Research in basic sciences on the decline: UGC

R. Ravikanth Reddy

This can indirectly affect country's dominance in IT sector

Concern over neglect of social sciences researchCall for public-private partnership

HYDERABAD: If Indians played a major role in the creation of the Silicon Valley, the credit should go to the huge investments made by the nation in basic sciences research in the 1950s and 1960s, University Grants Commission (UGC) Vice-Chairperson Mool Chand Sharma told The Hindu .

The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) had over the years reaped the fruits of research and coupled that with technology to create a vast talent pool, which spawned the birth and growth of the Silicon Valley. But, unfortunately, research in basic sciences was on the decline and this trend could indirectly affect the country's dominance in the Information and Technology sector in the future, he said.

Expressing concern over declining research even in social sciences, Prof. Sharma said if the fruits of globalisation did not reach the poor it was because of the neglect of research in this branch. "If the country's economy is growing at 8 to 10 per cent and still 25 per cent of its population earns less than a dollar a day, it is because we have failed in promoting social sciences research."

He said, "We cannot use technological developments for a broader base of people unless we promote fundamental research."

To plug this gap, the UGC was investing in the future by offering more than 1,000 scholarships for fundamental research.

However, it was difficult to attract young talent to sciences when the IT industry offered better monetary incentives and faster career growth. Prof. Sharma still saw some scope for improving research in universities by filling the large number of vacancies. "But that needs a political will."

Prof. Sharma lauded the Tamil Nadu Government's efforts at removing the cap on recruitment, realising the importance of faculty. "It acted very quickly on UGC's suggestions. Andhra Pradesh and Bihar have also responded positively.''

Stating that private-public partnership was inevitable to improve access to higher education to 20 per cent as was being envisaged in XI plan, he, however, admitted that the Government had to be cautious of exploitation by private players.

"The law being framed will consider all these aspects." At the global level it was 40 per cent while only 11 per cent of Indians had access to higher education.

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