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The National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) have launched a pilot phase of the DSI-NRF Policy Placement Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, aiming to bridge the gap between research and public policymaking.

NRF Business Advancement Group Executive Thandi Mgwebi said that this program will focus on the postdoctoral research people and upcoming researchers at a postdoctoral level to be able to collaborate with government departments.

"Through close collaboration with key government stakeholders, fellows will engage in policy processes and activities aligned with the thematic areas outlined in the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Decadal Plan 2022-2032," she said, SA News reported.

She added, "These areas include energy, social sciences, agriculture, climate change adaptation and mitigation, health, and other relevant fields."

So far, the pilot phase has appointed 14 postdoctoral fellows, who got placed to strategic divisions at the Technology Innovation and Research Development and Support divisions, Business Advancement, Research Analysis and Advice, Knowledge Advancement and Support divisions and Research Chairs and Centers of Excellence.

These appointed people support the human capital development and social grand challenges in five key policy areas including research impact, internationalization and partnerships, technology and innovations, and open science.

This program is expected to grow in the upcoming years as postdoctoral researchers are invited to apply for this program next year and beyond.

"This will allow the academics to play a pivotal role in informing policy-making processes. The NRF and DSI are committed to driving national development through research initiatives that have a tangible impact on society," Mgwebi said about the program.

She added, "Through the creation of opportunities for collaboration between academia and government, we aim to enhance the capacity of researchers in public policymaking, while at the same time ensuring that investments towards research culminates into impactful policies."

DSI Research Development and Support Deputy Director-General Imraan Patel also spoke about the program, noting that it will help to bridge the two most important gaps, one is where PhD graduates can provide insight to shape the policy environment effectively while the other one can help to do deep insight into what is happening with available data.