Research in India

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    Research in India

    Syllabus:  GS3/ Science & Technology

    In Context

    • Among the most important pieces of legislation slated to be tabled in the current monsoon session of Parliament is the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023.

    Status of the Research field in India

    • Spending on research:
      • For many years, India’s spending on research has lagged between 0.6%-0.8% of GDP, or lower than the 1%-2% spent by countries with an economic base reliant on science and technology. 
      • In countries such as China, the U.S. and Israel, the private sector contributed nearly 70% of the research expenditure whereas in India, this was only about 36% of India’s total research expenditure — roughly ₹1.2 lakh crore — in 2019-20. 
    • Low enrollments: 
      • There are some 161,412 students enrolled in PhD programmes in 2018. 
      • This comprises less than 0.5 percent of the total student enrollment in higher education in the country – which constitutes students enrolled in universities, colleges and standalone institutes pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

    Hurdles & Challenges 

    • Early schooling:
      • The woes of India’s education system are rooted in early schooling. 
      • Analysts have long pointed to the problem of students “reproducing” textbooks in examinations without applying critical thinking—and such culture is carried all the way to higher education. 
    • Lack of a scientific training:
      • The lack of scientific training in the methodology of research is a great impediment for researchers in our country. There is a paucity of competent researchers. 
    • Insufficient coordination:
      • There is insufficient interaction between the university research departments on one side and business establishments, government departments and research institutions on the other side. 
    • Inadequate investment:
      • The relatively greater contribution of private sector research in many countries is because of sustained government support to universities and research institutions that have then encouraged individuals to build companies, and institutions that saw value in investing in research and development. 
      • The challenge in India is not the absence of such companies but the fact that there are too few of them. 
    • Absence of code of conduct:
      • There does not exist a code of conduct for researchers and inter-university and interdepartmental rivalries are also quite common. 
      • Hence, there is need for developing a code of conduct for researchers which, if adhered sincerely, can win over this problem.
    • Delays:
      • Many researchers in our country also face the difficulty of adequate and timely secretarial assistance, including computer assistance. This causes unnecessary delays in the completion of research studies.
    • Lack of rewards:
      • The lack of rewards for researchers is a key factor behind the poor research performance of Indian institutions.

    Government’s initiatives to boost research in India

    • The Government of India (GoI) has launched a string of initiatives to boost the number of researchers in higher education. 
    • Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan:
      • For starters, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) launched the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan or the National Higher Education Mission to strategically fund higher education institutes in the country. 
    • Inclusion of ‘research’ as a parameter:
      • In 2015, the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was launched to rank universities and institutes in various parameters, including research. 
    • ‘Institutes of Eminence (IoE)’ scheme:
      • Subsequently, the GoI announced the ‘Institutes of Eminence (IoE)’ scheme, where it initially pledged to support 20 institutes to become world-class universities – of which six have already been announced and more than a dozen are awaiting the status upgrade.

    About the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023

    • The bill envisages a new, centralised body to fund research, with a budget of ₹50,000 crore, over the next five years. 
    • The NRF draws on models such as the United States’s National Science Foundation whose nearly $8 billion budget is the major source of funding for college and university research, and the European Research Council, which funds basic and applied research. 
    • NRF’s plan, going by public statements of administrators, is to draw the bulk of its budget — ₹36,000 crore — from the private sector.
      • The private sector contributed nearly 70% of the research expenditure in many developed countries, therefore, the Centre reasons, the way to galvanise university research in India would be to attract more private money.

    Way ahead

    • While the experiences of other countries can provide valuable lessons, these models may not be able to capture the complexities and diversity of the Indian education system.
    • The Indian education system must explore ways by which it can upgrade its current, textbook-heavy learning system. 
    • Introducing UG research in institutes will not only enhance the quality of students and faculty in the system, but also help India generate relevant scholarly research that will contribute to the country and beyond.
    • Organisations such as the NRF should work to create conditions which incentivise the development of private sector organisations that see value in invention and developing proprietary technology. 

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] What is the significance of a robust research ecosystem for the sustainable progress of India? What are the Hurdles & Challenges for India’s research sector?