Dr Zarina Patel the recipient of our Science Faculty Engaged Scholarship and Social Responsiveness Research Award

15 Mar 2018
15 Mar 2018

Zarina Patel is the first recipient of a new award in the Faculty of Science that recognizes contributions in the area of Engaged Scholarship and Social Responsiveness Research.


Dr Zarina Patel

The nomination was for recognizing her contributions to building sustained collaborations with non-academic partners whose knowledge and expertise of working in areas of urban policy have served to enhance scholarship and societal impact. Since her joint appointment at the African Centre for Cities and Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Zarina has been working closely with City Officials at the City of Cape Town, in a partnership project with UCT academics. The research experiments with the assumption that knowledge partnerships between universities and city authorities will result in transformative urban change in more sustainable directions in ways that contribute to engaged and robust academic scholarship whilst supporting evidence based policy development and decision making. This local level partnership has leveraged numerous opportunities resulting in positive societal impacts. Furthermore, the global partnerships fostered through the MUF Programme have leveraged impacts at the global level.

The nomination comprises three related parts:

  1. With the support of the Mistra Urban Futures (MUF) Programme hosted at the African Centre for Cities, Zarina directed and participated in a research project – the Knowledge Transfer Programme (KTP) - between 2012 and 2015 in which City Officials were paired with UCT academics to co-produce academic articles on urban policy and practice for publication.  As director of the Cape Town MUF platform, her engagement was at three levels: a) building international partnerships with the other Mistra Urban Futures cities including Manchester, Kisumu and Gothenburg b) establishing an engaged research partnership between the ACC and the City of Cape Town, and c) partnering with City Officials in co-authoring publications.
  2. The success of the established research partnership at the international level through MUF, and at the local level with the City of Cape Town - lead to Cape Town being included in a pilot study testing the feasibility of Sustainable Development Goal 11 (on cities) in 2015. The research team built on the partnerships established through the KTP, whilst including other non-academic partners. This work, together with the findings from the other four international pilot cities resulted in revisions to the UN indicators and targets before being ratified by the United Nations in September 2015.
  3. Based on the credibility built up by the KTP with respect to the value of knowledge co-production between academics and policy practitioners, the Knowledge Transfer Programme was further leveraged by the international journal Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability. The journal was seeking to increase its accessibility to practitioners. As a member of the editorial advisory board, Zarina conducted a survey amongst the KTP practitioners and academics who produced co-authored publications in Cape Town, to get a better understanding of the publishing requirements of practitioners. This study resulted in the revision of the: Aims, Scope, and Peer Review Statements for journal submissions to attract more practitioner and engaged scholarship contributions.


Zarina will be presenting a Science Faculty Special Research Seminar on the 26th of June 2018, when she will share more about how she is developing this research, and about her views on Engaged Scholarship and Social Responsiveness.