|A Pulse Study on the State of Water Research and Development in South Africa
|Expanded Title:||This document has been prepared on the request of the Water Research Commission in order to inform “The Pulse Study on the State of Water R&D in South Africa”. This study will be the first attempt to obtain a quantitative account of key R&D trends in the sector.
The section “Science Indicators Systems: Rational and Review” elaborates on the uses of systems of indicators (mainly for policy assistance) and their characteristics. It is suggested that indicators should reflect their purpose and the ways of intended usage and they should be useful for inter-temporal analysis and compatible with similar indicators abroad. The latter two prerequisites assure trend
analysis and international benchmarking.
The following chapter “OECD Recommended S,T&I Indicators” provides information related to the OECD recommendations about the development of indicators. Furthermore, the chapter refers to the OECD manuals which are used internationally for the development of monitoring and assessment indicators. Reference is also made to “IEA Guide to Reporting Energy RD&D Budget/Expenditure Statistics” (2011) by the International Energy Agency. The latter is of interest as it is a manual providing definitions and guidelines for the collection of R&D expenditure data in another multidisciplinary research field, the field of energy.
The chapter “Indicators for Water Research Monitoring and Assessment” elaborates in more detail about the indicators which can be used as the basis for a water research system of indicators. Bibliometric indicators are identified as being able to provide valuable inputs in the monitoring of research fields. They can provide information about the evolution of a field over time; comparisons of the performance of particular discipline in various countries; identify prolific researchers and institutions and so on. Similarly for technological fields, patents can provide useful information. Other indicators of importance are the expenditures on R&D in the particular field and the growth or otherwise in the number of post-graduate students (Masters and PhDs) with focus in the scientific field
It is argued that monitoring and assessment of the field of “water research” faces particular challenges arising mainly from the fact that water research is not a coherent, well defined field of research. The chapter “Bibliometric Analysis” provides quantitative information related to water research publications in South Africa. The analysis identifies that the field is performing above expectation in comparison with the country’s research size (activity index). It is argued that this performance is the result of the existence of a dedicated agency for the support of the field in the country – the Water Research Commission.
South Africa’s water research is ranked 19th in the world while the total country is ranked 33rd . It should be noted however, that a number of countries with smaller populations like Canada and Australia and smaller GDP per capita like India and Brazil produce more relevant knowledge than South Africa.
Identification of the country’s producers of research in the field shows that the country’s research is distributed to a variety of centres creating subcritical groups. Environmental sciences are identified as the most important sub-discipline in the field of water
resources. Certain disciplines that may be of importance for the field e.g. economics, management,
energy, etc. attract little research.
The following chapter “Patent Analysis” identifies the country’s performance in terms of patents
granted to South African inventors in the field of water by the USPTO. It is identified that South Africa
is producing more inventions in the field of water than the comparator countries proportionally (i.e.
number of patents in water as a proportion of total patents granted in the country). However, it is
emphasized that South Africa is granted a very small number of patents in general from the USPTO.
The final chapter “Discussion and Recommendations” elaborates on the findings and advances the
• The focus support by the WRC is argued to be to a large extent the driving force behind the
success of water related research in South Africa. Government can use the WRC success as
an example for implementation and institutionalization of R&D in other areas of national
• The identified distributed character of water research in the country, even though a national
characteristic, may affect adversely productivity and economies of scale in the field. It will be
important for WRC to examine the issue further and take appropriate action (e.g. establish
centers of expertise with critical mass of researchers in focus areas).
• The disciplinary emphasis of the country’s institutions indicates that researchers move on
their own to specific scientific areas without any particular guidance or cognizance of
priorities/diversification. It will be important for WRC to identify research priorities through
appropriate approaches (e.g. foresight) and allocate resources accordingly to promising
areas. Such an approach will focus resources (human and financial) to areas of importance
and has the potential to bring research closer to application.
• Monitoring and evaluating the various facets of the scientific enterprise is a necessary and
integral part of science policy. The “Pulse Study” on the State of Water R&D in South Africa is
the first attempt to obtain an account of key trends in the sector. Following international best
practice it is recommended that the effort should be institutionalized with a relevant report
produced every two years. The experience of the National Science Foundation in the USA
could be used as a guideline.
• The report identifies two sets of additional indicators that should be developed and be
included in the “Pulse study”. The first set of indicators, of importance for disciplinary assessment, is the R&D expenditures. It is emphasised that it will be of importance for the
field and the WRC to develop an appropriate methodology based on the GBAOARD approach
of the Frascati manual and collect and publish the relevant data regularly. The information
has the potential to identify government research priorities in the field of energy and guide
research inputs to appropriate fields. The second set of data is related to human resources
development. It is important to monitor the number and direction of post-graduate students
(masters and PhDs) in the field of water research. The WRC should undertake the inclusion
of such information in the “Pulse Study”.
|Document Type:||Research Report
|Document Subjects:||R & D - Information technology
|Document File Type:||pdf
|Research Report Type:||Standard
|WRC Report No:||2199/1/12
|Organizations:||Institute for Technological Innovation,University of Pretoria
|Document Size:||619 KB