Special Correspondent

Announces steps to improve funding for research scholars

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed dismay that red-tapism, political interference and lack of proper recognition of good work had resulted in “regression” in Indian science.

While inaugurating the 97th annual session of the Indian Science Congress here on Sunday, he announced steps to improve the level of funding for research scholars.

Urging the scientific community to come out with suggestions to “liberate Indian science from the shackles and deadweight of bureaucratism and in-house favouritism,” he said the Centre was considering formulation of schemes that would provide some funding for every research scholar while increasing the quantum of money provided for the existing doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships.

He also announced that the much-awaited National Science and Engineering Research Board would start functioning before March. The Protection of Intellectual Property Bill, which focussed on sharing revenue from intellectual properties with researchers, would be taken up for discussion in Parliament soon, he said.

Besides, to make science education outreach more inclusive and affordable, the government was working on special packages such as the ones launched for the north-east region and Jammu and Kashmir recently, for other regions of the country like Bihar also to bridge “asymmetries.”

“We are determined to ensure that what we have announced [in recent times for promoting science and technology] gets implemented. We also know that we need to do more because scientific capability is what will determine our ability to overcome the challenges which lie ahead,” he added.

Presenting a detailed roadmap for the science and technology sector, he, among other things, called for a change in mindsets. “Much of what we have to do to improve science requires money, but this is only one part of what is needed. It also requires a change in mindset, including, if I may say so, the mindset of senior faculty and university administration.”

Noting that the Centre has declared 2010-2020 as the ‘Decade of Innovations,’ he said the country needed to develop an innovative eco-system, which challenged innovators to produce newer solutions to meet the needs of society and which nurtured and rapidly applied such innovations for social good.

While the scientific establishment should be central to such a system, it was, he said, necessary that it had a strong outward orientation. It should work in partnership with the industry and the innovation eco-system should include providers of venture funds and regulators, who would set standards for performance of the products coming out of research and development.

“We need to concentrate on strengthening the linkages between the academia, research and industry. Today, each operates within its own silo. Unless we close those gaps, our research and development sector may report high performance in terms of published papers, but our challenges of the 21st century will remain unsolved.”

He also urged elite institutions such as the IITs to do more to address the technological challenges of 21st century. “Their research goals and the expectations of the industrial and social sectors must be better aligned.”

He also called for special efforts to encourage scientists of Indian origin working abroad to either return to India or visit Indian universities and scientific institutions for short periods of time. Steps should be taken to increase private investment in research and development. “Some innovative policy readjustments may be required to build vibrant public-private partnerships in the S&T sector,” he added.