Research

Chairperson

Prof. Susan van Schalkwyk (@scvschalkwyk) from Stellenbosch University is the Chair of the Research SIG.

Vision and mission

The vision of this SIG is to strengthen HPE research nationally with a view to producing scholarly outputs that are not only relevant for our context, but that also have broader applicability and that seek to contribute to the body of knowledge in the field. Its mission is to facilitate a network for SAAHE educators to collaborate with and support each other, to share ideas and advice, to participate in joint research initiatives, and to offer short courses/workshops/symposia to enhance our own professional learning and support the development of HPE research in the SAAHE region. A key imperative will be to build and mentor young researchers in the field.

About

While South Africa is generally regarded as one of the largest contributors to research production on the African continent, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is a well-known fact that the country (and indeed the continent) contributes minimally on the global stage. This is also true for HPE research – a situation that is problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly, because it means that the canon that represents what we ‘know’ about HPE is being written by researchers from the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and some part of Europe. Secondly, because this trend makes it that much harder for researchers, particularly young or emerging researchers, to ‘break through’ into international publication. Such publication and dissemination is important if we are to influence the canon or body of knowledge and make it more relevant to a wider range of contexts. Thirdly, because the resultant absence of a publication track record in leading journals becomes a barrier to career progression and to successfully securing funding to conduct the sort of longitudinal, multi-site studies that is preferred by many editors and conference reviewers.

Research in the field of health professions education (HPE) is burgeoning. This growth is seen in the increasing number (and in many cases, stature) of conferences, symposia, networks and journals that create opportunities for dissemination, review and debate. While much of the work being done in the field is characterized by small scale, practice-based studies, there has also been a shift towards emphasizing scholarship, and the importance of conducting studies that lead to more substantive theories and understandings. Leading journals in HPE (or medical education as it is known in many contexts) are looking to publish work that is seen to be both scholarly and rigorous, and that can influence thinking and practice across the world.

In spite of these challenges, there is a great deal of excellent work being done in South Africa. However, often this occurs in silos with little sharing of these emerging ideas, practices and theoretical positions. A SIG that can create a network of SAAHE educators and researchers, could offer an avenue for building and strengthening HPE research in the country.