Francis Wilson Memorial Prize for Data-Driven Research

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 is instituting 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 (Prof Taryn Dinkelman, University of Notre Dame; Prof Susan Godlonton, Williams College; and Prof David Lam, University of Michigan) will consider submissions from all quantitative social sciences.

Eligibility Rules

  • The work must use data available on the DataFirst Open Data Portal.
    • For this year only we will accept submissions that identify the dataset and indicate that the data are available from DataFirst.
  • The data must have been cited correctly (suggested citations are on the DataFirst site).
  • Submissions must be sent to datafirst-prize[at] by 15 February 2023 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 2021 or 2022.
  • 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 2021 or 2022.
  • The author(s) must be affiliated with a recognised South African institution.
  • The article must be available online and links to that location should be provided in the covering letter of the submission.


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