Dear UCT academics and researchers
The past 18 months have been unprecedently disruptive in so many ways. We have all been impacted individually, academically, professionally and communally by this pandemic. For many, it has been really challenging – and almost impossible – to keep engaged in research. Some of you are feeling energised by the different way of working; some, especially those in Health Sciences, have been back in their productive research spaces for quite some time, while others are looking for ways to re-engage with their research, or are still feeling as if the many demands do not allow. As a university leadership, we are committed to make space for the diverse experiences and to work towards establishing a research-enabling environment that responds as broadly as possible to UCT’s researchers over the months ahead.
With South Africa having exited the third wave and our current infection numbers country-wide being low, we are now moving into a period of increasingly returning to engaged and ‘in person’ ways of working. This is supported by the promise of the reduced risk and consequence of COVID-19 as we increasingly become vaccinated.
Together these position UCT well to increase our research on campus and to re-vitalise our interactive and engaged research. The executive encourages our staff and postdoctoral fellows to increasingly take up regular periods of time on campus, to hold face-to-face discussion groups, small scale meetings, socially distanced seminars and put back in place some face-to-face postgraduate supervision. We all acknowledge how crucial contact and informal meetings are to generating new ideas, re-invigorating innovations and much more.
Many researchers have indicated that they are looking forward to breaking the pandemic-induced isolation that they have experienced for the past 18 months and this is an excellent time to do so – using the remainder of 2021 to re-establish our on-campus activities on a regular basis.
To get life back to normal, we are also, increasingly, bringing back our food and coffee vendors to keep our researchers, staff and students well sustained. It will be great to enjoy the benefits of a social morning tea and coffee break and I encourage us all to enjoy our stunning campus over a socially distanced conversation with a colleague on the Plaza or the like across our campuses – something many of us have been missing.
As part of increasing our face-to-face meetings and working to get our events up and going again, we are holding our 2nd Research Symposium of 2021 as a hybrid event – please see more on this below.
Please remember that while we build interactive research practices again, this must be done while keeping to UCT’s COVID-19 protocols of daily screening, wearing masks, sanitizing, social distancing, respecting the room occupancies set and ensuring that they are well ventilated. We will keep going with a low-density campus – some 50% occupation – and at least 1.5 m distancing. Paying attention to these will keep UCT healthy.
For those of you not yet vaccinated, please remember that the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre at Forest Hill Residence, with access from Broad Street, is open to staff, students and the general public from 08:00 to 15:00 on Monday to Friday. In the event that the centre will be open on a given Saturday, that will be announced on UCT’s social media channels. Vaccination reduces the likelihood of severe infection substantially, keeping you and those around you protected.
UCT Research Symposium takes place on 27 October 2021
Please join us at the bi-annual UCT Research Symposium on Wednesday, 27 October where we will discuss “Centering research in the pandemic-impacted UCT”. This is a hybrid event which you can join online or, preferably for the first 100 people to request, in person at the GSB Conference Centre (RSVP by Friday, 22 October is essential).
In addition to the keynote, an international panel discussion on learnings from around the world highlighting approaches to challenges and UCT examples of best practice, the symposium will give us as UCT’s research community the opportunity to brainstorm key interventions to create the research environment in which we are all at our best as productive and innovative researchers and which allow us to share and build our research contributions synergistically. I look forward to your contributions to plan forward.
Professor Sue Harrison
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation
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