South Africa – Sweden University Forum (SASUF) is structured along 6 major research challenges (click on each link to find out more about each challenge):

Theme 1: Climate change, natural resources and sustainability

Theme 2: Transforming Higher Education Curricula: the nexus between academia and society

Theme 3: Social transformation through change: Knowledge and social development strategies for society

Theme 4: Understanding the burden of disease in Sweden and South Africa and its impact on the health systems of the two countries in the future

Theme 5: Urbanisation and cities in the 21st Century

Theme 6: Digital technologies, big data, and cybersecurity

Theme 1: Climate change, natural resources and sustainability

Chair: Hans Linderholm, Gothenburg University,
Climate change (goal 13) is the framework within which natural resources, living and non-living (goal 14 and 15), and sustainability* are considered. Climate change has direct causal and effectual influences on food security (goal 2), water security (goal 6) and energy/resource security (goal 7). Climate change affects food production and food production affects climate. Climate change affects water resources (both fresh water and marine systems) and changes in the aquatic cycles have an impact on climate. Energy (in all its consumption) impacts climate, and as climate changes, it impacts availability of energy sources. Conducting research in this space requires intra/inter/cross/trans and enmeshed disciplinarity. The research is conducted with a view of advancing towards a circular economy based on responsible consumption and production (goal 12 from a cradle to cradle, closed loop approached).



Drivers: lack of, or unsustainable use of resources (food, water, energy) is a major challenge for a growing population

*Sustainability: environmental, social and economical sustainablility

**Cross-cutting themes f.e. circular economy, ecosystem management and biodiversity, innovation, transdisciplinarity, risk assessment, employability, governance

Climate change, transdisciplinarity, employability, water (fresh and marine), renewable energy, biodiversity, conservation, food security (agri and aqua), circular economy, ecosystem management, innovation (as in developing innovative ideas and solutions), marine litter, waste management, risk assessments, SDGs baselines, food fraud, food safety

Theme 2: Transforming Higher Education Curricula: the nexus between academia and society

Chair: Per Assmo, University West,

Whilst our globalised world economy requires international exchange and collaboration, the uneven and unequal forms of that global economy mitigate against free movement and a true cosmopolitanism.

Other mitigating factors emerging from the two national contexts of this project include: South Africa’s history, with its current problems of poverty and unequal distribution of wealth, means that education has been the reserve of the privileged few. Sweden, faces new challenges regarding fair and equal access to education as new stratification patterns, are leading to worrying trends in the higher education sector. Increasing securitisation globally is complicating international mobilization of academics and researchers as well as students.

In this context we prompt questions about the role of curriculum in transforming education towards both internationalisation and indigenisation. Local movements and concerns, such as the #feesmustfall and decolonise-the-curricula movements in South Africa, as well as increasing stratification in educational performance in Sweden, are highly relevant in an international frame. If we can connect student experiences across the globe then we may find international answers to very local challenges.

Higher Education; Internationalisation; Curriculum; Transformation; Social cohesion; Partnerships

Theme 3: Social transformation through change: Knowledge and social development strategies for society

Chair: Gideon De Wet, University of Zululand,

A key challenge in the scholarship, policy and ‘practice’ of development, in both developed and developing societies, is an overwhelming compartmentalisation of focus. Different societal stakeholders (research institutions, government, business, civil society) remain preoccupied with their own agendas. Serious societal challenges remain unaddressed and/or unresolved due to a lack of collaborative, interactive engagements.

Collaborative research aimed at addressing problems pertaining to gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, xenophobia and security and safety, must be of the kind that interfaces with teaching and learning  as well engagement with the wider community within which research institutions operate. This is because of the complexity and huge institutional presence and impact of these challenges.

Addressing societal transformation thus calls for a new, innovative approach to knowledge production, knowledge sharing and knowledge utilisation.  It also demands the recognition and privileging of different knowledge systems and epistemologies.

Keywords: Knowledge production, knowledge sharing, knowledge utilisation, collaboration, social innovation, social transformation, stakeholders, development, knowledge systems, inequality, gender, identity, societal impact

Theme 4: Understanding the burden of disease in Sweden and South Africa and its impact on the health systems of the two countries in the future

Chair: Per Olof Östergren, Lund University,

Globalization affects population health in all countries. Inequality and environmental change are paramount challenges that all countries have to deal with when planning for health promotion and meeting existing and emerging needs for health care services. The challenge involves shifts in demography depending on higher life expectancy and migration patterns, as well as shifts in morbidity and mortality patterns due to change in life-styles driven by new consumption patterns as well as environmental change.

Moreover, there are also challenges on the provider side of health care in terms of equal access to health care, involving financing and staffing issues, and the need for new technologies and information and management systems. In order to understand the links between the globalization processes and the future development of population health and appropriate health system adaptation, comparative research between countries using the concept burden of disease appears to be a promising approach.

Keywords: Population health, Burden of disease, Health equity, Health systems adaptation

Theme 5: Urbanisation and cities in the 21st Century
Chair: Wanda Verster, University of the Free State,
In the 21st century urbanization and the challenges related to our built environment, from mega cities, metropoles to small towns and rapidly growing infrastructure demands, is a key concern for sustainable living in the coming years. Inter-disciplinary research is highly relevant in this field, as combined methodologies and expertise can most effectively solve the demands of our urban environment. When approaching urbanisation, it is especially challenging to consider its socio-material, symbolic and historical complexity, hence giving due attention to conceptual frameworks from an environmental humanities point of view
This is a broad field, and a theme with layers and levels of complexity similar to the most diverse of cities across the globe. The subthemes that form part of an investigation into urbanization, the built environment and 21st century demands is in our view the following:
The rural-urban dynamic. These imbalances are intimately linked to globalization and although challenges in this regard differ between the global north and south, the relational influences remain key elements in Sweden and South Africa.
The evolution of cities. The evolution and survival of 21st century cities is linked to the decisions made in the past, whether these are based on legal constraints, physical or geographical dynamics or political shifts, challenges may be traced to past decisions. Past problems need to be addressed in order to find future solutions.
Infrastructure and economics. This sub theme is linked to the supply-demand distribution issues at the core of welfare politics. The complexity of urban infrastructure and the role it plays in the welfare of citizens is highly relevant in terms of inter-disciplinary research.
Safety and other socio-economic issues such as segregation, surveillance and informal economies. The role of urban design and the challenges faced in terms of safe public spaces generate several questions around economic security, immigration, institutional power and political processes.
Sustainable cities and urban economy. Economy and urban sustainability cannot be approached as separate entities and must be viewed within robust democracies. This is also linked to the political components of urban centers. In this field the emphasis on the role of cultural practices and redistribution of agency, the function of the arts as well concerns around the production of space.
Finally smart cities and the datafication processes. The power dynamic in cities are changing with local political actors and global movements that influence the functions of cities. Complex system thinking and automation is also influencing urban environments.

Keywords rural urban, infrastructure, policymaking, smart cities, ecosystems, safety, sustainability, economies, urban design

More information to come shortly.

Theme 6: Digital technologies, big data, and cybersecurity

Chair: Simone Fischer-Hübner, Karlstad University,

Rapidly emerging and increasingly diffused digital technologies have resulted in data collection and exploitation reaching new extremes within society. New opportunities arise that deserve further exploration in regard to how digital technologies and big data can be used to address critical societal challenges in areas such as health, transport, energy, food and education. For instance in the e-learning context, digital technologies and data collection from active use and experimentation can help personalizing the knowledge creation process.

However, big data analysis also poses legal and ethical challenges in regard to privacy, transparency and fairness. For complying with principles the upcoming EU GDPR and South African’s POPIA, multidisciplinary research on innovative solutions for achieving privacy, transparency and fairness by design are needed.

Moreover, our increasing reliance upon digital technologies such as internet-of-things and extensive data collection also increase society’s vulnerability to global cybersecurity attacks requires further attention by the research Community.