India’s top scientists had last month rang alarm bells, pointing to the steady attrition of scientists from government institutions to the private sector.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responded to the crisis on Wednesday by providing incentives to enhance research productivity of scientists, providing more freedom to the bright young sparks. He also sent a clear message to the scientific community that they too needed to make amends.
Singh called for an end to the “academic feudalism” in institutes and not allowing organisational structures and hierarchies become hurdles for younger scientists.
"We must devise ways in which younger scientists and researchers feel free to pursue their work and secure remuneration without being hindered by administrative constraints," Manmohan Singh said.
"We can consider incentive payments related to the research productivity of scientists measured in terms of a variety of criteria," Singh added at a meeting of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Society in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The prime minister also called for a review of the efficacy of the existing arrangements that provides for handling consultancy projects and selling intellectual property rights.
“Talent in today’s world is very mobile,” he acknowledged, noting the “concern” among leaders in the science and technology community about attrition of scientists and engineers at all levels to the private sector.
"Singh had last heard the concerns at the meeting of the Scientific Advisory Council in December; council chairman Professor CNR Rao had then turned to the Prime Minister to “find a solution."
The prime minister’s prescription went deeper into problems afflicting research in the country. For one, he made it clear that that scientists playing the role of administrators at research institutes may not always be a very good idea and suggested “managerial reform” at CSIR as well as universities to improve administrative efficiency and academic work.
"Good academics and scientists need not be good administrators and managers, and vice versa. We must be able to de-link administrative responsibility from leadership in R&D and academic work in all our research institutions," he said.
He also took the opportunity to remind CSIR that its internal receipts had remained 'virtually stagnant' over the years and asked the council to become "more market friendly and stakeholder friendly."
Singh also told CSIR to strengthen links with universities, emphasising that scientific enterprise and research should be “rooted” in the university system.
“The center of gravity of science and research in India has to mov0e back closer to universities. However, for this to happen, our university system must also be reformed, restructured and rejuvenated. Universities must be more open to the free flow of talent so that research and teaching activity can develop together”.