Of research & roadblocks in India

Of research & roadblocks in India

Of research & roadblocks in India

MateThere is a scarcity of talented and dedicated individuals engaged in research.rial worth, rather than academic interest in a subject or discipline, is the major factor in determining the choice of a career in India. Intense competition for fewer jobs has led to a situation where students look for disciplines that entail minimum effort and toil.  Consequently, only those failing in their attempt to get into medical, engineering or other technological disciplines, head for pure sciences.

Not much can be expected from this despondent lot, who take up the study of Physics, Chemistry or Biology at the under graduate or post graduate level merely for the sake of degrees. They lack seriousness warranted by these disciplines. However, some of them do overcome the frustrations somewhere along the three years at degree level and discover value in taking up research after the Masters degree. It is only at this stage that they begin to narrow down upon their subject, topics and guides. But tiring as the exercise is, fewer are still able to focus on sanctity of the values required of the pursuit of scientific research.

Quest of grants, stipends and fellowships takes a heavy toll on time and energy. Even in matters of choosing a guide, an average student looks for such professor-guides who can profitably incorporate him or her in projects secured from industry or from foreign sponsors.

Scientific research of seminal kind is rare to be carried out in India. Universities seldom are able to take up basic research. Attrition involved in getting the projects approved and funds sanctioned saps energy. Mostly issues marginal to basic research are assigned to Indian universities or research laboratories by their counterparts in the West. In the process, researchers who put sterling performance get selected by the Western universities and leave our shores. If India has to emerge a scientific power among the comity of nations, research on basic issues is a sine qua non. Not much thought has been spared toward this aspect in universities.

Cushy jobs lost
Cut-throat competition keeps the research fellows on tenterhooks. The thought that length of the tenure for award of a doctorate might jeopardise the prospect of an early and cushy job mars the peace of mind of the researchers. This easily distracts the pursuit of serious research and leads them into side alleys to attempt a NET ranking, essential for a passage into teaching.

Frustration is therefore high among researchers. Once the medicine or engineering bus is missed, the lucre of a career through pure sciences gets ever more distant. A research scholar often finds his peers in medicine and engineering settling in life while the end of the tunnel for him is still not visible. It is one reason why our universities have failed to make a mark in serious scientific research.

Red tapism and procedural hurdles deter pursuit of scientific research. Paucity of funds hinders empirical or field studies. No wonder then plagiarism is rampant in universities. Far from developing a scientific temper, the young researchers easily compromise on values desired of their calling. More so when universities insist on writing scientific papers or thesis in vernacular languages. Plagiarism from scientific journals from the developed West are difficult to detect as claims of originality get robust once the contents undergo linguistic transition.

Bureaucratic hurdles
It is futile to grieve at the loss of the genius to the West when bureaucratic hurdles at home deny them the prospect of simple livelihood to scholars. Imagine the plight of a US Young Scientist Award Winner Abdul Wali (name changed), who had to serve in the Department of Physics of Aligarh Muslim University for 13 years on a paltry remuneration of Rs 500 prior to confirmation as a lecturer.

Or look at the plight of S C Verma, a scientist working on potato crop in Shimla, who returned to the motherland giving up a plum job in the US, only to be harassed by clerks in the ICAR. His increment was held up for years and had to stagnate in junior scale for no fault of his.

The university research could be made attractive only by making the field lucrative, cutting down red tapism and providing an environment free from rivalry and ensuring adequate returns for the output.

NKC recommendations
The National Knowledge Commission has taken notice of the prevailing conditions.  According to the exhaustive report of the Commission headed by Sam Pitroda, the growth in the number of doctorates has only been 20 per cent in India in the period 1991-2001 compared to 85 per cent in China.  It further says: “Not more than one per cent of those completing undergraduate degrees currently opt for doctoral studies in India, and a substantial number of students prefer to go abroad.”

The Commission Report also says that an important factor, which impacts the quality and quantum of research, is the scarcity of talented and dedicated manpower engaged in research. The number of researchers in India was 112 per million inhabitants compared to 633 in China and 4,374 in USA in 2002. A report by Thomson ISI publications shows that India’s share among global scientific articles had remained stagnant between 1993 and 2003. But China’ share has gone up from one per cent to 4.3 per cent in the same 10 years.
The Commission has recommended urgent policy intervention to bring about the following changes:
*To enhance prestige, social standing and remuneration of people in the academic profession.
* Utilisation of current technology to provide greater access to quality learning at all levels and bridging the language gap.
* Increased coverage in the media of different facets of teaching, research and academic achievements.
* Systematic and targeted initiatives to unleash the potential of gifted students outside the urban population centres.
It is time the universities  streamlined the functioning of the research departments to enhance the output, make the entry of genuine talents facile and satisfy the basic economic needs for the full blossoming and fruition of the inherent skills.

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