The Union Human Resource Development Ministry approves revamping of the Indian Council of Social Science Research for more autonomy and enhanced efficiency

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has approved the recommendations of the Review Committee that seeks to provide more autonomy and enhance the efficiency of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR).

The Review Committee had recommended a major revamp of the Council, including the process of selection of the chairperson, and cited shortage of funds as a major hurdle in the functioning of the ICSSR. A number of structural changes of far-reaching consequences have been approved.

The Memorandum of Association, by which the ICSSR had come into being, will be amended in areas of critical importance. The selection and appointment of the chairperson, which was so far made exclusively on the discretion of the government, will now be made through a Search Committee comprising one Council member, one social scientist of international eminence to be nominated by the Council and one person nominated by the government from amongst National Research Professors in Social Science who will chair this committee.

The chairperson of the ICSSR will be appointed by the government from amongst the panel of names submitted by this committee. The term of the chairman, which is renewable every three years at present, will now be for a term of non-renewable five years. The composition of the ICSSR Council will also stand modified. The new Council will comprise nine ex-officio members — Chairperson ICSSR; Secretary of Higher Education (MHRD); Secretary of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance; Secretary of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment; Chairperson of University Grants Commission; Chairperson of Indian Council of Historical Research; Chairperson of Indian Council of Philosophical Research; Chairperson of National Science and Engineering Board and Director General ICSSR.

The HRD Ministry has also cleared the proposals for restructuring and re-strengthening the existing research institutes of ICSSR as well as to expand the research network and establishment of more such research institutes. Towards ensuring an enhanced efficiency of the existing ICSSR institutes, it has been proposed that a group for evaluating the position of research institutes, including a minimum threshold academic strength of 17 faculty members in each institute, be considered; the possibility of ICSSR taking over the salary expenditure of each institute to empower them would be explored and their autonomy would be protected, besides implementation of a tripartite memorandum of understanding to be signed between the ICSSR-MHRD — each research institute funded by ICSSR and the respective State governments, wherever required.

The perspective of expanding the research network and establishment of more ICSSR research institutes will be aimed at removing the imbalances relating to region, neglected disciplines and inter-disciplinary areas of research, inter institutional networking and research relating to marginalised social groups and issues of their inclusive development. For this, an MHRD-ICSSR Joint Committee will be set up to identify both the regional areas as well as new disciplines of study where the ICSSR will set up new research institutes.

The committee was constituted by the government in September 2010 to review the functioning of the Council (in the last five years) as well as the research institutes funded by the ICSSR for promoting social science research. It comprises Deepak Nayyar, Bakul Dholakia, Kirit S. Parikh — all academics — who co-opted Krishnendu Ghosh Dastidar as member secretary.

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