Page 72 - UCT Research Report 2011

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UCT Research Report '11
When Professor Don Ross was appointed
as Dean of the Faculty of Commerce in
2010, one of the priority items on his to-do
list was to reinforce and boost research and
research capacity in the faculty.
Two years on, Professor Ross and the faculty have made
substantial strides. He describes 2011 as a year of
restructuring in the faculty, both at departmental level
and in drawing up the kinds of incentives that would
attract more academics to research. The faculty has
also developed criteria for the appointment of research
leaders, scholars who will lead integrated research
groups – junior academics, postdoctoral research
fellows, and senior postgraduates included – and also
lead applications for major international research grants.
“The old days when an individual goes out and shakes a
hundred thousand dollars out of a foundation have long
gone,” says Professor Ross.
Seeking out funding is an important cog in the faculty’s
plans. So it has appointed Professor Harold Kincaid,
previously of the University of Alabama in the USA, to
the School of Economics as its first grant facilitation and
support officer. Professor Kincaid’s role will be to help
prepare applications for major international grants.
Always ambitious, the faculty is in the process of applying
for funding and identifying partners for a number of premier
projects. This includes three new research units currently
applying for formal accreditation with the university, and
the planned new African Institute for Financial Markets
and Risk Management, where research will complement a
master’s degree programme.
Also a top priority at the moment is the Starting Chance
Project, in which the faculty will support the Southern
The business of integrating
research and social
Africa Sustainable Development Initiative (SASDI) in
its goal to grow as many as 30 Cape Town crèches
– currently underwritten by parents’ monthly fees –
into sustainable early childhood development centres.
Partnering with the Western Cape government, SASDI
and the faculty are hoping to raise as much as
R150 million to set up these centres.
What is so appealing to the faculty about this project is the
opportunity to marry social responsiveness with research,
says Professor Ross. Such centres will need support for
everything from drawing up business plans to setting up
the necessary IT infrastructure, and will provide data for
years’ of publications.
“It is scaffolding on which we can integrate research and
social responsiveness from across the faculty.”
Another unit that plans to marry these twin concerns of
research and social responsiveness is one of the faculty’s
most recent additions, the Research Unit in Behavioural
Economics and Neuroeconomics (RUBEN). More than
that, RUBEN will harness a multidisciplinary cohort of
expertise to explore a universal theme but with a very
specific African focus.
RUBEN aims to become the first centre for experimental
research in economics in Africa. It will combine expertise
across a range of disciplines, the latest advances in
functional magnetic resonance imaging, and behavioural
experiments to measure phenomena such as attitudes
to risk‚ trust and addiction, and so better understand the
choices that people make.
More specifically, it wants to paint a picture of the particular
choices that people make in Africa. “Many of the problems
of development in Africa can be attributed to aversion to
risk‚ fear of losses, and unwillingness to invest in projects
that have higher returns but over longer time horizons,”
says Associate Professor Justine Burns‚ RUBEN Director.
“Yet‚ until now‚ the skills to measure empirically and to test
the effects of risk and uncertainty‚ as people subjectively
perceive them on a day-to-day basis‚ on development
outcomes have not been available in Africa”.
Scholars affiliated with RUBEN have already contributed
to a score of other projects, including the National
Urban Prevalence Study of Gambling Behaviour and
“Many of theproblems of development
inAfricacanbeattributed toaversion to
risk‚ fear of losses, and unwillingness
to invest in projects that have higher
returns but over longer time horizons.”