Transdisciplinarity at the core of FAR-LeaF August seminar

FAR-LeaF is an Early Career Research Leadership Fellowship program focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, funded by the Carnegie Corporation in New York. In particular, the programme seeks to build a network of emerging African scientists with the skills to apply transdisciplinary approaches and collaborate to address complex challenges in the human well-being and environment nexus in Africa.

The Future Africa Campus will host 25 Early Career Researchers from across Africa as part of the Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) Program at a week-long seminar in August. The seminar will present the FAR-LeaF Fellows with the opportunity to formally share their research, research experiences and challenges, to acquaint themselves with the University of Pretoria (UP) campus and services, and to meet with their UP mentors.

Program Director Professor Stephanie Burton shares the value of the peer-to-peer experience. "It is great to see the excitement levels about the upcoming seminar where the online faces will meet the FAR-LeaF team and each other in person. "Good relationships have already been established, and we find that several online groups have formed to share experiences and help each other regarding visas and travel arrangements." Professor Burton is proud of the levels of communication established with the Fellows, who hail from 10 countries across the continent despite connectivity difficulties. "We have designed a system enabling us to register the Fellows and to allow them access to the University of Pretoria facilities, infrastructure, and support services."

FAR-LeaF fellows will also meet their research mentors for the first time. Every Fellow is paired up with a researcher from the University of Pretoria. The UP mentors are prepared to give guidance and wisdom beyond the research, as the project supervisors reside at the fellows' home institution. "The mentors are our way of connecting the Fellows to the University of Pretoria, someone to help them network in the UP community and guide them on a broader basis to stretch their reach. Our mentors are wise, experienced people that will guide the Fellows in building their careers and developing broader thinking."

The FAR-LeaF program is all about sustainability, equity, well-being and the environment, and we have some cross-cutting presentations by experts who work in transdisciplinary fields. The seminar will include transdisciplinary research, leadership, ethics, and resilience sessions.

"I am very excited about the range and quality of our presenters. One of the things we know about African researchers is that they tend to feel isolated – partly due to the size of the continent and partly due to weak communication systems. The seminar will create a space for the Fellows to build relationships and establish and develop networks. The home institutions of these Fellows will also benefit from the experience, as the new cohort of research leaders are required to plough back their skills and experience."

"We are extremely fortunate to host them at the Future Africa Campus– this was exactly what the campus was intended for, making it an excellent venue. Future Africa is a community, a hub, a meeting place – and the FAR-LeaF Fellows are an integral part of that."

Future Africa looks forward to welcoming and hosting them from the 8th to the 12th of August.