The Times of India |
MYSURU: Ahead of doubling its investment in innovations in line with what 19 other nations have pledged in Paris recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called for a “framework of scientific audit” for scientific departments and institutions in India while promising that his government would “make it easier to do science and research”. “We will also try to increase the level of resources for science, and deploy them in accordance with our strategic priorities”, said Modi while delivering the inaugural speech at the 103rd Indian Science Congress (ISC) inside the historic University of Mysore campus. Though the Prime Minister did not elaborate on the issue, scientists who gathered here from across the country referred to it as a significant announcement which will not only infuse accountability into institutions but also free it from the clutches of ‘unscientific’ audits including the one being done by the CAG. Scientists have, time and again, raised the issue, pointing out that the CAG can, at best, do financial monitoring and auditing as it does not have expertise to question the scientific institutions on issues of scientific research. They noted how the country’s premier auditing body had in the past made remarks on the work of scientists (mainly on the expenses undertaken for research) which appeared to be quite discouraging for them. Creating a framework for such audits will be important as at present scientific institutions are not monitored uniformly. There is a mechanism of internal scrutiny (like in the CSIR or ICAR) but there is no single body or uniform framework to audit the scientific works of these institutions.
Modi made the remark in the context of the government’s plan to launch ‘Startup India’ and efforts to improve the science administration and science education in the country. “We are launching Startup India that will encourage innovation and enterprise. We are creating technology incubators in academic institutions. And, I have asked for a framework of Scientific Audit for scientific departments and institutions in the government”, said Modi. He also noted how these efforts would bring strong dividends when both Centre and states work in close coordination. Referring to these efforts, the Prime Minister said, “We will make it easier to do science and research in India, improve science administration, and expand the supply and improve the quality of science education and research in India”. Asked about the PM’s call for a framework of scientific audit, retired Professor of Kolkata University, Avijit Banerji, said, “It’s a great move. At present, we do not have any uniform system to judge the works of scientific institutions”. Banerji, council member of the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) and one of its past general secretaries, said, “Though we have an autonomous institution like the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), it has not brought the desired result”. The NAAC is an autonomous body, established by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to assess and accredit institutions of higher education in the country.
The Prime Minister in his speech also emphasised that the private sector should invest in innovations in a big way and the country should also prioritise the areas where innovations are needed. He said, “Innovation in approach is not just the obligation of the government, but also the responsibility of the private sector and the academia. In a world of resource constraints and competing claims, we have to be smart in defining our priorities. And, it is especially important in India, where challenges are many and the scale is enormous – from health and hunger to energy and economy”. The announcements made by the Prime Minister are important in the context of additional focus on innovation and the move to double the national investment for innovations as promised by 20 countries, including India, during the Paris climate meet on November 30, 2015. Besides India, the countries which are part of this move include the USA, Germany, UK, France, China and Japan among others. – Courtesy