University Research Committee budget the situation has improved.
- Teaching and research in the Faculty
The Faculty believes that there should be a symbiotic relationship between teaching and research. In the case of individual researchers, all academics should lecture and research, and ideally (at the higher levels at least) lectures should draw on the academic's research work and that similarly (at the higher levels at least) an academic's research work should include research on the material he or she lectures on (from whence comes the academic's authority).
In the case of the researchers in the research entities, they should make an appropriate contribution to teaching in programmes in Schools and Departments without neglecting their core mission. A Reciprocally, it should be possible (on a competitive basis) for lecturers to be recruited to work in the entities for short periods.
- Future developments - Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research
There is a growing trend in the Faculty of developing through Schools, Institutes, Centres, Departments/Disciplines/Divisions, Divisions and Programmes and the Faculty (the space occupied by the Dean as an academic) of research projects or themes or thrusts of multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary nature. This trend is also characterized by collaboration with colleagues and entities within the University, in other universities in South Africa and internationally. A This trend needs to be encouraged as an important vehicle for research collaboration across the Faculty and with colleagues and institutions internationally because it will improve quality and result in the production of cutting edge research. Pursuant to this goal, the Faculty is taking part in the new university thrust on Global Change which will include researchers from across the university and, will probably lead to the creation of an Institute with a critical mass of researchers. The Faculty needs to identify and develop issues and themes that it has existing expertise but needs to upscale and develop further.
- Resourcing research in the Faculty
The largest source of funding outside individual research grants in the Faculty is the Faculty Research budget. To achieve the Faculty and the university's goal to be one of the leading centres of innovative research in the world this budget is woefully inadequate. The Faculty needs to strengthen its capability to raise more funds through staff ability to craft innovative research projects that can get large grant funding from sources within South Africa and international foundations that support academic research.
- Research inactive or non-productive staff
The Faculty has yet to develop a policy on how to encourage research inactive staff to engage in research and scholarly publishing. This lack of a policy to address research inactive staff is a serious and glaring gap given that the Faculty typifies the university wide phenomena that most research is produced by a few highly productive researchers and that we are not meeting university publication norms.
- Dissemination of research through public forums
The Faculty encourages the dissemination of research through public forums including public debates and publication in the popular media as activities that are complementary to scholarly publishing. The Faculty believes that circulating research through participation in public debates enriches public discourses and has the potential to strengthen and deepen participatory democracy and contribute to equitable development.