Academic-service partnerships, research, and the South African Dental Academic
Grossman, Elly S.
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In South Africa, academic dentistry is managed through joint agreements between the South African Department of Health (DoH) and each university, in a type of academic-service partnership. For this study, dental faculty members were surveyed to ascertain staff attitudes towards academic research in dental schools and to find out whether the joint arrangement impinges upon research activities. A survey was distributed to 200 members of the South African division of the International Association for Dental Research (SA IADR) and the academic staff of the four South African dental schools. One hundred and five responses were obtained for a response rate of 53 percent; most of the respondents were lecturers (26 percent), specialists (17 percent), heads of department (17 percent), or senior lecturers (13 percent). The majority were employed by the DoH (77 percent) and were members of the SA IADR (51 percent). Most reported feeling that research is an important issue in their school (83 percent) and perceived general research output had declined (59 percent). While 79 percent said they were concerned about the decline, many (71 percent) felt there was little they could do about it. The respondents mentioned the following as reasons for the decline: lackluster approach of DoH structures, weak university support, poor research equipment and facilities, inadequate funding, emphasis on service delivery, undergraduate teaching loads, onerous working conditions, and lack of vision, leadership, and governance by senior management. Faculty members’ twin obligations of service delivery (required by the DoH) and teaching (required by their institutions) have severely impacted South African academic dental research.