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20th April 2024 (18 Topics)

Scientists and a wish list for the incoming government

Context:

Amidst the ongoing general election in which 970 million Indians are exercising their franchise, scientists express their expectations and concerns regarding the incoming government. Supporting science and scientists is essential in India’s quest to become a major economic powerhouse.

 Increase Spending:

  • Increase in Research Expenditure: Scientists urge for a substantial rise in the nation’s gross domestic expenditure on research and development, currently below 0.7% of GDP. They propose an increase by at least 50% year-over-year, aiming for nearly 4% of GDP at the end of the government's term.
  • Private Sector Participation: Private players, contributing less than 40% of the current spending, need to increase their investment. One suggested avenue is through contributions to the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF), with a target of ?36,000 crore over five years.
  • Mechanisms for Funding: Detailed plans and mechanisms, including escrow accounts, are required to ensure the implementation of increased funding. The skilled scientific workforce needs to be expanded to utilize funds effectively.

Focus on Merit:

  • Transparent Hiring Practices: Scientists emphasize the need for transparent, merit-based hiring processes in educational and research institutions. The selection criteria should strictly follow global standards, and appointment processes should take no longer than six months.
  • Global Norms in Hiring: The hiring process should align with established global norms to ensure the selection of the most suitable candidates free from external influences.
  • Efficient Grant Management: A robust grant management system with minimal red tape is essential. Timely disbursal of grants and fellowships, autonomy in spending for researchers, and streamlined fund allocation are crucial for effective research.

Ensure Freedom:

  • Academic Freedom: Scientists stress the importance of academic freedom, allowing them to speak and write based on evidence without interference. Full autonomy for scientists to form companies, hire staff, and spend research funds is necessary.
  • Support for Innovation: An ecosystem supporting innovation and entrepreneurship is vital for scientific progress. The government should provide flexibility in administrative processes, hiring, and spending to foster innovation.
  • Accountability and Quality: While ensuring freedom, scientists must be held accountable for the quality of their work. Accountability should be based on the quality of research, products, and knowledge dissemination.
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