The profile of postdoctoral research fellows in South Africa: Trends over the past two decades

Authors

  • Heidi Prozesky 1.DSI/NRF Centre of Excellence in Scientometrics and Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (SciSTIP), Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; 2.Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8091-5830
  • François van Schalkwyk 1.DSI/NRF Centre of Excellence in Scientometrics and Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (SciSTIP), Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; 2.Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1048-0429

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2024/15898

Keywords:

postdoctoral research fellows, secondary analysis, changes over time, higher education sector, demographics

Abstract

The need for evidence on postdoctoral research fellows, or ‘postdocs’, has become increasingly evident globally, as many countries, including South Africa, lack information on these researchers. We used existing sources of quantitative data to provide a longitudinal profile of postdocs at South African public universities. These sources include national research-and-development surveys and data from the national Higher Education Management Information System. Our focus was on postdocs’ representation and research intensity (i.e. time spent on research) within the national research system, as well as on two key demographic features, namely nationality and gender. We draw comparisons with findings reported for other countries to situate our results within the global science system. Interpretation of our results leads us to comment on global and national developments and policies relevant to postdocs.

Significance:

  • This article provides, for the first time, longitudinal, quantitative evidence at the national level about postdocs in South Africa, a category of early-career researcher which has been growing in size and relevance but has remained largely invisible.
  • The findings provide the basis for a critical reflection on current discourses and policies related to postdocs in South Africa.
  • Interpretation of the findings allows us to identify priorities for future research on postdocs in South Africa that would be most useful to inform both national and institutional policy.

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Published

2024-01-30

How to Cite

Prozesky, H., & van Schalkwyk, F. (2024). The profile of postdoctoral research fellows in South Africa: Trends over the past two decades. South African Journal of Science, 120(1/2). https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2024/15898

Issue

Section

Research Article
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