Francis Wilson Memorial Prize for Data-Driven Research 2024

Francis Wilson (1939-2022) was the founding Director of SALDRU (the Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit), and of DataFirst. His research tackled major issues in labour and development, using the available data to throw light on social processes such as exploitation on the gold mines and migrant labour. He spearheaded the first nationally representative survey of South Africa (the Project for Living Standards and Development) and was a fierce proponent of open data. Indeed, this is why DataFirst was created. He believed that it was important for the data to speak to the development challenges of our society.

In memory of his life and work, DataFirst has instituted two prizes of R10 000 each for research in the area of development (broadly conceived) that makes innovative use of publicly available data:

  • A dissertation prize for Masters/Ph.D. research
  • An article prize for research published in peer-reviewed journals.

A panel of three international adjudicators will consider submissions from all quantitative social sciences.

Eligibility Rules

  • The work must use data available in the DataFirst Open Data Portal.
  • The data must have been cited correctly (suggested citations are on the DataFirst site).
  • Submissions must be sent to datafirst-prize[at] by 15 March 2024 at midnight (SAST). Submissions should include:
    • A covering letter indicating that this is original work meeting the requirements of the prize. 
    • A letter of support from the supervisor (where applicable).
    • A copy of the submission (article or dissertation).
    • Contact details/brief CV of the person making the submission. Please submit the full pack of material in one PDF.
  • DataFirst staff (full-time or part-time) are not eligible to apply.
  • DataFirst and the adjudication committee reserve the right not to award any prizes. The decision of the adjudication committee will be final.

Rules for the Dissertation Prize

  • The submission should be article/chapter length. In the case of a lengthy monograph (such as a Ph.D. thesis) only one pertinent chapter should be submitted.
  • In all cases, links to the location of the (full) dissertation/thesis on the institution’s library/repository should be provided in the cover letter to the submission.
  • The work must have been submitted for examination at a South African institution and the degree must have been awarded in 2023.
  • The submission should be accompanied by a brief letter of support from the supervisor indicating that the conditions of the prize have been met.

Rules for the Article Prize

  • The article must have been published in a recognised peer-reviewed journal in 2023.
  • The author(s) must be affiliated with a recognised South African institution.
  • In the case of multiple-author submissions, the person submitting it should be the corresponding author, or letters of support for the submission from the co-authors should be attached. DataFirst will give the full monetary prize to the author making the submission.
  • The article must be available online and links to that location should be provided in the covering letter of the submission.


Please direct all queries to alison.siljeur[at]

See last year's winners.

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