Use tenure track system to improve research quality, says Prof Udgaonkar, director, IISER

Hindustan Times, Pune | ByDheeraj Bengrut
Jun 21, 2019 04:57 PM IST

Professor Jayant B Udgaonkar, took charge as the director of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune in November 2017

Professor Jayant B Udgaonkar, took charge as the director of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune in November 2017. Since then, he was been actively working towards improving various aspects of the institution such as research programmes, academic syllabus and outreach programmes.

Jayant Udgaonkar, IISER director(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)
Jayant Udgaonkar, IISER director(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

What are your plans for IISER for the academic year of 2019-2020?

From the coming academic year, the curriculum of all the undergraduate courses at IISER will be updated. The courses will be more practical application based, which will make the students think harder and challenge them in their areas of research. We also plan on expanding into new research arenas, such as artificial intelligence, data science and computer science. We will also be focusing on expanding our humanities and social science departments.

What challenges are faced by research teams in the field of science?

In the past 10 to 15 years many new institutes and universities have opened up in the country. Majority of these universities have top of the class facilities, so there is no excuse such as “not well to do” for the faculties. In many foreign countries, the new faculties are put under a lot of pressure, to do well. This system is referred to as ‘Tenure track system’. In this system, the performance of a person requires to be of a certain level for six years. They are discontinued, if they fail to meet the criteria. This system is not present in India, except for top two or three institutes in the country.

Do you feel the tenure track system will be beneficial in India?

It is very important that universities and institutes adopt this system. If you look at the new draft of the ‘National Education policy’, it has actually suggested that, if the system is adopted, there will be a massive improvement in the quality of research done in the country. There is a cultural resistance to it, as Indians don’t like taking decision to discontinue someone, but I feel that is something we will have to overcome.

What is the problem with research in India?

The problem really in India, is the people in the top research institutes in India are of the quality compared to any other international university so they need to push themselves more. My overall impression, from looking at science in India, in the past 30 years, is that we don’t work as hard as people in foreign countries. The problem is that government does not realise that our scale of science is very small compared to other countries, the number of scientists we have is very less compared to what we need for in terms of population of a developing country.

What would you like to say to students who want to pursue a career in research?

Career in research perhaps is the most rewarding of all careers. There has been a lot of new findings. Generally speaking, there is much less hierarchy in research institutes, compared to other professions. To discover new theories and find solutions for various problems the society faces, can be exceptionally rewarding. The salaries offered to employees in the research filed has also improved, drastically. So I think one of the best careers you could choose and certainly one of the rewarding. Also there are side benefits to it, such as you get to travel around the world for conferences. You get to interact with people of different backgrounds, cultures and most importantly, you get a chance to discover and inventions which will affect the future of our society. It is career which requires lot of hard work, for a successful scientist, attitude is very important and belief in yourself. “

Talking about outreach program of IISER he said, “We have different types of outreach programs out here in IISER, there is one type where students from various city schools and also from across the state, colleges come here at our science activity center. They are demonstrated about various concepts of science and its really worth visiting. There is another type of outreach which is training of teachers of schools and colleges. They are trained about ‘how to teach science’ to make science subject more exciting to the students and this thing will have a multiplier effect. Regular workshops are held here at IISER for teachers.”

What is Tenure tracking system?

In the Tenure tracking system, the performance of a person is required to meet a certain industry standard for six years. They are discontinued, if they fail to meet the criteria.

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