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Bridging the gap between Research and Development in India

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Dr. Akheela Khanum

Research is “a systematic and innovative work which is carried on with an aim to generate new knowledge and understanding about humans and society”. Producing knowledge is fundamental to the growth and development of any society. Prioritization of relation between research and development (R&D) is vital for accomplishing socio-economic goals for any country.

India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. It ranks number two in world population closely behind China. Research in India is as old as India itself. It is known fact that ancient India not only produced sages and seers but scholars and scientists as well. India was actively contributing to the field of science and technology long before modern laboratories were setup. It produced great scientists like C.V Raman, Homi J Bhabha, Srinivas Ramanujan who made remarkable contributions in the field of nuclear Physics and Mathematics.

However, research in modern India is fettered and restrained. According to reputed Science magazine ‘Nature’ in its report published in 2015“Indian research is hampered by stifling bureaucracy, poor-quality education at most universities and insufficient funding. Successive governments have pledged to increase support for research and development to 2% of India's gross domestic product (GDP), but it has remained static at less than 0.9% of GDP since 2005”.

Globally, India ranks sixth in terms of investment in research and development, with US and China occupying the first and second slots respectively. Although India’s position in the list seems to be not very bad but what is worrisome is the research is not being rendered to development, growth and prosperity.

Although there are several challenges in strengthening the R&D culture of the country as opined by the research community but funding, collaboration and publication are the prominent ones.

Of course, money does matters, generally there is an understanding that funding for research projects comes from the government to the government colleges or universities. In India, any university or college which is granted 12 B status of the UGC Act, 1956 will be eligible to get financial assistance from UGC. Financial support for research could be obtained from many sources which are available within the research conducting institute (intramural grants) or from sources which are external to the research conducting institute (extramural grants). The extramural grants can be obtained from corporate sectors,local organizations, state and central government organizations, international organizations, and non-government organizations. At the government level some of the funding agencies are: Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Space (DOS), Department of Biotechnology (DOB), Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), Indian Council for Agriculture Research(ICAR). Statistics show Private spenders in research in India are very scarce. According to Forbes 2017 survey there are 26 Indian companies in the list of the top 2500 global spenders compared to 301 Chinese companies. 19 out of these 26 firms are in just three sectors: pharmaceuticals, automobiles and software.

Together we can accomplish anything and collaboration in any matter could bringout the best of both parties. The synergy between educational institutions or between the educational institutions and the industry plays a key role in creating a “win-win” situation in research and innovation. In 1969, Donald T. Campbell came up with a model of science that highlighted the benefits of collaboration. His model argued that research could be most effective when people with expert knowledge in different areas collaborate on a project of overlapping interest. Although there are myriads of opportunities in performing collaborative research, but there are vexing challenges too. The varied cultural, communication and intellectual background may sometimes lead to misunderstanding, miscommunications and conflict. Ministry of HRD of India through UGC has been pressing on the issue of collaborative research. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) an autonomous institution of the UGC in its framework for quality assessment of higher educational institutions has added collaboration as an important indicator in uplifting any academic institution in terms of quality.

“Showcasing”, what research you are involved with, on what projects you are working is a key to success in scientific community. Publications indicate that one is active in research. In many countries and in India as well, they are counted for the purpose of quality assessment of an institution. Some institutions award productivity allowances to researchers based on publications in journals with Thomson Reuters impact factor or Scimago rankings to name a few. In Indian higher education system even the promotions of the faculty to the rank of a Professor is based on number of publications in reputed peer reviewed journals. Number of publications and citation count of research papers of its faculty is an important indicator of qualityfor any educational institution which is assessed by NAAC and NIRF (National Institution Ranking Framework).

Nowadays, there is lot of hoopla about research and related degrees in the academic institutions. There is uproar amongst academic fraternity about obtaining PhDs to sustain in the current job or to find a new one. This is certainly going to increase the number of PhD holders in the country in the years to come but what remains to be answered is the quality of research output. What we will be getting is merely going to add yet another thesis in the book shelfbutit is not going to result in the transformation of knowledge into usable products and services. India is lagging behind other leading countries as far as the quality of publications is concerned. It is time to focus on improving the R&D infrastructure of the country by way of increasing the percentage of GDP allocation to R&D activities, providing more funds from government agencies and industries, more industry and academia collaboration and strengthening rigorous research activities in colleges and universities.

Author is Professor at Integral University Lucknow

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