Two Pietermaritzburg-based scientists are the Top Published Researchers for 2011 at UKZN.

Professor Johannes van Staden, Head of the Research Centre for Plant Growth and Development, and Professor Colleen Downs of the School of Life Sciences, achieved the prestigious status through producing the highest number of articles published in accredited peer-reviewed journals.

The announcement was made at the Annual Research Awards and the launch of the Annual Research Report 2011 held at the Elangeni Hotel on November 29.

Van Staden - the Top Published UKZN researcher overall - had up to the end of last year authored or co-authored a total of 1 110 papers which have been published in accredited journals. For the past decade he has been in the top 0,5 percent of authors most cited worldwide.

He works in a variety of areas in Plant Sciences/Botany but specifically in the fields of plant hormones, seed germination, senescence, stress physiology, post-harvest physiology, biotechnology, and plant tissue culture, ethnobotany, secondary products and ethnomedicine.

The recipient of numerous awards and prizes in his field, van Staden is the Editor-in-Chief for the SA Journal of Botany and Plant Growth Regulation and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Downs, the Top Published Woman researcher, has made an important contribution to understanding the relationships between the physiology, behaviour, and ecology of southern African terrestrial vertebrates, especially leopard tortoises, Nile crocodiles, various types of birds and small mammals.

Of her 158 peer review published papers up to the beginning of 2012, about 45 percent relate to  aspects of vertebrate ecology and conservation; about  25 percent  to vertebrate dietary aspects especially frugivory and nectarivory; about 25 percent  to aspects of vertebrate thermal biology, including thermoregulation, behaviour and coping with accelerated climate change; and about 5 percent to science education.

President of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), Dr Allan Bernstein, who was the guest speaker at the awards ceremony, spoke about the importance of research for humanity at large and the profound changes in Biology. 

He said science has become global with people collaborating with others around the world. He added that the challenges in science require scientists around the world to work together.

Bernstein congratulated UKZN for celebrating their researchers and encouraged African scholars to play a role in local research.

The Research Report revealed that UKZN had made significant strides in research productivity and research capacity building endeavours during 2011.  Both the research output and the number of publishing staff continued to rise.

The total number of research productivity units increased by 12 percent from 79 127 units in 2010 to 88 727 last year while the proportion of publishing staff increased from 73 percent to 81 percent. 

An analysis of the profile of publishing staff showed an increased participation by women and Black researchers and that the majority of the researchers occupying the Top 30 most published positions were under 50.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Professor Nelson Ijumba, said the results showed that "young and transformed" researchers were beginning to make a significant contribution to UKZN's high level of knowledge production and research excellence. ‘The broadening of the base of publishing staff and the increasing participation of women and Black researchers are the result of several capacity-building initiatives introduced by the University,’ said Ijumba.

The report says that UKZN produced 1 152 units of journal publications which was the second highest of the 23 universities in South Africa and about 12 percent higher than the 2010 output. In terms of weighted research publications, UKZN's output of 1 250 units was the third highest in the country and comprised about 11,2 percent of the national total.

The per capita research output at UKZN exceeded the national norm of 1.25 weighted output by 19 percent (18 percent in 2010).

The report also showed that the number of researchers with a National Research Foundation rating increased from 204 in 2010 to 213 in 2011.

A total of R261 million was received for research grants and contracts compared to R210 million in 2010.  In addition, UKZN received a total of R61,6 million through various National Research Foundation funded programmes.

Professor Michael Chimonyo, received the Vice-Chancellor's Research Award which recognises excellence in research by young scientists.

UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Malegapuru Makgoba was recognised for receiving the South African – German Science Award.

Professor Bill Bishai, Professor Linda Richter, Professor Patricia Berjak, Professor Rob Gous and Professor Michael Chapman were announced as NRF A-Rated researchers. 

Professor Michael Perrin, Professor Henda Swart and Professor Sunil Maharaj were acknowledged for Royal Society Awards, while Professor Nelson Ijumba, Professor Kesh Govinder and Professor Deresh Ramjugernath were awarded for the recognition of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Awards.

The proportion of women research publishers rose from 31,8 percent in 2010 to 40,7 percent in 2011.

Women in Science Awards for 2012 included Professor Relebohile Moletsane being named the DST winner of the Distinguished Women Scientists Social Sciences and Humanities category; and  Professor Sarojini Nadar for her award for being the DST Winner in the Distinguished Young Women Scientists: Social Sciences and Humanities category.

The DST Award for the Development of Rural Women: Emerging Researchers category first runner-up went to Dr Sengeziwe Sibeko while second runner-up was Dr Joyce Chitja.

Ms Prudy Manoko Mashika Seepe and Ms Bongiwe Goodness Ndlovu were the winners for the DST Fellowship for Doctoral Studies category.  Professor Peter Alois Dankelman, Professor Sreekanth Jonnalagadda and Professor Gerald Friedel Ortmann were awarded the UKZN Fellowship in recognition of their distinguished contribution to research.

‘We congratulate all our researchers for their achievements in 2011,’ said Ijumba.  ‘Such accomplishments could not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of all in the research community.’

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