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Rhodes University Research Report 2009
Magazines | Education 2011-04-11 14:52:14
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    Research Report 2009

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    table of contents Foreword from the Vice-Chancellor - Dr Saleem Badat Introduction from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: 5 Research and Development - Dr Peter Clayton 7 The Vice-Chancellor's Research Awards - Remarkable young scholar honoured for her research in African Art Professor Ruth Simbao 8 - Second Distinguished Research Award for Top Scientist Professor William Froneman 12 - Distinguished Researcher Medal for leading literary scholar Professor Laurence Wright 16 - Book Award winner offers a fresh perspective on violence Professor Leonhard Praeg 20 A few snapshots of Research at Rhodes - Theoretical research into iconospheric models has significant real world impact 24 - In conversation with Professor Tebello Nyokong's students 28 - BioBRU launches and soars 32 - Biodiversity high on the Rhodes research agenda 36 - Adolescent sexual and reproductive health research 40 Top Researchers: Acknowledgements 44 Publications from the Vice Chancellorate 45 Departmental Index Accounting 47 Anthropology 51 Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology 57 Botany 69 Chemistry 77 Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching & Learning (CHERTL) 91 Computer Science 97 Drama 107 Economics 113 Education 119 Electron Microscopy Unit 129 English 131 English Language and Linguistics 135 Environmental Biotechnology 139 Environmental Science 143 Fine Art 149 Geography 157 Geology 165

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    History 173 Human Kinetics and Ergonomics 177 Ichthyology and Fiheries Science 183 Information Systems 191 Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA) 197 Institute for Water Research (IWR) 203 Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) 209 Journalism and Media Studies 215 Law 225 Library Services 231 Management 235 Mathematics 241 Music and International Library of African Music (ILAM) 245 Pharmacy 253 Philosophy 263 Physics 269 Political and International Studies 277 Psychology 285 Rhodes Investec Business School 291 Rhodes University Maths Education Programme (RUMEP) 295 School of Languages 299 Sociology 307 Statistics 311 Zoology and Entomology 315

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    learning elevated Dr Saleem Badat Vice-Chancellor, in the new Library.

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    foreword Rhodes University principally exists to serve three fundamental purposes. The first is to produce knowledge, so that we can advance understanding of our natural and social worlds and enrich our accumulated scientific and cultural heritage. This means that we "test the inherited knowledge of earlier generations", we dismantle the mumbo jumbo that masquerades for knowledge, we "reinvigorate" knowledge and we share our findings with others. We undertake research into the most arcane and abstract issues and the "most theoretical and intractable uncertainties of knowledge". At the same time we also strive to apply our discoveries for the benefit of humankind. We "operate on both the short and the long horizon". On the one hand, we grapple with urgent and "contemporary problems" and seek solutions to these. On the other hand, we "forage" into issues and undertake enquiries "that may not appear immediately relevant to others, but have the proven potential to yield great future benefit". 1 As a university our second purpose is to disseminate knowledge and to cultivate minds. Our goal is to ensure that our students can think imaginatively, "effectively and critically"; that they "achieve depth in some field of knowledge"; that they can critique and construct alternatives, that they can communicate cogently, orally and in writing, and that they have a "critical appreciation of the ways in which we gain knowledge and understanding of the universe, of society, and of ourselves". At the same time, we also seek that our students should have "a broad knowledge of other cultures and other times"; should be "able to make decisions based on reference to the wider world and to the historical forces that have shaped it", and that they should have "some understanding of and experience in thinking systematically about moral and ethical problems". 2 Our final purpose as a university is to undertake community engagement. On the one hand this involves our students' voluntary participation in community projects undertaken through our Community Engagement office. On the other hand, it involves service-learning, in which through academic courses our students and academics take part "in activities where both the community" and we benefit, "and where the goals are to provide a service to the community and, equally, to enhance our learning through rendering this service". 3 This report outlines primarily the knowledge production achievements of the University for 2009, although the other purposes are inherently intertwined with this one. I take pride in hearing Rhodes referred to as a University of Scholars, a reputation which is strengthened by our position as one of the institutions with the highest per capita research output in South Africa. 1 Boulton, G and Lucas, C. (2008) What are Universities For? Leuven: League of European research Universities 2 The Task Force on Higher Education and Society (2000) Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise. Washington: The World Bank 3 Council on Higher Education (2006) A Good Practice Guide and Self-evaluation Instruments for Managing the Quality of Service-Learning. Pretoria: Council on Higher Education/Joint Education Trust Rhodes University | Research Report 2009 05

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    Many of Rhodes University's academics, departments, institutes, centres, and units are at the leading edge of research, and are actively advancing knowledge in a range of disciplines and fields. Our women researchers did especially well in 2009 in terms of external recognition. Prof Tebello Nyokong is often deservedly in the national and international media, as the well-recognized DST/NRF Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Nanotechnology at Rhodes University, and Director of the DST/Mintek Nanotechnology Innovation Centre (Sensors). What she has achieved is quite extraordinary. In May 2009 in Paris, Professor Nyokong was honoured as UNESCO-L'Oreal Laureate for 2009 - Africa and the Arab States, for her contributions to harnessing light for cancer therapy and for environmental clean-up. This was a fitting tribute to a woman who has given so much to the production and dissemination of knowledge, and to the public application and understanding of her work. Later in the year, she was named the Most Influential Woman in Education and Training as part of CEO Communication's Most Influential Women in business and government (MIW) awards. Soon after, she received the inaugural NRF President's award of Champion in Transformation in Research. The year ended with a motion being passed and recorded in the National Assembly congratulating Prof. Nyokong on her achievements. At the DST Woman in Science Awards in August 2009, Dr Michelle Cox of the Institute for Social and Economic Research was joint winner of the Achiever Award for a Woman Researcher in the area of Indigenous Knowledge, and the runner-up in the Best Young Women Scientist Award category was Dr Kim Bernard, an outstanding young Marine Biologist. In September 2009 at a ceremony at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, a Space Physicist attached to Rhodes and working at the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory, was 06 Rhodes University | Research Report 2009 awarded the African Union's Science, Technology and Innovation Sector Prize for Women in the Southern African Region. For the national and international impact of their scholarly activities over a sustained period, the winners of the Vice-Chancellor's Distinguished Senior Research Award for 2009 were Professor William Froneman of the Department of Zoology & Entomology and Professor Laurence Wright, of the Institute for the Study of English in Africa. The Vice- Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award (40 and below in age) for 2009 was awarded to Dr Ruth Simbao of the Department of Fine Art, for the international acknowledgement of her work to date. The recipient of the Vice- Chancellor's Book Award for 2009 was Dr Leonhard Praeg of the Department of Political and International Studies for The Geometry of Violence (SUN Press, 2007).Rhodes postgraduate students continue to excel in winning prestigious international and local scholarships, including the Rhodes (Oxford), Mandela Rhodes, Flanagan, Commonwealth, and Fulbright. A new position of Director: Research Office was established in 2009 to enhance the quality of coordination and support to researchers and research partners. The university was fortunate in attracting Ms Jaine Roberts to this position, who came with a strong track record of research management in the health sector, as well as extensive experience in Journalism and Social Development. I extend my congratulations to all our researchers for making 2009 a year in which research at Rhodes University continued to flourish. Your expertise, rigour and dedication make Rhodes University the vibrant, rich and distinctive intellectual space that it is. I also thank all our collaborators, donors, partners and supporters for their generosity in facilitating our research endeavours. Dr Saleem Badat Vice-Chancellor

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    introduction Rhodes University maintained and improved its track record of research performance in 2009, a very pleasing trend given that it came directly after a large increase of accredited publication outputs in 2008 of 20.3%, and a flattening of the growth curve was expected. The increase in accredited publication units for 2009 of 6.4% (from 330.02 units to 350.99 units) is closer to the growth rate for the sector as a whole. This continued increase in research publications was achieved against the backdrop of substantial financial constraints and changes in the funding programmes of the National Research Foundation, a primary source of funding for researchers at Rhodes, which produced significant discontinuities in funding for several established researchers. Our journal output, (which accounts for 86% of our total accredited publishing output for higher education subsidy purposes) grew by 5.1% from 2008 to 2009 (from 287.82 units to 302.64 units). The previous year's growth was 11.3% in this category. Coupled with Rhodes's high volume of accredited journal outputs in relation to its size, a very pleasing quality measure was that 81.6% of Journal outputs (amongst the highest proportions in the sector) appeared in international accredited journals. Our output from accredited conference proceedings, (which in 2009 amounted to 7% of our total accredited publishing output) shrunk by 27.5% (from 33.22 units down to 24.07 units) from 2008 to 2009 - but from a small base where more year-on-year variance can be expected. This category had grown by 202% in the preceding year, so the 2009 reduction cannot be taken to represent a trend. The book outputs (which in 2009 amounted to 7% of our total accredited publishing output) increased by 170% - again from a very small base (from 8.89 units up to 24.28 units), where year-on-year variance is expected. This category had grown by 91% in the previous year, but had seen a negative growth of 83% in the year before that. The 2009 growth in this category is a combination of increased submissions, and an improved acceptance rate. The staff responsible for this process in the Research Office, and the researchers who made the submissions, are to be warmly congratulated. I add my warm thanks and congratulations to all of our researchers, funders, collaborators and partners who contributed to the excellent research results of 2009. Dr Peter Clayton Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Development Rhodes University | Research Report 2009 07

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    Professor Ruth Simbao Photo Credit: Harris Steinman 'Remarkable young scholar' honoured for her research in African Art Professor Ruth Simbao has me intrigued long before I walk up to the impressive wooden doors of the Fine Arts Department and ring the doorbell. The resumé of this worthy recipient of the Vice Chancellor's Distinguished Researcher Award reflects a level of productivity and success that many academics would be happy to have achieved in a lifetime. With three international Masters degrees (one from Harvard, and two from ICS in Toronto) and a doctoral degree from Harvard, Ruth Simbao is more than suitably qualified for her current position as Associate Professor of African Art History and Visual Culture. Rhodes University | Research Report 2009

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    I note that she has studied, taught, and held curatorial positions in the USA, Canada, and Southern Africa, including a curatorial internship at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and a Research Fellowship at the National Gallery of Canada. She has also worked as a freelance art critic, writing for both local and international publications. Locally her criticism has been voted Best Art Writing by the online magazine Artthrob for two consecutive years. I peruse the substantial list of her research outputs. She is a productive researcher who contributes regularly to African Arts, the leading US African Art Journal published by MIT Press, and she has published several chapters in international books and exhibition catalogues. Her work has been translated into Portuguese, Spanish, and Danish and she has presented her work at numerous conferences around the world. These, along with her many other achievements and accolades, sketch a profile of a serious and committed academic. One does not come to be called 'a remarkable young scholar', 'a superb interpreter of visual texts' with a 'masterful knowledge of their African contexts' or an 'outstanding candidate' for a research award without exceptionally dedicated and rigorous engagement with one's field. In conversation with Professor Simbao this impression is confirmed but I also discover that her creative scholarship is firmly rooted in an irreverence that simply refuses to take all this seriousness too seriously. There are several facets to Profesor Simbao's 'irreverence' as a researcher. The first relates to fieldwork. During the course of her PhD studies, Professor Simbao spent significant periods of time 'in the field', believing that it was necessary to experience what was happening 'on the ground in Africa'. For several years she travelled the length and breadth of Zambia, witnessing, studying and sometimes participating in annual cultural festivals. During this time Professor Simbao nurtured an attitude of openness to the unexpected and surprising; tuning in to those moments of subversion (potential or actual) that would usually be overlooked and reflecting on the meaning and implications of the exceptions to the rule of tradition. 'Irreverent research is about tuning in to moments of subversion that are often buried in humour, cloaked in metaphor or protected in performance so that those who allow themselves to be surprised will be able to read between the lines'. Irreverence has also informed Professor Simbao's broader theoretical approach to the role of tradition and place in cultural/artistic expression. It has Simbao regularly grappling with scholarly trends and ideas and asking difficult questions. A colleague describes Professor Simbao as being "mindful of tradition while working at the cutting edge of criticism" while she herself explains: 'It is about sometimes going against the grain due to conviction, not routine'. It is irreverence too, which informs her fascination with performance. While a cultural artifact on display in a museum can largely be interpreted in the light of its static physical properties, when it is used in the performance of ritual or ceremony it is open to a much more Rhodes University | Research Report 2009 09

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