Roundtable: Transforming Research Excellence

Organised by African Minds
Event type External Event
Location Zoom
Start date 12 August 2021 13:00 GMT
End date

This event will discuss the open access book Transforming Research Excellence: New Ideas from the Global South, edited by Erika Kraemer-Mbula, Robert Tijssen, Matthew Wallace and Robert McLean, published by African Minds in 2020.

There is a global aspiration for researchers and science organisations to become excellent, and this has become a driver of decisions by scientists, universities and funders.

This book highlights gaps and shortcomings in how the notion of ‘excellence’ is currently applied across research ecosystems. It argues that we must do better if scientific research is to fulfil its promise – as a productive force in creating a healthier, happier, more prosperous society, in particular in the Global South, where the hazards of striving for ‘excellence’ can lead to troubling effects. It is time for change, and this book highlights ideas for how we can achieve this.

In its ‘call to action’ the book calls for a more pluralistic view of what quality means and a better understanding of what it means to recognise the ‘best’ researchers.

This roundtable uses the book as a platform to discuss these important matters, and exchange ideas on practical actions that can be taken to improve the operationalisation of the notion of ‘excellence’ in the Global South.

The seminar will start with a presentation summarising key issues raised in the book, and will continue with a focused discussion involving stakeholders and practitioners in a panel.

The panel discussion will be followed by a facilitated interactive session engaging the participants through various online tools that can help capture practical and implementable ideas to take the ‘excellence’ agenda forward.


Dr Robert McLean


Robert McLean is Senior Program Specialist in Policy and Evaluation at Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and concurrently a Research Fellow of the Integrated Knowledge Translation Research Network (IKTRN) at the Ottawa Hospital/University of Ottawa. Rob’s broad interests lie in understanding how human creativity can create a better world. He has worked across academic, government, private, and NGO sectors and has published about this work in venues ranging from Nature to the Stanford Social Innovation Review. He is co-author of the recent book, Scaling Impact: Innovation for the Public Good published by Routledge, NYC. Rob earned his PhD in the Department of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He holds an MSc from the Global Development Institute of the University of Manchester, England, and two undergraduate degrees following studies at Carleton University, Canada and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Dr Suneeta Singh


Suneeta Singh (MD, DCH) is a medical doctor with postgraduate qualifications in paediatrics and public health from the Lady Hardinge Medical College, India. In the more than 30 years in the development sector, she has worked in academics, in bilateral and multilateral funding organisations, and established a research and consulting firm, Amaltas. The Delhi-based Amaltas Consulting Pvt. Ltd. is devoted to developing intellectual capital to accelerate improvements in the lives of people. The organisation’s work on 70 projects in the past decade has helped bring about programmatic and policy changes in developing countries. A key area of concentration has been research quality and research systems. Dr Singh has worked with research funders to study the quality of their projects and portfolios. Her advice has been sought on improvements that could be made in design and implementation as well as to translate research findings into policy and programmes.

Prof. Robert Tijssen


Robert Tijssen is professor emeritus of Science and Innovation Studies at Leiden University (Netherlands). He is also a professor at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and affiliated to South Africa’s DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Scientometrics and Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (SciSTIP). Robert’s work on the measurement and indicators of ‘research excellence’ dates back 20 years. His academic interest in the topic has evolved during the last few years towards addressing issues of application within the context of scientific research in low- and middle-income countries of the global South.

Dr Ranjith Mahindapala


Ranjith Mahindapala has a working career of nearly 45 years of which 22 years were spent at the Coconut Research Institute of Sri Lanka (CRI) and 18 years at the International Union for Conservation of Nature & Natural Resources (IUCN). He was the Director of CRI from 1987 to 1993 and the Executive Director of the Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy (SLCARP). He joined IUCN in 1996 as the first Biodiversity Officer in Sri Lanka Office before holding several senior positions at country and regional levels. He has nearly 30 years hands-on experience in design, development and implementation of projects and programmes in agriculture and in natural resources management, capacity assessment, and on results-based reporting. He has been trained in programme planning, monitoring and evaluation in Switzerland, Germany, India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. He retired from IUCN in October 2014; he now works an Independent Evaluator.