The HSRC has won a bid to host the World Social Science Forum (WSSF) conference in 2015, CEO Dr Olive Shisana announced at the launch of the HSRC’s 2010/2011 Annual Report.
Dr Shisana, who was appointed president of the International Social Science Council last year, said this event will boost the social sciences in South Africa, the African continent and in the global South.
“The social sciences in sub-Sharan Africa operate under conditions that are seriously under-resourced, institutions working in these disciplines receive little government support and they have poor facilities,” she said, referring to information contained in the authoritative World Social Science report to which HSRC researchers also contributed.
Hosting the WSSF conference will therefore be a big boost for social sciences on this continent.
Dr Shisana said the HSRC has a mandate from the government to address the key priorities facing South Africa through its research, and to generate new knowledge that helps us understand the social and human environment in which we live. The organisation therefore aims to promote human science research of the highest quality that could contribute to the understanding of social conditions and the processes of social change.
During the past five years, the HSRC also engaged inresearch and collaborative research networks South Africa, Africa and globally, focusing on pressing social issues relevant to human welfare and prosperity.
“We collaborate with diverse research groups within Africa and countries in the North and because of our national and continental impact, the HSRC has become a preferred institution to work with,” she said. Research collaborators include international development agencies, international research organisations, various government departments, national and international research networks and universities, here and abroad.
During the previous financial year, the HSRC undertook 150 research projects. Some of the highlights of the year include:
• Work for the Presidency to inform a research-based approach towards government-wide monitoring and evaluation;
• Research and development (R&D) surveys undertaken by the HSRC on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology that served to inform strategy and policy formulation in the Department, and monitoring of progress against targets set;
• Open access publications that the public can download for free from our website. The readership for on-line HSRC publications covers more than 200 different countries.
• In 2010 we also embarked on a process to make our research data available for further analyses and at this stage some 17 datasets have been curated, further contributing to the promotion of the social sciences and humanities.
• Work in the area of HIV and AIDS in rural communities, including community-based intervention projects in the Sweetwaters (KZN) and Mthatha (Eastern Cape) districts;
• Research on sustainable and safe water provisioning to communities in the Eastern Cape.
On another level, the HSRC spent a considerable amount of time developing research capacity in the social sciences and on growing new researchers. “We have provided training to more than 80 young researchers, some as Mater’s interns, others as doctoral trainees and still others as post-doctoral fellows,” Dr Shisana added. The overwhelming majority of these young researchers come from previously disadvantaged communities who now will have the skills required to be employed in research organisations, government or universities.
Many of these trainees are involved in large and nationally significant research projects. They get exposure on all stages of research. This has developed research capacity in the social sciences by providing rare opportunities for young new researchers to work with experienced senior researchers.
On the financial side, Dr Shisana reported that the HSRC has received an unqualified audit for the tenth consecutive year. The HSRC receives a Parliamentary grant of just over R170 million and an external income budget average of R140 million, of which R80 million was funded by the international donor community, suggesting that the HSRC works well with the funding agencies and donor organisations.
It was a difficult financial year for the HSRC, she said, as the global economic meltdown resulted in a reduction of income for the organisation in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 financial years. The economic downturn, which mainly upset western markets, impacted severely on the HSRC’s activities, with the United States providing most of the international funding recorded over the past five years.
Dr Shisana said the HSRC received a number of government commissioned research projects, secured independently and often with the assistance of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The Department also supported the HSRC by making extra funding available to sustain our research work. The organisation is implementing a strategy of ensuring that our markets are diversified, with the European markets and other areas earmarked for growth to ensure a long-term sustainability from all parts of the world, Dr Shisana said.
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