Edinburgh Global

Witwatersrand awards Centennial Fellows to Edinburgh researchers

As part of its 2022 centennial celebrations, the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg has awarded three short-term fellowships for researchers based at the University of Edinburgh.

Researchers from the School of Social & Political Science and Edinburgh College of Art will be based in South Africa at the Johannesburg and Wits Rural campuses for two to three months.

The University of Edinburgh has close ties with the University of Witwatersrand and signed a renewal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2021 to continue to collaborate on multiple projects.

Wits Centennial Research projects

Taking up their fellowships in 2022 and 2023 are Dr Franziska Meinck, Dr Hannabeth (HB) Franchino-Olsen and Dr Aidan Mosselson.

We are delighted to have three researchers from the University of Edinburgh take up fellowships at Wits University this year. This initiative strengthens the Wits-UoE partnership and speaks to our common objectives of advancing cross-, trans-, and multi-disciplinary teaching and research, beyond intellectual and geographic boundaries. It is also a very special moment to host colleagues and students from the UoE during the months in which we are celebrating our centenary. We warmly welcome Hannabeth Franchino Olsen and Franziska Meinck, both from the School of Social and Political Science at the UoE who will spend six weeks at Wits University in Johannesburg and at our Rural Campus in Mpumalanga. Dr Aidan Mosselson will take up his Fellowship in 2023. We congratulate all the Fellows and look forward to fruitful working relationships for years to come.

Professor Lynn MorrisThe Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, University of the Witwatersrand

The Wits Rural campus

The campus is located 28km west of the world-renowned Kruger National Park, and houses the Wits Rural Knowledge Hub, a study/conference centre and an active research site. The area is deeply rural and strongly affected by human migrations to other countries and to the cities of South Africa, so research projects range from ecological, through public health to social-economic.

Supporting mental health and preventing violence during pregnancy

Dr Meinck’s research encompasses two related projects. Project 1 extends an ongoing collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Wits School of Public Health. The ESRC-funded study ‘Interrupt_Violence’ is investigating intergenerational violence transmission across a three-generational sample. Dr Meinck will extend the research to the department of Social Work at Wits to investigate the use of professional social workers on research studies focusing on sensitive topics.

Project 2 aims to develop a major grant application with existing collaborators at Wits drawing on the learnings of Project 1. The £1 million pound application to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is to develop and pilot a perinatal, manualised, problem-solving therapy intervention delivered by lay counsellors to reduce intimate partner violence and depressive/anxiety symptoms for pregnant young women. This research addresses gaps in supporting mental health and preventing violence during pregnancy.

I am delighted to have received the opportunity to deepen work relationships with colleagues at Wits to work towards the eradication of intergenerational violence. Families in South Africa deserve the best possible policies based on rigorous research evidence and we are working together with the government to achieve this. The Centennial Fellowship gives us the opportunity to meet with relevant stakeholders and thoroughly plan steps for future research and dissemination of findings. 

Dr Franziska MeinckSenior Lecturer (Associate Professor): School of Social & Political Science 

Feasibility of conducting sensitive violence research with young children: experiences of distress and disclosures among children interviewed about interpersonal violence.

Asking children, especially young children about violence, is a difficult and sensitive endeavour. Emerging evidence suggests that children can provide high-quality data on their views of violence and victimisations and are the experts in their own lives and stories. Dr Hannabeth (HB) Franchino-Olsen’s research will explore how children respond in interviews about violence and hopes to create valuable opportunities to learn how to better include children’s voices in research and find opportunities for early violence prevention.

I am thrilled to receive the Wits Centennial Fellowship. Prior to beginning my postdoctoral position at the University of Edinburgh, my research focused on secondary data collection and expert interviews. The fellowship is allowing me to not only join our primary data collection team in South Africa to monitor and observe their fieldwork efforts but also allows me to engage in primary data collection of my own, thus expanding my experience as a researcher. This would not have been possible if not for the fellowship, which is creating space for my extended visit in the field. I am also excited to deepen my connections with experts at the University of the Witwatersrand, as this will be my first chance to meet many of my collaborators and co-authors in person. 

Dr Hannabeth Franchino-OlsenPostdoctoral Research Fellow: School of Social and Political Science 

The politics and practices of green economic recovery

Aidan Mosselson’s research project interrogates the politics and practices that emerge in the pursuit of a green economic recovery in South Africa.

As governments and societies across the world recover from the covid-19 pandemic and attempt to confront the realities of climate emergency, questions arise about how these immense challenges are to be tackled. This research examines the ways in which economic recovery and green transitions are being conceptualised and are playing out in South Africa at present. Infrastructure is at the heart of South Africa’s green economic recovery plans, and by exploring the ways in which the state is approaching, planning and delivering new infrastructure projects, research will analyse how green economic recovery ambitions are envisioned and enacted, and what the social effects of these initiatives are.

Dr Mosselson will draw on the expertise of colleagues in the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO), Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES), the Wits School of Governance and the Wits Sustainability Institute to shape the project.

Their expertise in sustainability transitions, data visualisation and spatial analysis will augment my skills as a researcher and provide for a fruitful and mutually-beneficial partnership. 

Dr Aidan MosselsonGlobal Challenges Chancellor’s Fellow: Edinburgh College of Art

Longstanding links with Wits

The Centennial Fellowships come on the back of four years of IASH Africa Fellowships, which have provided the opportunity for Wits-based researchers to spend a similar amount of time with colleagues in Edinburgh. We hope to be able to continue both fellowship opportunities in future years.

Whether you would like to take up a fellowship, or you have a contact at Wits who would like to do the same, please keep an eye out for more information.

Find out more

Please contact Nick Rowland, Regional Director (Africa) on nick.rowland@ed.ac.uk