South African Bona Fide Biodiversity Researchers listing

Application process and procedures for being listed as Bona fide Researcher


The problems associated with obtaining collecting permits for biodiversity research purposes have been highlighted at numerous forums over the past few years. In many cases, the permit-issuing authorities have little support in terms of making decisions for granting permits. This may cause delays in receiving a response from these authorities, or in obtaining the permit, or may even result in the refusal of a permit request. Problems have been highlighted by permit-issuing authorities and researchers that some researchers do not comply with the permitting requirements. The non-compliance by these researchers may hamper the granting of permits to other researchers.

At a workshop involving both researchers and permit-issuing authorities, hosted by SANBI in 2009, it was proposed that a list of bona fide researchers in the field of biodiversity conservation (in its broad sense) be compiled and made accessible through the SANBI website. This would assist permit-issuing authorities in making decisions about permit applications. It is also hoped that such a list would promote compliance and self-regulation amongst researchers. It was also proposed at the workshop that researchers be removed from the list if problems with compliance are identified. SANBI has decided to establish a Bona fide Researcher List Advisory Panel to assist in taking decisions on the listing of researchers.

What would be the benefit of the list?

The aim of the list is to facilitate the processing of permit applications by permit-issuing authorities in order to contribute to the gathering of data and collections to improve knowledge of South Africa’s biodiversity.

Note: Researchers that are not included on the Bona fide Researchers List, or elect not to be listed, may apply for permits, and non-inclusion on the list does not mean that a researcher will not be granted a permit. Researchers that are included on the Bona fide Researchers List must still submit permit applications, and inclusion on the List will not mean that the researcher will necessarily be granted a permit. Permit applications are assessed by the issuing authorities on the merit of each application submitted in accordance with application legislation. The Bona fide Researchers List is used as a guide to issuing authorities only in assessing permit applications, and inclusion on the List is prima facie evidence only that an applicant meets the requirements of a category one or a category two researcher.

Note: The Advisory Panel does not have jurisdiction over permit-issuing authorities and cannot guarantee permits.

Qualifying criteria for listing:

Two different categories of people may apply to be listed (see the criteria listed below):

Category 1:

The applicant must be permanently employed as a researcher in a relevant field in a formal South African institution, e.g. public higher education or organ of state (herbaria recognised in the Index Herbariorum, museums or other natural science collection facilities or universities) and have a track record of publishing research findings.

Category 2:

The applicant is not permanently employed at a formal institution as a researcher in a relevant field, but does contribute to the collection of primary biodiversity data which is shared through an appropriate forum. Under category 2 there are 4 options:

The applicant must:

  •  Be affiliated to a formal institution, and a permanent staff member of that institution is willing to endorse the applicant’s standing as honorary researcher; or
  • Work in collaboration with a researcher who qualifies for the List of Bona fide Researchers who is willing to endorse the applicant in writing; or
  • Be a member of a recognised society which is contributing to the generation of primary biodiversity data through a formalised project, and the Council of the Society is willing to endorse the applicant (see point 4 under the Application Procedures: to be listed as Bona fide Researcher); or 
  • Regularly work with conservation authorities to provide primary biodiversity data and is endorsed, with a motivation, by the authority.


  • The applicant must be active in research documenting, describing biodiversity and its distribution (taxonomists, biogeographers and/ or researchers carrying out biodiversity surveys/ inventories), or in collecting biodiversity material for ‘banking’ (through tissue collections, or cryopreservation).
  • Applicants must have a track record of publishing their research outputs in scientific journals, and/ or of providing material to formal biodiversity research collection institutions and/ or primary biodiversity data to data repositories such as SABIF and/ or provincial/ national conservation authorities.
  • In all cases, at least representatives of important species collected must be deposited in formal, recognised collections and/ or data must be shared through the South African Biodiversity Information Facility (SABIF) or a similar open access data portal.
  • Students and post-doctoral fellows will not be listed, but can make reference to their supervisor who should be listed on their permit application. 
  • Researchers from outside South Africa will not be included.
  • All listed researchers will be required to reapply for inclusion on the list at five year intervals.

Documents to download

Please click on the name of the document you would like to view or download:

Bona fide Researchers List application procedures

Bona fide Researchers List application form

Bona fide Researchers List

Last updated on 29 July 2015
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