The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

The HSRC’s integrated research programmes provide single points of entry – complete with a critical mass of researchers – for interdisciplinary and problem-orientated research in the following areas:

  • Africa Institute of South Africa
  • Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery
  • Economic Performance and Development
  • Education and Skills Development
  • Human and Social Development
  • Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation
  • Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB.

A cross-cutting entity, Research Use and Impact Assessment, seeks to extend and enhance the use and impact of scientific research from the HSRC and other sources of research; and to manage the HSRC’s relationships, reputation and brand.

The organisation is home to about 500 staff members, all dedicated to support the conducting of 150-200 projects per year on social science and humanities research. Our dedicated professional researchers, located in four provinces, are supported by a strong physical and institutional infrastructure, including technical and support positions, deployed countrywide to enable the organisation to respond efficiently and comprehensively to research needs. To strategically manage all these processes, procedures and research projects the HSRC has appointed two deputy chief executive officers responsible for research and operations.

On another level, the HSRC seeks to serve as a knowledge hub to bridge the gap between research, policy and action, thereby increasing the impact of research. This role is implemented through collaboration with key constituencies, including government and other research organisations, multilateral agencies, universities, and non-governmental, donor and development organisations. These relationships are being strengthened by the fact that many of our leading researchers serve on international scientific bodies.

We also monitor and evaluate policies and programmes providing objective information to assess the country’s progress in achieving its goals. Three examples of these are our contributions to monitor the country’s performance in implementing the South Africa’s national HIV and AIDS strategic plans and policies; assessments of numeracy and literacy in education; and conducting an annual research and development (R&D) survey that informs the national R&D strategy.

We have a strong footprint in other African countries through our affiliation with CODESRIA, participation in SADC and NEPAD, as well as hosting African Research Fellows in the organisation. The HSRC also has a global presence and will be hosting the 2015 World Social Science Forum (WSSF) in Durban, South Africa in September 2015 and has hosted the Gender Summit Africa in April 2015. The WSSF looks at demonstrating the global presence, impact and authority of social sciences. The Council is also a member of the UNESCO High Panel: Science for Development where it looks at strategies for promoting sustainable development and advancing poverty eradication. The HSRC has established a BRICS Research Centre as South Africa continues to play an integral part of the BRICS countries. Since April 2014, the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) has been incorporated into the HSRC.

The Council’s research outputs include reports for users, occasional papers and scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals, books and a news magazine that allows us to improve the public understanding of science. These are disseminated in print through the HSRC Press, through policy briefs aimed at government and policy-makers, and through the media, including social media platforms, our website, conferences and extensive research networks.

The Council has several world-class operational support programmes who are led by the Deputy CEO: Management and Support. The Council’s finance, human resource management, enterprise and risk management, governance, legal and facilities units are well set up to provide good quality support to all research programmes and potential funders of the HSRC. 

For further information contact us via e-mail on: mediaroom@hsrc.ac.za