The Success and Failure of South Africa’s Ten-Year Innovation Plan (2008) as Measured by Research Output
Keywords:bibliometrics, research impact, research specialisation, science policy, activity index
Investment into research is a vital key to positively impacting on society. Research policies are the instruments which prescribe the direction in which the funding flows. This article shows how South African researchers have responded to the Ten-Year Innovation Plan (TYIP) of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), particularly in light of identified areas of specialisation. It discusses the specialisation among the universities in the country. It comments on the problems with metrics relating to research output in an attempt to explain why South Africa has not shown the desired output. The activity index, which shows the relative specialisation of a country or a university, was used as the primary metric to evaluate the effectiveness of the TYIP. Publication counts were drawn from Web of Science. It was found that South Africa fell short of the goal expressed in the TYIP. In areas of specialisation, the five Grand Challenges showed varying changes: from a decrease in “global change science with a focus on climate change” to a significant increase in “human and social dynamics”. Universities in South Africa are shown to be multi-focused in their research. Drawing from the literature, this article provides five possible explanations as to why the output was not at the expected level. The use of the activity index as a tool to evaluate policy does not give a full picture of the impact of research. This article provides suggestions for future policymakers and researchers on the development of a more appropriate method of evaluating research policies.
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