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Our Programmes

Social Science & Humanities
(SSH Programme)

There have been recent increases in funding to improve research capacity in Africa, driven by the belief that evidence to inform sustainable development on the continent must be driven by African scientists. But this support has targeted biomedical and health scientists.

Broad science area: Social and behavioural sciences
While biomedical science funding is welcome, few opportunities for the social sciences and humanities (SSH) exist. One problem is that there is very little data on the capacity strengthening needs and recommendations of SSH scholars in Africa. Despite these disadvantages, the continent’s SSH researchers can be productive, such as in South Africa, where they produce 38% of all global published research in these fields despite receiving less than 20% of research funding (Academy of Science of South Africa, 2011). This suggests that investment in SSH can be leveraged to produce disproportionate output.

Furthermore, Africa-led SSH scholarship is uniquely positioned to inform development for the continent. To achieve this, we must invest in creating a critical mass of African people with the analytical capacity to challenge the complex injustices of postcolonial societies. Colonial theories do not adequately or accurately describe African society or the human condition of Africans in today’s world. Afrocentric theories are required to inform the collection and analysis of data in African research, and to enable better, more sustainable, more culturally relevant and just futures for African people. A generation of African scholars with advanced research skills in SSH is a prerequisite to developing evidence and translating it into transformative action in Africa.

Challenges faced by SSH scholars and researchers

  • Limited resources and funding: One of the major hurdles faced by SSH scholars and researchers in Africa is the limited availability of resources and funding opportunities. Unlike their counterparts in natural and applied sciences, SSH scholars often struggle to secure adequate financial support for their research endeavours, hindering the development of high-quality studies.
  • Lack of recognition and collaboration: SSH disciplines often face a lack of recognition and appreciation within the scientific community, as their contributions are sometimes undervalued due to the emphasis on purely quantitative and empirical research approaches. This leads to a limited collaborative platform for SSH researchers and hampers their ability to contribute effectively to interdisciplinary solutions.
  • Data accessibility and availability: Availability and accessibility of reliable and comprehensive data pose a challenge for many SSH researchers in Africa. Limited data infrastructure and the absence of standardised databases make it difficult to conduct rigorous and comparative research, hindering the advancement of SSH disciplines.

To this end, the Science for Africa Foundation has created the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) Programme to serve and engineer meaningful change in the discipline. This novel programme is designed to develop a critical mass of globally competitive SSH research leaders on the continent. Our SSH programme aims to challenge and transform the way social sciences and humanities research capacity development is done in Africa. It recognises the critical role of research in shaping policies, fostering social change, and addressing key challenges faced by African societies. By investing in developing a robust research capacity in the social sciences and humanities, Africa can offer relevant and contextually sensitive insights, innovative solutions, and knowledge that contribute to its own development and global discourse.

Integration of SSH in solving societal problems

The Science for Africa Foundation is committed to fostering holistic research ecosystems in Africa by supporting and strengthening social sciences and humanities (SSH) disciplines. Our organisation recognises the crucial role SSH plays in addressing societal challenges and creating sustainable solutions. Through an interdisciplinary, inclusive, and collaborative approach, the SSH programme seeks to enhance the integration of SSH with other scientific disciplines to foster innovation, foster social change, and drive economic development as follows:
  • Interdisciplinary approach: Integrating SSH disciplines with other scientific disciplines is essential to addressing complex societal problems. By combining expertise from social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and technology, researchers can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges at hand. This approach ensures that diverse perspectives and insights are considered, leading to more effective and sustainable solutions.
  • Transdisciplinary collaboration: Collaboration between SSH scholars and researchers from other disciplines is crucial for exploring and addressing the multifaceted nature of societal issues. Transdisciplinary research teams enable a seamless exchange of knowledge, methodologies, and approaches, resulting in innovative solutions that cater to the diverse needs of communities.
  • Multidimensional perspective: SSH disciplines bring a multidimensional perspective to scientific research by considering the social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of societal problems. Incorporating SSH into broader science disciplines helps align scientific advancements with the social realities and complexities of the African context, ensuring that solutions are contextually relevant and sustainable.

Programme Objectives

  • Enhance research infrastructure: Provide state-of-the-art research facilities, tools, and resources necessary to strengthen research capabilities in the social sciences and humanities across African institutions.
  • Foster interdisciplinary collaboration: Encourage interdisciplinary research collaborations by creating platforms for scholars from different disciplines to work together, exchange ideas, and address complex social challenges through multidimensional approaches.
  • Promote research ethics and integrity: Establish ethical guidelines and capacity-building initiatives to ensure the highest standards of research integrity, transparency, and ethical conduct are upheld.
  • Strengthen research skills and methods: Provide training programmes and workshops designed to enhance research skills, methodology, and critical thinking, enabling researchers to produce rigorous and high-quality research outputs.
  • Support emerging researchers: Create mentorship programmes, grants, and fellowships to support early-career researchers in the social sciences and humanities, ensuring they have the guidance and resources necessary to excel in their respective fields.
  • Promote knowledge exchange and dissemination: Establish platforms for researchers to share their findings, engage with policymakers, professionals, and the public through conferences, seminars, and open-access publications.
  • Address local societal challenges: Encourage research that addresses the unique social, cultural, and economic challenges faced by African societies, nurturing research that is locally relevant and globally impactful.
Our SSH programme implementation strategies include but are not limited to:
  • Partnerships: Forge collaborations with leading African and international universities, research institutions, and funding bodies to pool resources, expertise, and knowledge networks.
  • Curriculum enhancement: Collaborate with universities to develop and update their social sciences and humanities curricula, incorporating interdisciplinary research methods, ethics, and relevance to African contexts.
  • Research hubs: Establish research hubs in key African countries to facilitate knowledge exchange, networking, and collaborative research across institutions.
  • Research grants: Offer competitive research grants focused on social sciences and humanities topics, supporting research projects at various stages, from inception to dissemination.
  • Short-term exchanges: Enable researchers to participate in short-term exchange programs with renowned research institutions globally, fostering cross-cultural learning experiences.
  • Research conferences: Organise annual regional and international conferences to showcase African research excellence, promote interdisciplinary collaboration, and facilitate networking and dissemination of research findings.
  • Public engagement initiatives: Develop outreach programmes to engage the public, stakeholders, and policymakers by organising public lectures, exhibitions, and media campaigns to raise awareness about the transformative potential of social sciences and humanities research.

Initiatives from this Programme

Social sciences and humanities help in gaining knowledge of society. These underfunded science disciplines in Africa rely mostly on international funding with minimal government funding that translates into little support for institutions dedicated to the field in academic and non-governmental sectors (The State of Social Science in Africa, 2010).
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