Research Career: A tale of bankrupt intellectuality

Posted on March 1, 2010 in Learning+, Research

Ranjeet Kumar:

Research today has become more paper driven than passion driven. There is a growing community which chooses a research problem that can be solved and is easy. This can be very well understood by scenarios where nothing new is coming out except burgeoning piles of literature. Therefore the students involved in such projects work mechanically and the innovation dries out and what remains is a lot of exceptionally talented candidates turning into scientific coolies. Inculcating an atmosphere where mistakes are rewarded and everyone is encouraged to carry out mistakes, those thinking out of the box and innovatively should be allowed to put forth their original views. The psyche of a researcher has a tendency of escaping and what suffers at large is nation’s science. The solution to this lies in no more reviews but original views which should be loudly propagated. My notion lies in defining our own problems of malnutrition, sanitation, safe drinking water and diseases pertaining to the above which definitely would add value to the life of people at large.

There has been further increase in the number of fellowships by different awarding bodies and everyone who does post graduation in science aspires for it. Again the question remains does this entrance really has anything to do with the quality of research? Given an option how many of the lot selected will still like to pursue a research career? The hunt for research scholars seems to be driven by these fellowships rather than by their passion to pursue science. A different sort of selection and screening should be devised that would allow students to come up with original research ideas after the fellowships have been awarded. A selection committee should then look on the techno-economic feasibility and then these students should be allotted respective guides or should be allowed to discharge role in academics based on their passion and motivation. It should be mandatory that the problems taken up should be pertaining to Indian scenario and not borrowed from western countries. Those having fire in the belly should be encouraged and fellowship should not be a constraint for them.

Statistics were misleading and the actual ground reality looked alarming in the assay ‘Biotechnology sector in India: strengths, limitations, remedies and outlook’ in July 2009 issue of current science.

S. Natesh gave a vivid account of the face of contemporary biotech in India. It seems that the scenario is overwhelming and we are on the right track, but had there been any effort by organizations to find the fate of number of post graduates that come out every year, a definitive pool of the talented force should be tracked and conducive career path should be designed to assimilate these talents. There is an urgent need to manage these human resources by introducing bridge courses and providing them opportunities to thrive well. Courses that train people on various aspects of patient health care and novel agricultural skills to whatever it takes to bring research from bench to bed and from lab to field comes under the umbrella of bridge courses. Instead of a single available option of doctoral studies there should be copious opportunity at the disposal of scholar’s pursuing science. He put forth the view that there is ‘lack of quality human resource of right kind’ which impedes growth. My opinion again is when are we going to stop complaining and start acting if people and policy makers themselves keep on complaining who will be the flag bearer of creating conducive atmosphere where this problem is efficiently answered.?

The applicability of science to the society should be prioritized. In one of his editorial article in current science P. Balaram quotes from Donald E. Stokes, Pasteur’s Quadrant – Basic Science and Technological Innovation which emphasizes on a class of scientific research methods that both seek fundamental understanding of scientific problems, and, at the same time, seek to be eventually beneficial to society and has been placed top right and christened Pasteur quadrant. So it’s high time to think that India cannot afford to carry only basic science and its upto us to herald a new era “where use inspired basic research” receives focus of the intellectual lot. Its right time to amalgamate knowledge to action as Louis Pasteur rightly said “There is not pure science and applied science but only science and application of science.”

Creating new institutions like IISER, IIT’S, NIPER and AIIMS has been a government effort to publicize but never there is an initiative to look up on the problems of the institutions which are already facing resource crisis and proper manpower and as such motivation is low. The seeds of research acumen should be nurtured in the university regime so that the one who really has the erudite comes in to the realm of research; it demands a change in the system where promotions of the faculty should be linked to research initiatives they undertake. To improve the situation its up on the policy makers to come out of the traditional mindset and in line with establishing new research institutions , the universities should be given upper hand in research so that the student get a glimpse of first hand research.

Today when we think of ‘translational research’ and ‘sustainable development’ I feel really sorry as these terminology may be jargon but isn’t it possible to put the idea in the psyche of the community that for a difference, to be different, it must make difference and that’s what pursuing a career in science is all about.

REFERENCES:

1. S. Natesh* and M. K. Bhan- Biotechnology sector in India: strengths, limitations, remedies and outlook, CURRENT 160 SCIENCE, VOL. 97, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2009

2. Donald E. Stokes, Pasteur’s Quadrant – Basic Science and Technological Innovation, Brookings Institution Press, 1997

The writer is a research scholar by profession working at CDRI Lucknow, a freelancer and poet by passion.

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