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Catalytic Research Programme

The second profound way in which the NIHSS creates value is by dynamising the fields of research and teaching in the HSS through a range of Catalytic Research Projects and Humanities Hubs. The NIHSS will establish Catalytic Research Projects and Humanities Hubs by 2020.

The main objective of the Institute’s Catalytic Research Projects (CRP) programme is to provide services to the higher education sphere within the humanities and social sciences. This includes, but is not limited to, advancing learning within the Institute’s scope and application by ensuring collaboration and coordination with the work of higher education. The CRP programme is based on the concept of collaborative research programmes founded on an existing knowledge base and expertise. The cornerstone of any Catalytic Research Project is that research project leaders demonstrate collaboration with national and international researchers (experts) in their area of research. Projects funded under the CRP engage in research in areas that are largely unexplored, such as pre-1652 historiography, sources of creativity, popular education, post-conflict and reconstruction, indigenous languages, the humanities concept formation, lineages of knowledge production in the HSS, hidden voices, and socio-economic alternatives. CRP research must identify the gaps that are located at the heart of the struggles around contested spaces of heritage, history, languages and culture.

The aim of the NIHSS CRP is therefore to:

  • Invite proposals from researchers to conduct coherent, collaborative research programmes that involve a network of researchers in humanities and social sciences study areas that have been approved;
  • Fund projects and provide resources to encourage the recognition and advancement of the role and contribution of the humanities and social sciences; 
  • Encourage transformative relevance by demonstrating significant transformation in the humanities and social sciences, by applying the principle that any CRP research must open new areas of research in the humanities and social sciences, which will have a multiplier effect on future research projects and which holds serious transformative implications for the curriculum in the HSS; 
  • Encourage the use of networks and resources to dynamise fields of scholarship that are under researched and are of importance to nationbuilding and knowledge production; and 
  • Build capacity by offering training and funding opportunities to postgraduate students (Honours and Masters levels).

Specifically, Catalytic Research Projects:

  • Mirror priorities in the bigger plan for the revitalisation of HSS research; and
  • Are targeted interventions with the objective of intervening deliberately to restructure research patterns, challenge dominant social assumptions that influence social, political and economic  institutions, and produce new HSS knowledge. It is not only a matter of injecting funding and resources into scholarship; it is also important to shift debates and ideas towards alternative paradigms and new theory formulation:
  • Demonstrate significant potential for a meaningful response to socio-economic problems that face South Africa and its citizens today.

Catalytic Research Projects include elements of community outreach, allowing academics to play a role as public intellectuals:

  • Advance a broad crosssection of research in uncharted territory.

Digital humanities serve as an example of such a new research area:

  • Have direct implications for curriculum development and transformation in training; and
  • Connect to other strategic priorities within the public, non-profit, and private sectors, thereby creating a broad base of stakeholders and support to promote successful implementation.