Prof Werner Nel upgraded from C2 to C1 NRF-Rated Researcher

Read time: 3 mins

UFH Physical Geography Professor and well-accomplished Researcher, Werner Nel has been upgraded from a C2 to a C1-Rated Researcher by the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Professor Nel's research focus is on contemporary geomorphology, paleogeography and climate change. His new rating was announced in December 2021, a few months after he returned from sub-Antarctica where he led a team of researchers who are investigating the interactions between landscape and climate in the region.

According to the NRF, the rating system is a key driver in the foundation’s objective to build a globally competitive science system in South Africa. It is a valuable tool for benchmarking the quality of SA researchers against the best in the world. The ratings are allocated based on a researcher’s recent research outputs and impact as perceived by international peer reviewers.

A C2- rating is granted to an established Researcher who, on the basis of the high quality and impact of their research, has achieved the following:

  • Considerable international recognition or;
  • Acquired a sound/solid international standing in their field but not yet considerable international recognition or;
  • A scholar whose work focuses mainly on local and/or regional issues and a scholar who, at an international level, has substantially advanced knowledge and understanding in the field by contributing to new thinking, a new direction and/or a new paradigm.

Commenting on his newly acquired rating, Prof Nel said: “I am humbled by the recognition from the NRF and my peers. Our research is not a one-man show and I am hugely indebted to my collaborators especially Prof David Hedding (who also received a C1 rating) and Dr Elizabeth Rudolph. Their hard work and diligence to our projects is the backbone of our research.”

“To attain a C1 rating, one’s international collaborators become hugely important. I have been very fortunate to work with some of the finest people such as Prof Weihua Wu from Nanjing University in China and Prof Dominic Hodgson from the British Antarctic Survey. It is these international collaborations that make all the difference and I am very proud and humbled to be part of their research space and of our collective achievements,” Prof Nel said.

In addition to being the principal investigator of the South African National Antarctic Programme, Prof Nel is also a South African National committee member of the Scientific Council for Antarctic Research.

Among the current projects he is involved with are:

  • ‘Landscape and climate interactions in the sub-Antarctic’ in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey and the SUERC lab at the University of Glasgow in Scotland;
  • ‘A comparative study on the weathering of basaltic fields: implications for landscape evolution’, a National Natural Science Foundation of China/NRF Research Cooperation Programme collaboration with Nanjing University in China  and;
  • An international project with the University of Mauritius, the Mauritius Meteorological Services and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation on rainfall intensity monitoring, soil erosion and its associated surface processes on the island of Mauritius and its offshore islets.

These three projects yielded numerous international peer-reviewed papers most in Quartile 1 top international journals such as Science of the Total Environment, Chemosphere, Quaternary Science Reviews and Land Degradation and Development.


On behalf of the university, we would like to congratulate Prof Nel on his well-deserved attainment.