From a junior lecture at North West University (NWU) to the Head of Research and Postgraduate Studies in the Deanery of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) at Unisa, Professor Elizabeth Kempen is determined to make research management worthwhile. She is the winner of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)-Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA) Distinguished Contribution to Research Management award, announced at the SARIMA Conference, which was held virtually in early August.
The award is presented to recognise leaders beyond their organisation for their broad contribution to the research and innovation management profession over a number of years. The category is also about recognising those who have been in research management for more than seven years, and who were able to provide tangible evidence of the contribution they have made to their organisations with specific reference to interventions or initiatives undertaken in 2019. Among others, it focuses on contributions to the development of the profession, service on forums or committees, as well as evidence of mentorship and guidance provided within the research management context.
Even though it was announced virtually, the moment was special to Kempen and she admits that it was a nerve-wracking experience as SARIMA hosts many distinguished academics and professional management experts from whom she is still learning. She is grateful to her husband for the support that he has been showing her. For her, what qualifies a researcher to win such an award is a mixture of ambition and dedication to one’s appointed position and the reason why a researcher is in research management. She further added that being different is not always easy, but getting things right and improving situations makes research management worthwhile.
“The recognition from an external body such as SARIMA in relation to the research management function and the role I fulfil within the college means a great deal to me. I am constantly challenged within Unisa and the college to develop, design, and solve current problems, which I hope will improve the research-related management systems and processes. In my current position, it is difficult to assess whether what you implement is enough or meaningful, which makes an award like this a sweet experience to be able to say that maybe what I have done until now could be considered useful and recognised as such,” expressed Kempen.
She advises upcoming researchers who are interested in research management to do the small things to the very best of their ability, with enthusiasm and passion. She believes in that way bigger and more challenging experiences will come their way. Kempen reiterated that they must never shy away from the challenges, no matter how big, small or difficult they may be, but to slowly chip away at a solution that may not be recognised today, but some day will count in their favour.
*By Nancy Legodi, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement