UFH Exec contributes to International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS) Conference

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Ms Tania Holmes-Watts, University of Fort Hare’s Executive Operations Manager in the Research, Partnerships and Innovation (RPI) portfolio is representing the University at the 2023 INORMS conference that is currently underway in Durban.

INORMS was formed in 2001 to bring together research management societies and associations from across the globe, with the aim of enabling interactions, sharing of good practice, and joint activities between the member societies, to the benefit of their individual memberships.

Forty (40) UFH RPI portfolio staff members are registered with the professional body.

This year, the bi-annual conference is being hosted by the Southern African Research Innovation Management Association (SARIMA) under the theme: “Towards a Utopia in Research and Innovation Management”.

Ms Holmes-Watts is a research support professional with 15 years’ work experience within the higher education sector. Her professional journey started at the National Research Foundation and thereafter at a public University of Technology, for over a decade.

She has made significant contributions to the research management profession through her writings, or via the management of grants and/or her participation both at regional, national and international levels. These include her participation within SARIMA, INORMS, South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD), European Commission, HERS-SA, and Communities of Practice, among many others.

At the conference, Ms Holmes-Watts contributed to a poster exhibition that is based on her doctoral research conducted at Stellenbosch University and her immense practitioner experience in research management. 

Her contribution centers around a research management intervention in response to a crisis in the higher education sector and is aimed at introducing the power dynamic, a model designed to improve research performance within the public university sector.

Contextualizing the problem, Ms Holmes-Watts and co-author, Mr Sidney Engelbrecht, Senior Research Compliance Specialist at Stellenbosch University, state that: “The public University sector in South Africa is mandated by government to produce and advance research to the benefit of society. However, in vast areas of this sector a continuous hail of allegations relating to maladministration, mismanagement and corruption, poor governance, leadership challenges, differentiated and poor research performance, in and among institutions, have become the order of the day.”

The authors put emphasis on the mandatory role of research management professionals (RMPs) in offering solutions in response to challenges in their areas of influence.

“RMPs have a responsibility to provide practice-level solutions to ensure that the negative narrative around the SA university sector shifts.”

Asked about the motivation behind the presentation topic, Ms Holmes-Watts credits UFH’s new strategic plan Towards a Decade of Renewal,  that commenced in 2022. “In its journey towards renewal, the University embarked on steering the institution to become research-focused. This would require a holistic approach and ensuring that we equip and develop ourselves and our staff to become future-fit and resilient,” she said.