By – SAnews.gov.za
Pretoria – South Africa’s top researchers were celebrated for their continued pioneering work in advancing knowledge creation and innovation at the 2015 National Research Foundation (NRF) Awards.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor on Thursday acknowledged the recipients at a ceremony held in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
The Awards recognised the significance and impact of their recent research outputs as judged by their peers through the NRF rating system.
Speaking at the function, Minister Pandor said South Africa’s progress towards a knowledge intensive economy rests on the country’s ability to develop a diverse – both in terms of race and gender – cohort of young researchers with high-end skills.
“We congratulate today’s awardees, especially Professor Michael Feast for receiving the lifetime achievement award. We are confident that today’s awards will motivate you to do even more to grow the outputs of our national system of innovation and to train more researchers.
“Your continued contribution to our National System of Innovation will play a significant role in ensuring that the vision of South Africa set out in the National Development Plan is indeed achieved,” said Minister Pandor.
Dr Beverley Damonse, Acting CEO of the NRF, said progress has been made by the organisation in building human and institutional capacity, particularly with regard to achieving equity and transformation, within South Africa’s research sector.
“Over the past five years we have seen an increase of 77% in the number of black rated researchers and 52% in the number of female rated researchers.”
One of the top three awards of the evening were awarded to Professor Michael Feast of the Department of Astronomy, at the University of Cape Town in the catergory Lifetime Achievement Award.
This was based on a lifetime of extraordinary contributions, of international standard and impact, to the development of science in and for South Africa over an extended period of time, and for the manner in which his work has touched and shaped the lives and views of many South Africans.
The Champion of Research Capacity Development and Transformation at SA Higher Education Institutions award was presented to Professor Tshilidzi Marwala.
He is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation, Postgraduate studies and the library at the University of Johannesburg. Through his leadership he has been an important advocate for increased transformation of South Africa’s science community and landscape.
The Hamilton Naki Award went to University of the Western Cape’s Professor Alan Christoffels. He is the Director: South African National Bioinformatics Institute.
The award recognises an individual for outstanding efforts to advance his/her career in science against all odds, and for achieving world-class research performance, despite considerable equity challenges.