Academic research is necessary, but not sufficient
Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.
- Public consultation in the process for formulation of a new national Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP 2020).
- The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and the Department of Science and Technology has recently initiated the process for the formulation of a new national Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP 2020).
- STIP 2020 will be the 5th STIP of India, with the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy of 2013being the most recent.
- The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India (Office of PSA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) have jointly initiated a decentralized, bottom-up, and inclusive process for the formulation of a new national Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP 2020).
- This is the fifth S&T policy of India that is being initiated.
- The STIP 2020 formulation process is organised into 4 highly interlinked tracks:
- Track I involve an extensive public and expert consultation process through the Science Policy Forum – a dedicated platform for soliciting inputs from larger public and expert pool during and after the policy drafting process.
- Track II comprises experts-driven thematic consultations to feed evidence-informed recommendations into the policy drafting process. Twenty-one focused thematic groups have been constituted for this purpose.
- Track III involves consultations with Ministries and States.
- Track IV constitutes apex level multi-stakeholder consultation.
Science Technology and Innovation Policy, 2013:
- It aims to position India among the top 5 global scientific powers.
- It intends to synergize STI to transition to a knowledge-based economy.It acknowledges the significance of being a knowledge-based economy and works towards building a robust national innovation ecosystem.
- It aims to link STI to socio-economic priorities.
- It aims to attract the private sector into Research and Development.
- The article suggests policy measures in the domain of Research and Development in higher education institutions and national laboratories.
Re-defining the architecture of R&D systems:
- As against the nomenclature often used by researchers to classify their research into pure, applied, unrestricted, fundamental, basic, academic, industrial, practical, etc., the article argues for alternate frameworks and terminology to define research.
- The article suggests using the terminology ‘Academic Research (AR)’, and ‘Post-Academic Research (PAR)’. This approach would act as a type of measurement system used to assess the maturity level of a particular technology.
- Academic Research would involve observation of basic principles and would result in publications. Post-Academic Research would involve the formulation of technology at the level of concepts. This would involve proof of concept, validation in a laboratory environment, followed by a relevant environment, and then to prototype demonstration, and ending with actual deployment.
Division of research:
The article suggests that while AR and early-stage PAR can be done at higher education institutions and large laboratories, PAR has to be done by large laboratories (national or those supported by industry).
Complementarity of AR and PAR:
- While both AR and PAR generate knowledge that is necessary for national development, the article argues that the pursuit of AR though necessary is not sufficient. AR and PAR must be pursued together.
- AR and PAR when pursued together and taken to their logical conclusion will result in a product or a process.
- For example, while AR can pursue research into high energy physics, PAR can concentrate on pursuing accelerator technology relevant for industries. Similarly, while AR can pursue research in electro-chemistry, PAR can concentrate on the development of battery technologies.
- India’s investment in research is lower than that of advanced countries.
- While an increase in Science and Technology is a must, it is equally important to decide where to increase investment: in AR or in PAR. Given the low public spending in the domain of science and technology, it becomes critical to funnel these limited resources into the right areas.
- The investments need to priorities research in areas that relate to national developmentand the article suggests higher investment in PAR.
Limitations of AR:
- Notable academics have noted that the Indian industries have not reached a stage where they can absorb research being done by higher education institutions. This observation reveals that research being pursued is either not addressing national needs or is limited to AR.
- Judging the growth of S&T based only on scientific publications provides an incomplete picture. It is important to note that scientific publications alone cannot lead to national development. In short, academic research is necessary, but not sufficient.
Potential of PAR:
- Industries that have high technology intensity, such as aircraft and spacecraft, medical, precision and optical instruments, and communication equipment, have a low presence in India.
- There is a need to increase the technology intensity of industry which can result in an increase of value addition to raw materials in India. This could become an important aspect of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ programme.
Road ahead for academia:
- The research community in higher education institutions must be motivated to pursue early-stage PAR. This could involve the academics pursuing early-stage PAR themselves, or in collaboration with industries.
- The academia needs to reorient its priorities to address national needs and engage in both AR and early-stage PAR and provide inputs necessary to raise the technology intensity of the industry.
Suggestions for STI policy:
- The STI policy should emphasise on PARto ensure that investment in research results in economic growth and national development.