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Funding Woes in Indian Science

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May 02, 2022

What is the issue?

India is primarily sustained by direct funding from the government which still remains static.

What is the status of India’s R&D expenditure?

  • Public expenditure- The public expenditure on science in India hovers between a 0.6 to 0.8% of GDP over a decade.
  • While India’s global R&D expenditure remains static at 1-3% of the global total, the U.S. and China accounted for 25% and 23%, respectively.
  • Private participation-There is very little participation from the private sector in the country.
  • Qualified researchers- The under-funding is reflected in the low proportion of qualified researchers available in India.
  • The World Bank statistics indicate that India had 255 researchers per million people and only 15 researchers per 1,00,000 population in 2017.
  • Budgetary allocation- The budgetary allocations over the last several years show a consistent downward trend (a drop of 3.9% from last year is witnessed in this year’s budget).
  • Much of the total of the funding available goes to DRDO, Department of Space and Atomic Energy, leaving only 30 to 40% for other agencies.

What about the status of India’s research output?

  • Number of Patents- India lags behind other nations in the number of patents produced (58,502 patents were filed in 2020-21).
  • Number of Publications- India has been doing somewhat better, showing steady growth in its output but both the USA and China published approximately four times as many articles as India in 2016.
  • Quality of Research- The quality of publications from India has also been substantially lower than global standards.

Is there any demand for science as a career option?

  • The available number of people required to do scientific work as a career option enlarged exponentially.
  • This can be seen from the following:
    • The number of universities jumped from 752 to 1,016
    • Doctoral degrees escalated from 10,111 to 24,474
  • Realising this demand from the new generation of researchers, the 2021-22 budget offered Rs. 10,000 crore every year from 2021, over the next five years, for a new funding agency called the National Research Foundation (NRF).
  • National Education Policy 2019 also stressed on the pressing need to set up– NRF.

What is the NRF?

  • National Research Foundation (NRF) is a professional and comprehensive research and education framework that was aimed to strengthen the research ecosystem in India.
  • The aim of proposing NRF is that it will improve linkages between Research & Development, academia, and industry.
  • It will be set up under National Education Policy 2020.
  • The total proposed outlay of the National Research Foundation is Rs 50,000 crore over a period of five years.
  • Structure- The NRF will be established initially as a Society under the Societies (Registration) Act, 1860.
  • Within three years, the NRF will by an Act of Parliament, become an autonomous body of the Government of India.
  • The NRF will be governed by an 18-member NRF Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals in their respective fields.
  • Experts may be drawn from within the country and internationally, and it is expected that about a third of the Board member are women.
  • A President, Vice-President, and Chief Operating Officer will be searched for and selected by the NRF Board.
  • The NRF will consist of ten major Directorates, each Directorate with a Chair and Vice-Chair, appointed by the NRF Board.
  • The NRF will be given an annual grant that will eventually aim to reach at least 0.1% of GDP and will be conferred with the autonomy to set its own finances, governance, and statutes.

How significant is NRF?

  • The NRF was expected to bring thousands of colleges and universities under its ambit.
  • As most of the country’s scientific research is being conducted by government laboratories and a few premier institutes, NRF was thought to be a game-changer by its intent of democratisation of the knowledge base.
  • An autonomous, more participatory and less bureaucratic system is needed to unleash the fullest potential of Indian science.

What other efforts can be taken?

  • Infusion of more funds- India needs to inject enough funds into basic research by committing to raise the R&D spending to at least 1% of the GDP.
  • Government incentives-The government should incentivise the private players by giving them tax breaks for the private sector to chip in.
  • Upgradation of SERB- Another option is to upgrade the SERB (Science Engineering Research Board) to play the role assigned to the NRF.

 

References

  1. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/funding-woes-haunt-indian-science/article65372653.ece
  2. https://www.psa.gov.in/psa-prod/2020-11/English%20NRF.pdf
  3. https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/education/nep-2020-national-research-foundation-proposed-by-education-minister-see-details-here.html

 

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