Contract type: Long-term contract
Job level: Executive
Work location: Pretoria, Gauteng
The National Research Foundation (NRF) supports and promotes research and human capital development through funding, the provision of National Research Facilities and science outreach platforms and programmes to the broader community in all fields of science and technology, including natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities.
The South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), an evolving National Research Facility of the NRF, is focused on impactful long-term ecological research (LTER) by generating reliable data and information for decision-making in response to experienced and predicted environmental changes.
The NRF, an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), invites applications from suitably qualified and motivated individuals for the position of Managing Director of SAEON. We are seeking a visionary, well-networked systems thinker with excellent leadership and managerial skills. A research-based doctorate with Environmental Science, Ecosystems and/or Earth Science/Systems relevance must be complemented by 10 years as an Environmental/Earth/Ecosystems scientist/science manager in South Africa and a demonstrable record of scholarly accomplishment. Applicants must have at least five years’ experience in senior general science leadership and management of a large entity inclusive of organisational strategy development, financial and procurement oversight in a public sector context and experience in managing other managers. A qualification in management sciences and a broad disciplinary involvement across environmental systems will strengthen a candidature.
Organisational leadership and positioning
- Lead the development and execution of a fit-for-purpose science agenda for NRF-SAEON, coupled to establishment and sustainable resourcing of Nodes and Research Infrastructures as open access research platforms with strong national collaborations and international accreditations.
- Position NRF-SAEON to continue to provide high-quality scientific services that enable decision support for government at a local, provincial and national level as well as by the broader environmental sector.
- Ensure that NRF-SAEON develops and maintains an ecosystem of information management platforms that will promote scientific synthesis and decision support for effective environmental stewardship and sustainable development at all levels of society.
- Position NRF-SAEON for effective evidence-based science advocacy, science diplomacy and impactful science-policy interlocution.
- Promote an Engaged Research approach by NRF-SAEON through the co-creation of research agendas and co-generation of knowledge with the community, where appropriate.
- Guide and perform continuous organisational strategy and business model development, implementation and evaluation in the context of national policies (e.g. the STI White Paper, NDP 2030) and international standards (e.g. SDGs, open access to data).
- Guide, develop and coach the SAEON management team as well as inspire employees to achieve the organisation’s strategic objectives.
- Be the authentic custodian and champion of organisational culture and values.
- Develop and enhance SAEON’s capacity to assume national and international leadership roles within the scope of the organisation.
- Drive a performance culture within SAEON by continuously monitoring and assessing organisational progress against qualitative and quantitative targets and troubleshooting internal and external systemic bottlenecks.
- Ensure that SAEON is effectively positioned to drive an impactful Science Engagement programme.
General operations management and administration
- Balance core operations and organisational priorities with the statutory and contractual obligations of delivering to key government and other stakeholders.
- Provide effective stewardship of SAEON’s financial resources in accordance with PFMA requirements and NRF Financial Policies and processes.
- Oversee the Human Resources and Talent Management of employees, including recruitment, training and development, employee relations, diversity and inclusion, performance management and succession planning.
- Ensure that the procurement activities and processes of SAEON are compliant with PPPFA requirements and the NRF’s procurement and supply chain policies/procedures.
- Take accountability for upholding Safety/Health/Environment and Risk Management processes and standards to ensure efficient and effective operations.
- Oversee the management of fixed and moveable assets including buildings, land, off-road vehicles, vessels, aircraft and research equipment in accordance with NRF policies and procedures.
- Lead and take accountability for the fulfilment of SAEON’s quarterly, annual and longer-term planning and reporting obligations in accordance with the NRF’s prescribed cycles and processes.
- Perform all duties and functions in accordance with the position’s Delegation of Authority and the NRF’s Delegation of Authority Framework.
- The individual will function as a member of the executive management team of the National Research Facilities comprised of other managing directors, as well as operating as part of the extended executive leadership team of the NRF.
- Serve on NRF corporate and stakeholder structures as appropriate.
- Contribute constructively to corporate and national plans, documents and policies.
- Promote efficient and effective data stewardship, knowledge management, reporting and accountability within the organisation.
- Promote inter-business-unit collaborations and partnership to advance innovation, drive organisational transformation, enhance impact and forge sustainability.
- Participate in and/or lead corporate strategic initiatives, tasks or projects as may be required.
- Oversee the implementation of, and compliance with, various NRF Corporate policies as well as statutes and regulations applicable to the NRF.
Stakeholder relations, communications and organisational reputation building
- Grow the organisational network through collaborative partnerships and strategic initiatives with global and local organisations and initiatives.
- Develop SAEON’s capacity to deliver a broad range of environmental ecosystem monitoring and research services to address the environmental management information needs of public and private clients.
- Oversee an effective and strategic communications programme including strategic use of social media to enhance the reputation of NRF-SAEON.
- Act as official organisational spokesperson and the key organisational reputation architect and manager.
The appointment will be for a fixed term contract period of five years, with a possibility of extension for a further term subject to satisfactory performance and continued organisational relevance of the position. Preference will be given to candidates that advance the NRF’s employment equity and transformation imperatives. The NRF offers a competitive total salary package that includes medical insurance and retirement fund contributions plus additional benefits such as annual and sick leave.
A more detailed job description will be made available to interested candidates. Further information about SAEON may be found at www.saeon.ac.za.
A research-based doctorate with Environmental Science, Ecosystems and/or Earth Science/Systems relevance.
Ten (10) years as an Environmental/Earth/Ecosystems scientist/science manager in South Africa and a demonstrable record of scholarly accomplishment. Applicants must have at least five years’ experience in senior general science leadership and management of a large entity inclusive of organisational strategy development, financial and procurement oversight in a public sector context and experience in managing other managers. A qualification in management sciences and a broad disciplinary involvement across environmental systems will strengthen a candidature.
Highly skilled in decision-making, strategic thinking, interpersonal, stress and time management, operational management of distributed environmental research infrastructures, planning/organisation, transformation programmes, coaching and talent management, financial management, communications and reputation management, risk management, performance management, conflict management, public speaking and diversity management.
- Environmental risks such as climate change, biodiversity loss, human environmental damage and natural resource crises top the list of global risks identified by the World Economic Forum (2021). Responding to these challenges, SAEON, an evolving business unit of the NRF, is focused on impactful long-term ecological research (LTER) by generating reliable data and information for decision-making in response to experienced and predicted environmental changes.
- SAEON conducts its work via a central National Office in Pretoria, six dedicated research nodes, one dedicated data systems node and three national environmental research infrastructures – the Shallow Marine and Coastal Research Infrastructure (SMCRI), the Enhanced Freshwater and Terrestrial Observation Network (EFTEON) and the South African Polar Research Infrastructure (SAPRI).
- SAEON’s observation and research programmes cover both relatively discrete ecosystems and crosscutting themes. Complementary multi- and transdisciplinary observational approaches are followed and designed to consider systemic responses to drivers of change, including extreme events, to distinguish between natural variability and the often slow but potentially disastrous anthropogenic directional changes, and to understand how these are intertwined with the socio-economy at multiple scales. Modelling and mapping based on own and other data provide tools for prediction and decision-making. Through its Open Data System, SAEON subscribes to the FAIR principles.
- SAEON’s income streams from diverse public entities demonstrate a high level of national legitimacy and the organisation is a sought-after partner in global science programmes. SAEON contributes to the transformation of the National System of Innovation through its Environmental Science Education Programme at schools, its Graduate Student Network, its postgraduate researchers and by practising appropriate transformative science and science engagement.
- Organisationally, SAEON aims to achieve mission-effectiveness through scientific, data, policy and transformative contributions, stakeholder inclusivity, service delivery, human capacity development, workforce diversity, high performance culture, economies of scale, business process efficiency, compliance with policies and strategies, and public value as the overall return on investment.
- SAEON has a staff of 95 that is set to grow by another 40 members over a three-year period.
The website www.nrf.ac.za provides more details on the NRF initiatives and activities.
Applicants should submit a comprehensive CV by logging onto https://ess.nrf.ac.za/Account/Recruitment and apply online. Applications should be accompanied by a letter of motivation indicating the applicant’s suitability for the position. The names and contact details of at least three referees should be provided.
Closing date: 06 August 2021
The NRF offers a challenging career and competitive remuneration package which is commensurate with qualifications and experience. The NRF is committed to employment equity and redress and the appointment to the position will be made in line with the NRF Employment Equity Plan.
The NRF reserves the right not to make an appointment.
Correspondence will be sent to short-listed candidates only.