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South Africa launches support hubs for emerging researchers

Image: Mapaballo Borotho


One of the initiatives is a matchmaking space where young academics can find mentors

Universities South Africa (USAf) and the country’s government launched two free online initiatives on 18 May to support emerging researchers in public universities.

The platforms, named Thuso Connect and Thuso Resources respectively, are part of the Department of Science and Innovation’s programme to advance early career researchers and scholars.

The aim is to overcome the challenges faced by emerging researchers in the country, which include difficulties finding mentors and accessing support structures, according to a 2018 USAf report.

A Tinder for science

Thuso Connect is a virtual meeting place where emerging researchers can connect with experienced mentors.

Olebogeng Selebi, deputy director of the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Future of Work, who attended the launch, called it a “Tinder” for academics. “I always compare these platforms to Tinder, but instead of a date you get a mentor,” she said.

The second platform, Thuso Resources, is an online repository of information resources and programmes designed to support emerging researchers. The information it holds includes advice on research publishing, as well as funding applications.

Addressing the launch, Leandra Jordaan, project researcher for both platforms, said that as far as she and her team know, this is a “unique” project. “We have not yet found a country that has implemented a nationwide mentorship programme for academics and researchers,” she said.

Jordaan said that traditional mentorship programmes fail because emerging researchers do not know how to be mentees, while their mentors do not necessarily know how to share information. “The programme will help with that; mentees will get guided on how to ask proper questions and how to set goals to succeed in this programme,” she said.

The project’s director, Stephanie Burton, said the success of Thuso Connect will depend on established researchers registering on the platform.