The UP Research Review 2015 presents under five themes a selection of research ranging across disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, natural and agricultural sciences to engineering, health and veterinary sciences. Five themes were chosen for this Review: Society, Health, Environment, Resources and Identity. This approach allows us to illustrate new dimensions to research and its alignment with the needs of the society that the University strives to serve.
The first thematic area relates to UP’s identity and location in Africa − from the focus on Future Africa, one of the University’s programmes that targets mid-career academics in Africa, to the work of an internationally acclaimed artist whose creative output captures ‘land as material and metaphor’: Africa Matters—Art Matters—Earth Matters. Between these two ‘bookends’ are matters of science diplomacy, big data science, law, economics and the design of regenerative systems towards building a sustainable future.
Each theme similarly casts the spotlight on challenges being addressed through research and innovation. The second thematic focus on health covers lifestyle interventions and the study of non-communicable diseases, food security, and several other research foci − all related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Goal 3, in particular: ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’. This theme brings to the fore the critical connection among people, animals, organisms and the environment.
We then turn to the environment to cover a broad range of research undertaken in exceptional contexts, beginning with ecology in a changing world, to studies in extreme environments, and bringing to the fore the link between organism and environmental change in the Age of the Anthropocene.
The fourth theme on resources highlights examples of complex and extensively networked research programmes at UP that seek to find solutions to some of the intractable problems we face regionally and globally related to plants, forests and sustainable livelihoods.
The fifth and final theme on identity is befitting of the contested spaces within higher education in South Africa in this contemporary era of transformation. The introductory research profiled on the craft of biographers concludes, ‘You only know where exactly it is that you are bound for once you understand where you are – and you can only know that once you appreciate fully the path already travelled’.
The final section of the Review showcases our A-rated scientists, outstanding research awards, and the many research chairs, institutes, centres and units that constitute a critical mass of research excellence. As a public institution, we take pride in this conscious alignment between the questions and problems that inspire researchers and the contextual realities that demand resolution − therefore also the importance of the claim at UP that Research Matters. Research is at the heart of the institutional mission and it is central to positioning the University of Pretoria as a flagship institution in Africa committed to developing people, creating knowledge and finding answers to solve the challenges of our times.