Research Niche Area
The Faculty’s Law, Science and Justice Research Niche Area (RNA) focuses on exploring the connections between law, science and justice, with the aim of addressing the global challenges confronting South Africa. The RNA builds on existing research strengths in the Faculty and seeks to bring together University of Fort Hare researchers from a wide variety of academic disciplines to explore similarities and differences in responding to social problems or challenges posed by advances in science and technology. It aims to support the development of a number of distinct specialist strands amongst its researchers, while at the same time attempting to weave these together into a single integrated whole by emphasising and developing common intellectual ground. Thus, by establishing a community of interest across law, science and justice, the RNA seeks to achieve cohesion and interaction among the currently fragmented activities of different researchers to enhance the prospects of achieving social development and justice. Its ultimate aim is to use the possible success of this venture to establish a new knowledge field.
The activities of the RNA specifically focus on researching areas at the intersection of law and science, such as expert evidence, crime control, risk management, laws for sustainable development and the protection of the environment, as well as legal aspects of information technology.
The research undertaken by the RNA is strategically linked with relevant national and international strategies, such as the National Research and Development Strategy. The objectives of the RNA are also aligned with the Department of Science and Technology’s Innovation towards a “Knowledge-based Economy Ten Year Plan 2008-2018.” According to this document, there are five major challenges, one of which is Human and Social Dynamics. This challenge is “to increase our ability to anticipate the complex consequences of change; to better understand the dynamics of human behaviour at all levels; to better understand the cognitive and social structures that create and define change and to help people and organisations better manage profound or rapid change.” One of the greatest changes today is brought about by new discoveries in science and technology. The RNA sets out to produce outcomes that can assist the South African legal system to anticipate and address these challenges in a manner that supports the attainment of safe and secure communities, as well as scientific research and innovation.
The RNA team currently consists of a multidisciplinary group of experienced researchers including experts from law, economics, electrical engineering, psychology and computer science, as well as the director of the University of Fort Hare’s Risk & Vulnerability Science Centre.