Students may study abroad, but serve in India: Top science panel

Students may study abroad, but serve in India: Top science panel

It calls for creating small centres of excellence in well-defined areas

Students may study abroad, but serve in India: Top science panel

Indian students and researchers would ideally want to go abroad, study and then decide whether to stay back there or head back to their country. 

But science policy makers in the country would like them to go abroad on scholarship and study, but come back to become science leaders and policy makers to address India’s problems.

In line with this thinking and to get students do high quality science research and emerge as highly skilled science leaders, the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (SAC-PM), headed by Bharat Ratna Prof C N R Rao, has recommended to the Ministry of Science and Technology to open at least 1,000 doctoral and post-doctoral overseas scholarships to train young scientists in national priority areas. 

The SAC-PM is based out of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore.

A body of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, both in Bangalore, has enlisted the requirements of Indian science in a report to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Training youth

It has emphasised the need to devise schemes to train youth, offer sabbaticals for career scientists and mentor future leaders in science. 

The scientists have also asked the Ministry to institute prizes and awards for research in select areas like energy, environment, health, agriculture, water and sanitation and to prepare for action on the science and technology inputs to these pressing problems.

Under each of these problems, they have called for funding to priority research areas.The scientists have also looked at institutional networking apart from scholarships and prizes.

One idea that has been proposed is to network IISc, the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) and National Institutes of Technology with other institutions and colleges, hoping to enrol researchers from academic institutions in research and development.

The IISERs were set up at the initiative of Prof Rao, who has been advocating for long the need for more institutions like IISc. The IISERs have been set up in Pune, Kolkata, Mohali, Bhopal, Trivandrum, 2010 onwards, with specific financial outlay. The institutions have opened up more seats for science students to study, conduct research and then take up doctoral or post-doctoral studies.

Small science also gets its due in the report. The authors say progress in science occurs because of small science research conducted by individual scientists or small groups of scientists in their little laboratories. 

“Because of our preoccupation with big agencies, small science has not received sufficient support all these years. We have to create a large number of small centres of excellence devoted to well-defined areas around outstanding individuals or groups of individuals. We will have to provide improved opportunities to young people to work in important areas of science in leading laboratories in the world, so that our manpower can tackle serious problems the country faces,” the report states.

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