The National Research Foundation (NRF) rating is a national indicator of research excellence, and is to the advantage of both the faculties and university in terms of benchmarking. A successful rating allows a researcher the option of applying for incentive funding from the NRF, the amount of which is directly proportional to their rating.

NRF ratings are allocated based on a researcher’s recent research outputs as perceived by local and international peers. The evaluation is based primarily on the quality and impact of the research outputs of the applicant in the eight years prior to application.

The rating process is coordinated by members of academia who are represented in the following committees:

  • 22 specialist committees coordinated by a convener
  • The NRF’s executive evaluation committee
  • The NRF’s appeals committee

The ratings that are awarded fall within specified categories (see list of rating categories and its descriptors).

NRF definition of research

For purposes of the NRF, ‘research’ is original investigation undertaken to gain knowledge and/or enhance understanding.

Research specifically includes:

  • the creation and development of the intellectual infrastructure of subjects and disciplines (e.g. through dictionaries, scholarly editions, catalogues and contributions to major research databases);
  • the invention or generation of ideas, images, performances and artefacts where these manifestly embody new or substantially developed insights;
  • building on existing knowledge to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products, policies or processes.

It specifically excludes:

  • routine testing and analysis of materials, components, instruments and processes, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques;
  • the development of teaching materials and teaching practices that do not embody substantial original enquiry.





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