Prof Ayo-Yusuf’s recent ranking as a National Research Foundation’s (NRF) B3 rated scientist is a treasured milestone in his career as a researcher. But, he is quick to point out the ranking comes with huge responsibilities and expectations for him to usher in a turnaround in so far as research at SMU is concerned. Top on his priority list is to create an enabling environment for more researchers to flourish and aspire to become NRF-rated researchers, in their own right.

As the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) for Research, Postgraduate Studies and Innovation, these huge responsibilities demand of him to make sacrifices which involves burning the midnight oil, a commitment only a handful of researchers commit to.

NRF research ranking system seeks to bring about a globally competitive science system in South Africa (SA). It is a valuable tool for benchmarking the quality of SA’s researchers against the best researchers in the world. These researchers are rated in accordance with their recent research outputs and how its impact is viewed by international peers. Ratings spur on the researchers to publish high quality outputs in high impact journals/outlets. Rated researchers are expected to act as supervisors for upcoming researchers and transfer cutting edge research skills to them. Research outputs over an 8-year period is sent out to a number of world leading researchers in the same field to evaluate their quality and impact.

The categories of the rating system is as follows:

A: Denotes a leading international scholar

B: Internationally recognised researcher

C: Established Researcher

P: Promising young researcher (under 35 years) with leadership potential based on doctoral outputs

Y: Young Researcher (40 years or younger) with potential to become established researcher or leader

Currently, the SMU has six NRF-rated Scientists, namely Professors Ayo-Yusuf (B3), Anna Oelette (C2), Rose Burnett (C3), Mapaseka Seheri (C3), Liuvu Feller (C3) and most recently Dr Setumo Motloung (Y2). Delighted that this figure represents progress, Prof Ayo-Yusuf’s vison is to quantum leap SMU’s research output and its impact. The strategy to achieve that is to focus, for the next five years, on the quality and impact of our research. This will entail a gradual move away from only focusing on quantity of our output to providing financial incentives for quality research and innovation.

This strategy is based on three central pillars, namely developing research capacity of the postgraduate students and academic staff, conducting innovative quality research with integrity and, lastly, encouraging researchers to conduct research that not only positively impact on the lives of people and communities, but also goes a long way to contribute towards the knowledge economy, in line with the National Development Plan (NDP).