A review in South Africa and India of the Wellcome Trust's international senior research fellowship programme has led to trust officials conducting intensive interviews to ascertain the impact of the scheme.
With new director Dr Mark Walport at the helm, significant changes in the internal organisation of the basic grant-making function are underway. These modifications are, however, not intended to change the user (applicants and grantees) interfaces to the same extent.
Considered a flagship programme of the trust, the scheme provides each fellow with five years of support for personal salary, research assistants or post-doctoral fellows, equipment and operational funds. A typical grant is worth between R4-million and R7-million.
Of the 12 fellows selected for work in South Africa, eight are members of UCT's Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IIDMM) - six of them are current fellows.
Rhodes and Stellenbosch universities, together with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg have one member each. (One other member who worked at the University of Stellenbosch is deceased).
During their recent visit to South Africa, two Wellcome Trust officials who have been associated with the actual selection processes for many years, Drs Mary Phillips and Hans Hagen, interviewed not only the 11 fellows and ex-fellows, but also their individual sponsors and other people able to provide information and feedback on the programme.
According to IIDMM interim director Professor Wieland Gevers, the report submitted to the trust by Phillips and Hagen will influence the future of the scheme.
"They have certainly been very thorough in their evaluation procedures, which are still continuing in the form of questionnaires."
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