Thursday, June 20, 2019

Structural Geology And India's Societal Needs

This is a thoughtful essay by Manish Mamtani from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, on the need for Indian structural geologists to tailor their research towards the concerns of industry.

Usually, a call for more 'applied' research comes from the Industry side, and so it is refreshing to see an academic ask for a reevaluation of research priorities.

The application of structural geology for society are varied, ranging from better understanding the origin of economic deposits, to assessing geological structures of mountain slopes and their associated landslide risk, to evaluating rock properties for foundations of dams and bridges.

The author worries that recommendations for forging links between academic research and industry  in this subject may remain buried in seminar abstracts and reports unless there is a change in the way research is funded and career advancement evaluated.

"I am sure many of the above aspects that outline the importance of Structural Geology studies to industry/societal issues have already been listed several times in reports of seminars held in the past. Unfortunately, we do not see much progress on the implementation side. One of the ways forward could be setting up of a special program by a funding agency that specifically targets “Applied Aspects of Structural Geology”. This can attract Structural Geology projects, the outcome of which would be useful to society/industry. Indian funding agencies could also consider a special program where two way funding is provided to academicians – partly by industry and partly by the agency itself. For e.g., MoES/DST could act as the nodal agency to bring academicians and personnel from industries like ONGC or Hutti Gold Mines Ltd (HGML) on the same table and they jointly fund Structural Geology research directly related to respective industries. 

In such a collaborative environment, there will be a natural drive in the involved academic to provide solutions to the industry. In the long term, such modus operandi can have a domino effect on the way Structural Geology courses are set, designed and taught in Indian Universities/Institutes. This can also lead to producing students who are better prepared to serve industry and society once they obtain a Master’s degree in Geosciences. But, one has to bear in mind that in doing industry-oriented project work, the “poor” geoscientist will have to sacrifice (to some extent) addition of publications to the “CV”. This would imply delay in career progression, a risk many academicians would not consider worth taking. The onus thus lies on, not only the funding agencies, but also on persons who evaluate career progression of (geo)scientists. Due credit must be given to a geoscientist whose research provides solutions to industry/society even if the “CV” is short on number of publications".

Open Access.

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