As a guest on SABC Phalaphala FM programme hosted and produced by Mr Wonder Juniper, the Director Community Engagement, Prof Vhonani Olive Netshandama talked about the significance and implications of collaboration in science related projects. The programme was aired on Phalaphala FM on Thursday, 20 August 2020 from 14:30 to 15:00. This was a Department of Science and Innovation initiated programme. 

Upon her introduction into the talk show, Prof Netshandama responded to the question on the nature and importance of collaboration by mentioning that, it is indeed very important to research and address societal challenges. Prof Netshandama said that, looking at the world that we live in, there is a deliberate drive to encourage collaborative research and science projects that involve community partners. 

“Collaboration starts by knowing what you want. One must also be willing to go an extra mile in order to understand their different fields, identify the problems and work towards solving the problems as a collective and be open to ideas and suggestions as several minds are likely to succeed as compared to one”. 

She highlighted that, scientists should be able to acknowledge the limitations of their own area of expertise and to appreciate the expertise that other scientists use to strengthen their research goals. It could be a collaboration to strengthen one focus area or several focus areas that are connected in one way or another. Ndi ndila ya kushumele ya ndilo muthathe. Expects from economics, sociology, psychology and from other fields may work together, share data, compare notes, share recourses, compare the results, discuss implications. 

When talking on how to start these type of projects, she advised researchers to read a lot including articles from different fields. Prof Netshandama further advised researchers to be able to put something on the table to earn the respect of collaborators. 

“Before a researcher can think about collaborating, they should have something to give in and they should also expect to learn from others. Always be on your toes. You should offer something. Negotiate the boundaries and the benefit of sharing like a professional. Think about the bigger picture because most collaborations have a potential to evolve into something bigger than you initially imagined”. 

She was asked to share some of the examples of collaborative work based on her experience of almost two decades. Prof Netshandama indicated that the University has collaborated with local researchers nationally, in SADC region and with researchers from African countries and even with global researchers. An example of beneficial International collaboration was with the University of Virginia, USA. To date, within the collaboration, there has been tangible results ranging from students graduating their PhDs and becoming world class professors. “Such collaborations succeed because of the efforts local scientists put in collaborative pot and in doing their part. It is important for one to be an active participant in a collaboration and for each collaborator to be clear about what s/he wants out of the collaboration. Collaboration should be reciprocal, and collaborators’ contribution should be equitable and equally acknowledged. 

In response to the question on African focused collaboration in grassroot innovation and IKS beneficiation, Prof Netshandama said that there is still a lot to be done in terms of changing the dominance of colonial knowledge forms in collaborations. She further highlighted that, it is required of a university researcher to respect and acknowledge communities’ contribution in a 

science collaboration. She appreciated the work done by the Department of Science and Innovation in supporting educative programmes in this regard. She further made a call for more support and infrastructure development, particularly at historically disadvantaged universities such as UNIVEN as they are still lacking in terms of resources and spaces for innovation development and learning. She conceded that there are many innovators in villages that do not necessarily have degrees, that should be assisted to develop their innovative ideas, but urged children to go to school because most innovators were encouraged during their school-varsity years. 

She concluded her talk by urging the listeners to continue to follow all the COVID-19 precautionary measures in order to stay safe from contracting COVID-19. “Always wear the Mask, wash your hands regularly and keep social distance. Take care!!!” 

Issued by: 

Department of Communications & Marketing 

University of Venda 
Tel: (015) 962 8525 
Date: 24 August 2020