This month we are delighted to feature our newly NRF Rated and Re-Rated Researchers at DUT.
Professor Monique Marks, the Head of the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) which is based in the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, is one of the institution’s shining research stars.
The DUT (UFC@DUT’s) work she does focuses on improving the quality of life of the most marginal in our society through engaged research, and developing robust models for intervention to resolve ‘tricky’ urban troubles.
DUT’s Prof Marks is an internationally, highly-recognised research academic, rated by her peers across the world for her outstanding, high quality and impactful research work, allowing her the opportunity to retain her B2 National Research Foundation (NRF) Rating.
Prof Marks relays her jubilation upon receiving the news of her B2 rating.
“I am very relieved to have retained my B2 rating. It is always a worry that your rating can go down. This is particularly a concern when you hold a lot of administrative and management responsibilities as I do as the head of the Urban Futures Centre. I am very relieved that my international and national colleagues still rate me as having substantive international recognition. I am aware of how difficult it is to achieve a B rating,” she said.
Explaining what the B2 NRF rating means to her personally, professionally, in terms of her academic research and the institution, Prof Marks commented that the B rating reconfirms her commitment to research and to academia.
“I appreciate that my peers across the world appreciate my research work. I also feel this rating benefits the UFC. A B rating is highly regarded and brings credibility to me as an individual researcher and to the UFC as an entity,” she added.
She further indicated that at a personal level, she is relieved that the rating review period is now concluded, and feels very fortunate to have an excellent team at the UFC, mostly women, who support her in her research and engagement endeavours.
“I am also thankful to the DUT community for their ongoing support and positive feedback. I never feel any academic jealousy at DUT, which is a huge relief. The Vice-Chancellor and the Deputy-Vice Chancellors (DVC’s) were very quick to congratulate me, and this is hugely significant to me. The same is true of my Executive Dean, and other members of the executive at DUT. I know that I am valued as an academic member of staff at this university,” she said.
Prof Marks explained that a B2 rating lasts for a five-year period, further emphasizing the vital need for academics like herself to have a NRF rating as a researcher.
“In my view the NRF has a very fair and well-established system for evaluating a researcher’s impact and significance in the field. It is peer dependent and the ratings really do speak to how you are viewed by your peers and by those in cognate disciplines. The process is mediated by a Chair and an Assessor, both of whom are from disciplines that are external to the candidate’s. This ensures parity across all the rating panels,” she elaborated.
Prof Marks added that the NRF rating system is an excellent bench-marker of the contribution of academic researchers to their field of study. She said that many of the top universities in South Africa use the NRF ratings when they appoint new staff.
“A and B rated researchers are in high demand, given the prestige attached to such ratings. It is really excellent that DUT now has a handful of highly rated researchers,” she relayed.
Being the leader of many sterling community projects, especially the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre (BHRC), Prof Marks spoke on her research and its impact it has, saying that she is aware that other researchers in the fields that she works in are aware of her B rating and the respect and appreciation it brings with such a rating.
“It provides me with the confidence required to posit or profess ideas that might be controversial or new, particularly in the work that I do in harm reduction. Having an established international reputation also means that I am invited to give addresses to a range of platforms both nationally and internationally. In so doing, I am able to bring positive attention to the work of the UFC,” she explained.
Prof Marks indicated that she is involved in a range of research projects that stretch over many fields of interest. They include public health, public safety, urban governance and urban design. In addition, she is currently conducting research on university language policy, for the purposes of developing a draft language policy for DUT.
“Having a B rating provides the gravitas to be able to talk with confidence about a host of topics that relate to one’s core research. With this in mind, I am aware that I am rated as a social scientist with a special interest in matters pertaining to the very large scope of criminology. Retaining a B rating means that while engaged in other research, it is imperative to keep active in the field in which you are being evaluated. This can be stressful, particularly when project work is spread across a number of fields of research and engagement, as is the case in the UFC,” she stressed.
Prof Marks is now encouraged to continue conducting high level research and to co-author with colleagues from across the world.
“With life normalising as we develop immunity to COVID-19, I hope to get back into the swing of attending international conferences and symposiums to present my research and project work. It is at these events that new networks and collaborations are forged, and this in turn helps to maintain the B status and possibly to increase this going forward. Marks believes that collaborating on projects and co-authoring is the key to being a fulfilled and connected researcher,” she said.
Prof Marks imparted her words of wisdom to fellow DUT NRF researchers who are keen to be on the rating level that she is currently on.
“The first is to remember that the NRF rating system is only based on your research achievements. Given this, it is important to ensure that your research productivity is significant. It is also critical to publish in international journals and where possible to collaborate with researchers that are situated in other parts of the world,” she explained.
She further commented that getting a B rating is also dependent on being invited as a keynote speaker, holding editorial board membership, being a part of international and national advisory boards/committees.
“B rated researchers do not only contribute empirically. They drive new theory and new methodological innovations,” she said.
She cautions against publishing in the same author, and recommends diversifying publication outlets.
“It is also important to check that the peer reviewed journals have good impact factors and are well-recognised within your discipline(s). Inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary work is highly valued by the NRF, but this should not be at the cost of losing research focus. It is important to be able to demonstrate coherence of your research work,” she said.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), Professor Sibusiso Moyo mentioned that as part of our ENVISION2030 Sustainability perspective, having NRF Rated Researchers is one of the ways we (DUT) can ensure we (DUT) create a sustainable research and innovation enterprise, with a capacity to contribute to the doctoral skills training and mentoring of the next generation scholars.
“Our objective is to ensure we have optimised organisational capabilities with the ability to align and leverage DUT’s resources to realise our stated goals and objectives in the Research and Innovation Blueprint. Congratulations once again to Prof Monique Marks on this achievement!”
Pictured: Professor Monique Marks, the Head of the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology