Two professors from Wits have been recognised by the peers for their research.

Two Wits professors were bestowed with A-ranking at the recent National Research Foundation (NRF) awards in Somerset West.

Professor Lucy Allais of the Department of Philosophy and Professor Maureen Coetzee of the Wits Research Institute for Malaria were the only women among 21 academics from various South African universities to receive an A-ranking.

The NRF ranking is determined by fellow academics in the field who recognise the quality and impact of recent research outputs.

With the NRF A-ranking comes great acknowledgement and respect for the recipients and their institution.

Coetzee’s research was on the biology and diversity of African mosquitoes and their role in malaria transmission.

“My research will continue to focus on the mosquitoes that transmit malaria, in the hope that my small contribution will make a difference in the lives of those most affected by the disease in Africa,” said Coetzee, who has been associated with Wits University for 40 years.

Allais, who was thrilled about her ranking, focused on two main topics for her research. The first concerned her work on forgiveness, resentment, punishment and other responses to wrongdoing, as well as the emotions relevant to moral responsibility. The second focused on German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

“I have written a number of papers on examining how to understand forgiveness, the role of justified resentment, and comparisons between retributive and restorative justice,” said Allais.

With the rankings based on peer review, both women expressed their gratitude for being recognised by fellow researchers.

“It is nice to have one’s work recognised by the broader scientific community,” said Coetzee.

Allais echoed her sentiments, saying “It is great to know that your peers appreciate your work.”

In terms of what their work can do for the general population, Coetzee hopes that her research will help those in Africa trying to control malaria, by targeting the mosquitoes themselves.

“There are more than 780 species of mosquito in Africa, of which 140 belong to the genus anopheles. Of these 140, only four species are really good carriers of the malaria parasite.”

Given that resources in Africa are limited, Coetzee said, “We would like to know that our efforts are going to kill the correct mosquitoes and that we are not wasting time and money on mosquitoes that are totally harmless to humans.”

Allais highlighted the importance of philosophy in helping us understand and clarify concepts.

She said philosophy teaches us to think carefully and rigorously, even if such concepts “do not immediately have obvious practical implications and impacts”.

Coetzee told Wits Vuvuzela that she thinks male domination in the research field is slowly diminishing, and we may expect to see many more women rising to the top in the future.
“There are actually 117 A-rated scientists, and of these 20 are women,” Coetzee said.

“There are many reasons for this, of course, not least the fact that many women take a break from their careers to raise a family, thus shortening their effective research life,” said the newly A-ranked professor.

The A-ranking lasts for five years.

FEATURED IMAGE: Professors Lucy Allais (left) and Maureen Coetzee were awarded NRF A-rankings in recognition of their research work. Photos: Provided.