College of College of Graduate Studies

Striving for excellence in research

Prof David Hedding, Department of Geography, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

Unisa’s Associate Professor David Hedding, from the Department of Geography in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES), is one of the recipients of the 2019 Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Research. This award is a way of recognising those who strive for excellence in research and the prize is regarded as the most prestigious for research and innovation at Unisa. Hedding has received the same award more than once.

Expressing his appreciation, Hedding says it is extremely gratifying to be recognised for excellence in research. "It fills me with great pride and motivates me to do more research. I have been awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research for CAES, which recognises a staff member from the college who has been productive in terms of research outputs. I believe what may have set my application aside from others is the quality of the journals I have been targeting. I have made a concerted effort to target high impact journals with the view of raising my research profile."

His research focuses primarily on geomorphology (earth surface processes and landforms) with a primary interest in landscape responses to climate change in cold environments such as the sub-Antarctic Marion Island and the Antarctic continent itself. His research has taken him to the island state of Mauritius where he collaborates with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to investigate soil erosion on the islets that surround the main island. He also conducts research on the transformation of higher education institutions in South Africa and has written a commentary for the journal Nature on the financial subsidy system for publishing in South Africa.

Prof David Hedding during his fieldwork in Antarctica

As part of his research focus, he is the co-investigator of a National Research Foundation (NRF) - South African National Antarctic Programme grant. He also conducts research on landscape evolution and weathering with collaborators in China for which he is the principal investigator of a jointly funded bilateral grant between the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the NRF. This has earned him admission to Unisa’s Million Rand Club. He was awarded this jointly funded grant by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the NRF in 2018. Only 10 such grants were awarded and all focused on topics within geoscience. The collaboration is geared towards facilitating cooperation between academics in China and South Africa. His collaborative project is entitled "A comparative study on the weathering of basaltic fields: Implications for landscape" and has already led to several publications in high-impact journals.

Hedding alluded to his belief that, with regard to the progress of research and innovation at Unisa, the institutional culture of the university should change. He believes that as Unisa is primarily a teaching university, more emphasis and credit should be given to research-active individuals within the insitution. He acknowledges that the Annual Research & Innovation Awards go some way to highlighting various achievements.

* By Nancy Legodi, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2020/03/04