The CEO Notes

Reconfiguring the HSRC

Over the past twelve months the HSRC executive team and I have considered and discussed how best the organisation should be reconfigured to better align its research thrusts with national priorities as spelled out in policy statements by the President, the government's Medium Term Strategic Framework for the period 2009-2014, and the national Ten-Year Innovation Plan.

The HSRC has grown significantly over the past ten years and one of our objectives has been to ensure that the reconfiguration leads to clear distinctions between portfolios and reduced duplication among research programmes.

The new structure is an institutional response to the wishes and directions of the HSRC Board and parallels the introduction of  

the new financial model, which will allow researchers more time for reflection and publishing. It allows us to build on existing research expertise, consolidate areas of excellence that were scattered across various research programmes, and develop niche areas of research and research dissemination.

With respect to the six new research programmes, they will all be incorporating the following into their research:

  • a multi-disciplinary approach;
  • diversity (gender, class, race, ethnicity, etc.);
  • a focus on basic (theoretically founded) and applied research;
  • insights from the humanities;
  • attention to monitoring and evaluation; and
  • an emphasis on developing new methodologies to advance social and human sciences.

The six new research programmes that have been established at the HSRC are:

  1. Education and Skills Development;
  2. Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation;
  3. Economic Performance and Development;
  4. Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery;
  5. Human and Social Development; and
  6. HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB.

This restructuring of the programmes introduces a specific focus on health systems; gives attention to the social and environmental determinants of health; and broadens our research on economic issues to include the macroeconomic dynamics of structural change and developmental social policy. It gives more emphasis to issues of crime, corruption and violence; and introduces a new programme of work on social movements and tuberculosis.

In summary we are fine-tuning the focus and expanding the remit of the research programmes that have been the drivers of the HSRC's growth and success over the past ten years.

On behalf of the HSRC and in my own right I extend sincere gratitude to the executive directors of the various research programmes. They have lived up to their reputations as internationally recognised and productive scientists; as visionary, entrepreneurial, and dedicated leaders; and as accomplished managers of research teams working on policy and community-relevant projects. They possess a set of competencies that are rare and much sought after.

I would like to thank particularly the outgoing executive directors:

  • Dr Anil Kanjee for the very good work he has done in various areas, especially in establishing the Centre for Quality Education. After an extended stint at the HSRC he is leaving to pursue other opportunities;
  • Professor Linda Richter, who has led numerous large-scale and path-breaking research projects in the previous Children, Youth, Families, and Social Development (CYFSD) programme, will apply her excellent skills as a distinguished research fellow, mentoring researchers but also continuing with large-scale research projects and help with science communication;
  • Dr Miriam Altman, whose innovative work on employment scenarios has had a big impact on policy debates in our country, whose contract will expire soon and will be appointed as a distinguished research fellow, leading a team in support of monitoring and evaluation in the National Planning Commission in the Presidency.

As part of the restructuring we have also consolidated work in various areas into a new unit called Research Use and Impact Assessment. The unit will improve data curation, map and work to enhance research uptake, expand the organisation's research dissemination, enhance our utilisation of new media, and work together with the HSRC Press to increase its reach. This unit will lead the expansion of the HSRC's portfolio of work in impact assessment.

The following executive directors will be leading the new research programmes and units:

  • Dr Udesh Pillay - Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery;
  • Dr Temba Masilela - Research Use and Impact Assessment;
  • Dr Vijay Reddy - Education and Skills Development;
  • Prof Demetré Labadarios - Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation;
  • Prof Leickness Simbayi - HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB; and
  • Prof Arvin Bhana - Human and Social Development (acting).

The top management structure has also been bolstered in order to introduce a more workable span of control, ensuring greater efficiency and effectiveness, and enabling a greater focus on staff development and researcher training.

We will now have two deputy CEOs - one for research and one for operations and capacity enhancement. This will enable the office of the CEO to strengthen its focus on strategic initiatives as detailed in the strategic plan and on longer- term imperatives and prospects.

A noteworthy feature of our restructuring has been the engagement with staff and the trade union at the HSRC. On behalf of the executive team I express our appreciation of the way in which our staff has embraced the restructuring and our collective commitment to human and social sciences that make a difference.

We are confident that we are now better able to address the priorities of our country.