SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory

Developing Research Culture in Historically Black Institutions (HBIs)

One of the highest priorities of the SALT Educational Empowerment agenda is to enhance interest in science, engineering and technology in Historically Black Universities and Technikons. These institutions come from a historical trajectory that never encouraged, and in some cases actively discouraged, the performance of research. The need to expand the national education and training base necessitates fairly rapid advances in transforming these institutions into centres for advanced training. The required advances in the economic status of South Africa are keyed to increased education and training in science, engineering and key technologies, and these historically disadvantaged institutions have to be empowered to play their part.

Specific elements in the empowerment of these historically disadvantaged institutions include:

  • Active recruitment of students from HBIs to the SAAO Summer School in Astronomy and to the SAAO Postgraduate Programme.
  • Appoint HBI Liaison person to SALT Project Team with the specific goal of being responsible for developing interactions between HBIs and SALT/SAAO.
  • SAAO staff will visit HBIs to provide presentations on SALT/SAAO and astronomy, to hold discussions with university staff/students, and to discuss research and technology projects which can be undertaken.
  • Establish selective National Research Foundation (NRF) research grants to ensure maximum usage of the SALT and SAAO as a National Facility by HBIs.
  • To fund a professorship in astronomy at a Historically Black University (HBU) with a strong physics department. This position could be funded by the research grant-funding division of the National Research Foundation. HBUs would then be invited to bid for this professorship. The bids would be required to state convincingly the university's commitment to this development.
  • Participation in the SALT engineering team for personnel from HBIs. The departments from which these personnel are selected, could participate in engineering development of one or more SALT subsystems.

Payoffs:

  • The development of a research and engineering culture in selected fields at some HBIs
  • Increasing the number of scientists and engineers participating in the building and use of SALT and SAAO
  • Making SALT accessible to a wider community in South Africa
  • Long term spin-offs into other research areas through the achievement of research success in astronomy at an HBI.