BY: ITWeb, Staff Writer.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and Universities South Africa (USAf) have joined forces to bring to life online platforms – Thuso Connect and Thuso Resources – to support emerging academics and researchers at local public universities.

Unveiled at the CSIR last week, the platforms are part of USAf’s programme: Advancing Early Career Researchers and Scholars (AECRS), which the DSI sponsors.

They are also in response to a 2018 USAf study that identified a number of barriers to the advancement of research careers in academia across the sector.

The Thuso Connect andThuso Resources platforms aim to provide tools, information and mentorship to everyone seeking to grow their research career in higher education, according to USAf.

Thuso Resources is a free online toolkit that features information resources, modules and programmes that have been selectively gathered from various sources, including all public universities, and made available to help build the emerging researchers’ capacity.

Meanwhile, Thuso Connect partners early career academics and researchers with experienced mentors to support them on their academic journey.

USAf CEO Dr Phethiwe Matutu describes the Thuso project as an opportunity for emerging researchers to learn from their established counterparts in other institutions through curated resources.

“The launch of these platforms epitomises USAf’s firm belief in human capacity development and responding to the systemic challenges posing a risk to higher education sustainability,” she says. “This solution will most likely exceed expectations.”

Professor Stephanie Burton, project leader of AECRS, explains that many institutions expressed the need for mentorship of emerging academics.

“This gap had first been identified in two national studies, followed up with extensive interviews and mapping of resources. Now Thuso Connect provides an effective, ethical way of introducing mentors and mentees.

“In the interest of working together collaboratively, to build strengths, South African universities are partnering in sharing instruments, resources and training offerings on an open-access online platform.”

Bheki Hadebe, director: high-end skills at the DSI, notes the ministerial task team had identified the lack of role models and mentors as an impediment against the recruitment, retention and progression of black South African academics.

As a result, the project also aims to increase the number of emerging researchers, particularly black and women researchers, according to Hadebe.

The DSI hopes Thuso Connect will help reduce the gap between historically-disadvantaged institutions and others, in terms of access to mentorship and other necessary resources, he states.

“The systems need to build a solid pipeline of young researchers who will replace ageing, male researchers in real-time through an enabling environment with opportunities for emerging researchers.”

Meanwhile, higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande revealed plans are under way to set up the University of Science and Innovation and the Crime Detection University.

The minister revealed the move while delivering the Department of Higher Education and Training 2023/24 budget vote yesterday.

“We have completed feasibility studies for the establishment of the University of Science and Innovation in Ekurhuleni and the Crime Detection University in Hammanskraal. The new universities should see actual construction in the coming year or two.”


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