The need to strengthen the country’s research base has been much talked about. When it comes to research, the focus shifts to the science, technology and engineering domains. However, there is an urgent need to encourage research scholars in the field of social science and humanities and one way is through research grants offered by bodies such as the University Grants Commission (UGC).
The format of the UGC National Eligibility Test/Junior Research Fellowship examination also does not incentivise those educated in more research-focussed postgraduate programmes, say experts.
Praveen Singh, deputy dean (planning), Ambedkar University Delhi, says: “This may be because of the centralised nature of the examination and large number of applicants. The alternative fellowship options available (though not many) through bodies like Indian Council of Social Science Research, Indian Council of Historical Research, etc. encourages those who have already made research their career option and done some preliminary work. Now, universities have also been provided funds to disburse to their research students. Though this does not amount to much – it ranges from Rs. 5,000- Rs. 8,000 per student per month – there is minor improvement in research output.”
So what is needed is decentralised management of fellowships, apart from increasing the number and amount of these (non-UGC) fellowships. “The decentralisation of fellowship selection and disbursement will also encourage universities to open up new or inter-disciplinary areas of research. UGC Junior Research Fellowship/National Eligibility Test are limited mostly to core disciplines of social science and humanities. Therefore, research in inter-disciplinary areas of knowledge gets undermined,” Singh adds.
Batting for research scholars across streams, Professor Girishwar Mishra, former dean (research) for humanities and social sciences, Delhi University, says: “Scholars have to pursue research in the same social and economic climate and fulfill all the necessary requirements towards PhD degree as JRFs. They are enrolled on the basis of the entrance test conducted by the university. Their needs cannot be underestimated. Hence, they deserve better treatment.”
What research scholars need
Decentralised management of fellowships and an increase in the amount of non-UGC fellowships
An increased number of ­fellowships through bodies like Indian Council of Social Science Research and Indian Council of Historical Research