Friday, March 14, 2014

A New Direction For Indian Higher Education And Research Institutes

Seema Singh on her blog writes about the upcoming change in leadership at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore and suggests different avenues that could invigorate science education and research in India-

Somebody, and who better than the new director, has to take a long shot at how IISc can compete with itself — it has no competition from any other institution in the country and it can continue to do what it is doing –, contribute to the halted economic progress of the country, and break free from the culture of publishing papers to also creating products and processes that the country can use. In the past when I raised the issue of quality research resulting in products, Balaram told me I was “soft” on the industry (and hard on the academics) in not asking them to invest more in R&D. He is right to the extent that journalists cannot question industry’s poor investment in R&D, it’s their money and if they don’t see merit in R&D, their short-sightedness will come to haunt them. But institutions like IISc do research with public funds. Frankly, it’s not about value for public money, it’s about regard for public need. India needs scientists and engineers working on Indian soil to solve its problems, particularly in game-changing fields like energy, healthcare, water and so on.

IISc also has to figure out how to get the smartest people into science. Better still, if it rustles up resources to find a way to educate future discoverers of the country to live up to their potential, we’d all be the beneficiaries.

In the current election frenzy as we hear politicians take credit for good economic growth in the past, it’s sad to see scientists and engineers being left behind as unsung heroes. This perception has to change; IISc has to lead from the front, articulate its vision now that it also has a second 150-acre campus coming up in Chitradurga which offers it a mind-boggling opportunity to create a global institution.

And more suggestions:

1) Break free from the paper-publishing cycle
2) Big ideas, bigger risks
3) Bring engineering on par with science
4) Strike big collaborations with industry
5) Create role models
6) Do all this without losing its basic character

She tells me that she 'll make enemies writing this.. but a little plain speaking is what is needed most.

Read the rest here..

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