High-quality research holds the key to SA’s future
Without the necessary research and support, South Africa’s economic and academic prosperity are doomed to failure.
Research through postgraduate study is likely one of the most important components that can make or break a country’s economy. South Africa will inevitably have to do more to further its levels of expertise, particularly in specialised fields such as engineering, health sciences, natural sciences and accounting.
Without such expertise, a country’s economy can at best function poorly. In essence, it is the role of researchers to come up with novel innovations to eventually make our country more competitive, develop new job opportunities and create wealth.
By doing research, we expand the boundaries of knowledge. If not, our country will not progress and will remain stagnant.
Think about all the research that has been done to date and still has to be done in the field of information technology. It seems never-ending. Cutting edge information research speeds up communication and increases the productivity of businesses and employees, which in turn results in increased turnover and profit, and, consequently, a positive attitude.
If South Africa fails to develop its full research potential, but other countries do, we simply will not be able to continue trading at a competitive level. The upshot will be that more products that can be produced cheaper elsewhere will need to be imported, resulting in domestic job losses.
In a developing country such as ours, researchers are inclined to focus more on research in applications aimed at finding instant solutions for mammoth challenges.
In many instances, we use the basic research of First World countries, make adjustments and apply such research to our unique situation. In the context of a developing country, our researchers are therefore on the right track – for now.
We still have an enormous contribution to make in terms of solving socioeconomic and political issues, development issues, poverty and capacity building. But our research must concentrate more on community research.
The implementation of research, particularly where it concerns community problems, means active involvement with the community, jointly reaching a conclusion and finding a solution to the problem, and possibly moving to a second phase of implementation.
Research outputs in our developing country are not yet in the same class as those of developed countries, for various reasons.
I believe we can do much more to increase quality research outputs. Schools, tertiary institutions, government and the private sector are some of the role players that can take our country’s research to new levels.
Doing this is our duty if we want to establish a better, more competitive, more successful South Africa. – Professor Herman van Schalkwyk is North-West University’s rector on its Potchefstroom campus