Given India’s not-so-impressive track record in social sciences research, the Human Resource Development Ministry on Monday announced a five-point agenda for attracting bright minds for research in this area. This includes institution of 10 annual Amartya Sen Awards for advancement of knowledge in social sciences.

The Amartya Sen Awards will be on the lines of Bhatnagar Awards given for recognition in research in science. Entrusted with the responsibility of rejuvenating social sciences research, the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) has been asked to establish a National Social Science Research Innovation Centre to identify innovative research methodologies in frontier areas of knowledge and assist in building a network for carrying forward the research interests of institutions, scholars and teachers.

Announcing the agenda here at an international conference on ‘Indian Social Sciences in the Changing World: Roles, Responsibilities and Reforms’, Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said the ICSSR would take the lead in developing a Social Sciences Knowledge and Research Network (SSKRN) as an open source, virtual assembly of quality research papers.

This Network could host peer-reviewed research papers and Ph.D thesis in social sciences – both priced and free – and also provide authorised translations of hosted research papers in various languages for the community of researchers in the country.

The ICSSR would also create a network of eminent academics to collaborate on creation of academic content including publications of texts, digests and manuscripts in specific areas in social sciences. These manuscripts would provide an inexpensive aid to teachers and students in social sciences and would be available in different languages. The manuscripts would be delivered electronically leveraging on the gains of the National Knowledge Network, which aims to interlink all institutions of higher learning with an information super highway.

Importantly, the ICSSR has been asked to develop a fellowship scheme for attracting young scholars in the universities interested in pursuing social sciences research in addition to enhancing both the quantum and number of fellowships awarded every year.

“I hope that due recognition to social scientists and their contributions would spur thousands of aspiring scholars in the future,’’ Mr. Sibal said.

On the recommendations made by an official committee that reviewed the functioning of the ICSSR last year, the Minister said these are proposed to be taken forward in the Twelfth Plan.

The official committee had suggested strengthening of the ICSSR by helping it financially to enable it to fulfil its role of fostering and promoting social science research.

To provide some measure of financial autonomy, the committee's report has suggested that the ICSSR should create a corpus of about Rs. 1,000 crore as a complement to funds from other sources for funding research and attracting researchers. It has also recommended major changes in the governance pattern.

A preliminary analysis of government funding patterns clearly indicates that social science research remains extremely under-funded in India, in comparison with research in science and technology, the report said.

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 Kishnendu Ghosh Dastidar as member-secretary.