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Sept 13, 2019 (New Delhi)
Five new technology missions to be launched to make India future-ready
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is all set to launch five technology missions to prepare the country to meet scientific and technological challenges of the future. The new missions would cover aspects ranging from electric mobility to quantum science and technology.
The mission on electric mobility has been formulated in the wake of growing importance of electric vehicles particularly due to climate change concerns. It seeks to promote long-term research and development in all aspects of related technologies. For instance, the current batteries based on lithium ion are expected to start fading by 2025 globally leading to the need for development of newer materials.
The mission would, among other things, focus on developing hydrogen fuel cells and come out with batteries that would have higher specific energy and energy densities, motors that would do away with the need for permanent magnets and systems to provide for two-way power transfer between the grid and the electric vehicle chargers. A new model of collaboration that would bring together academic institutions, private manufacturing and R&D laboratories would be put in place for the mission.
Under the mission methanol, centres of excellence would be established for production and utilization of methanol and dimethyl ether using various solid fuels and natural gas and develop knowledge base and trained manpower in the area. Countries across the world are working on developing what is called 'methanol economy' as a replacement for fossil fuels as a means of energy storage, ground transportation fuel, and raw material for synthetic hydrocarbons and their products.
The aim is to ensure a cleaner environment and at the same time reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which are a non- renewable source of energy. Methanol can be produced from a wide variety of sources including agricultural products and municipal waste, and wood and other biomass. It can also be made from chemical recycling of carbon dioxide.
Announcing the missions at a press conference here DST Secretary Ashutosh Sharma said the government was working continuously shape a seamless science, technology and innovation system, which was cutting edge, collaborative, inclusive, relevant and aligned to national priorities.
The new package of technological initiatives also includes a mission on promoting research and development in quantum technology and related areas of quantum computing, quantum cryptography, quantum communication, quantum metrology and sensing, and quantum-enhanced imaging. Quantum technology is an emerging field of physics and engineering based on the properties of quantum mechanics.
The fourth mission in the package seeks to promote developments in the area of cyber-physical systems, which includes artificial intelligence, robotics, sensors, big data analytics, geographical information systems and advanced materials. The aim is to give a fillip to the manufacturing sector through the development of new products and services, creation of skilled human resources at different levels, from technician to researchers and entrepreneurs. The mission outlines time-bound strategies for implementation of cyber-physical systems in various sectors such as agriculture, transport, energy, water, and health.
The fifth mission envisages the production of digital maps across the country to a scale of 1:500 with the help of satellites and drones. The entire country would be mapped within the next two years.
Sept 5, 2019 (New Delhi)
Nationwide grid to link AYUSH hospitals, labs
India's traditional medicine system is all set to go high-tech with the Union Ayush Ministry taking steps to set up a nationwide AYUSH grid connecting all hospitals and research labs to record case histories so that a huge amount of evidences can be generated through data analytics about the efficacy of Ayurveda.
"While robust research is being conducted into Ayurveda, the problem arises in implementation of integrative medicine at the level of public health. This is because Ayurveda is still not accepted as a science by the Allopathic community. Ayush Grid is expected to take care of these gaps," Dr Rajesh Kotecha, Union Ayush Secretary said.
In fact, Prime Minister Naredndra Modi too last week, while speaking at a Yoga Awards ceremony emphasised on the need to create a homogenous system by creating an "Ayush grid" on the lines of one nation, one tax and one nation, one mobility card.
The move has been welcomed by the ayush experts and manufacturers. "This would instil confidence among people as well as bring transparency and accountability in the sector at the time when the Government is focussing on universal health care," said Sanchit Sharma, executive director of the AIMIL Pharma Ltd. He agreed with the Prime Minister's view that technology intervention will eliminate silos in the area of Ayush. Modi had pitched for connecting technology with tradition in the practice of Ayush medicine as he announced the Government's plans to establish 12,500 Ayush centres across India, 4,000 of which will be set up this year. Ayush medicines will be provided in these centres.
There is already an array of Ayurveda drugs like BGR-34 for diabetes developed by country's prestigious research institutions like CSIR. Similarly, Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed herbal drug, NEERI-KFT for kidney ailments after intensive research.
The burden of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDas) is immense in the country. As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), deaths due to NCDs has increased from 37 per cent in 1990 to 61 per cent in 2016. The WHO has already recognized diabetes as a growing challenge in India with an estimated 8.7 per cent diabetic population between the age group of 20 and 70 years. In India, the Global Disease Burden (GBD) 2015 ranks chronic kidney disease as the eighth leading cause of death.
Sept 2, 2019 (New Delhi)
IIT-Delhi will have high-level facility center for research
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), will set up a science and technology-based research facility equipped with modern technology in the capital, which can be helpful in promoting the industry, startup companies and research and development work carried out by academic institutions is.
The purpose of setting up this Center, called Sophisticated Analytical and Technical Assistance Institute (SATHI), is to provide high-efficiency technical facilities under one roof to promote research. The benefit of this facility will be available to academic institutions, startup companies, manufacturing units, industries and R&D laboratories.
This facility will be equipped with major analytical and advanced manufacturing equipment required for scientific research, which are not usually available in institutions. It will be set up at the Sonipat campus (Haryana) of IIT-Delhi. For the establishment of this center, IIT-Delhi will be given a grant of Rs 125 crore from the Department of Science and Technology.
IIT-Delhi Director Professor V. Ram Gopal Rao said that "the establishment of 'Saathi' by the government can prove to be transformative in taking experimental research work to a new height in India." IIT-Delhi has an excellent track record in the management and use of high quality research facilities. It will be our endeavor that the researchers get the benefit of this new facility for 24 hours without any hindrance. Apart from the facilities set up under this project, the benefit of other research facilities available in the institute will also be available in the 'Saathi' center. "
IIT-Delhi has been selected by a high level committee of the Department of Science and Technology for the establishment of 'Saathi'. IIT-Delhi has been selected for the establishment of 'Saathi' Facilitation Center due to its excellent R&D work, managerial and administrative capacity and availability of infrastructure.
Dean of Research & Development Department of IIT-Delhi, Prof. BR Mehta stated that "With the availability of high-capacity instruments at this facility, researchers will also be provided technical and scientific support. Faculty members and researchers of IIT-Delhi will be ready to help them in this facility center to overcome the scientific and technical difficulties associated with students, scientists and entrepreneurs. "
Aug 26, 2019 (Thrissur)
UGC to decide on proposals to review PhD theses soon
The University Grants Commission (UGC) will finalize the study proposals to audit the PhD theses submitted by research scholars in various universities across the country during the past 10 years, next week."We had received about 160 study proposals, including from the IITs. We have shortlisted 20 of them and a final decision will be taken next week," said UGC vice-chairman Bhushan Patwardhan while speaking at a symposium on 'Research in Ayurveda: Need, scope and future' organized by Ayurvedic Medicine Manufacturers' Association (AMMOI) here on Sunday.
He said the UGC is seriously concerned about the erosion of quality of PhD research in the country. "UGC has taken a strong stand against dubious research theses being produced. Thousands of journals have sprouted in the country, which publish the articles from the research scholars. Some of these 'predatory journals' give various offers to entice the research scholars to publish their papers. Shockingly, there are some agencies which have come out with rate cards listing the different amounts to be paid for PhD theses of various levels of originality," he said.
Even though the deterioration of quality of research is a global challenge, India unfortunately ranks first in terms of dubious research, Patwardhan added.Replying to questions, he said the study teams will be given six months' time to study the PhD theses and submit assessment on their quality.
Asked what would be the action against sub-standard theses, he said, "There are various actions possible, but first we must find out its spread."He said the committee appointed by the UGC to augment the quality of PhD research work has already submitted its report.
One of the major recommendations of the committee headed by P Balram, former director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, was to conduct a national-level eligibility test for joining the PhD programme. They have also recommended that the qualifications of the PhD thesis examiners as well as the guides must also be published. Another recommendation was to extend the undergraduate programme to four years and weave the research introduction there itself. These recommendations would be considered by the UGC in the next meeting.
"I'm of the view that publication of research papers by PhD students should not be made mandatory. Once this is made compulsory, they will go into a compliance mode and will chose to publish in dubious journals. Instead of the number of papers, their quality should be given more weightage while assessing a research scholar. I'm also in favour if waving the age limit for PhD studies," he said.
Ensuring quality of PhD research is crucial as many of those scholars have become teachers. Many are set to join the profession soon, he said.
Aug 19, 2019 (Kolkata)
OFB signs MoU with CSIR for development of new products
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Kolkata on 16 August 2019.The MoU was signed by Umesh Singh, Deputy Director General of OFB and Dr Harish Hirani, Director of the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, Durgapur under CSIR.
This MoU is an umbrella arrangement under which individual factories under OFB can collaborate with specific CSIR laboratories for taking up of new R & D projects. The MoU will facilitate collaboration and exchange of information between OFB and CSIR on a wide range of technologies.
The MoU has been signed as part of the ongoing efforts to boost the in-house research and development (R & D) capability of the OFB so as to give a boost to the 'Make in India' initiative of the Government of India.
Aug 8, 2019 (New Delhi)
Research will make India a world leader - Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank'
Union Human Resource Development Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' chaired the meeting of Secretaries of Higher and Technical Education of States & Union Territories to discuss the draft New Education Policy (NEP) here today.
Speaking on the Occasion the Minister said that the research is the foundation for the development of any country and India will again become a world leader by giving boost to research in the country. Shri Nishank said that states have a very important role in the new education policy. He called upon all the states that there should be more brainstorming before framing the new education policy. He added that the education policy is for the whole country and everyone's participation in the country's policy should be ensured.
The Union Minister said that the draft National Education Policy is the result of detailed consultations with all stakeholders in the last 4 years. The aim of the National Education Policy is to bring reforms in the Indian education system so that India can play a major role in the global knowledge system. He further said that there are many provisions in this draft which will give a new direction to education sector of the country.
In the draft NEP, provisions like the restructuring of higher education, promotion of research by the National Research Foundation, promotion of Indian languages, bringing more financial resources in this area and promoting more autonomy in the higher education system have been made for the holistic development of education.
Shri Nishank said that higher education today needs to be more employable, research oriented, innovative, technology-oriented and accountable, so that the youth can get the right direction. The Minister further said that our education system also has an important responsibility to establish the country as a global power by meeting international standards.
Shri Nishank said that to improve the quality of education, there is a need to fill the vacant posts in all educational institutions immediately. He stressed that all states need to think seriously on this issue. The Minister also said that for the better future of the country, we have a responsibility to implement our strategies in a timely manner to benefit all the students in the country.
July 31, 2019 (Hyderabad)
Govt-funded R&D facilities may now become accessible to pvt firms, individuals
A portal will facilitate sharing
The Research & Development (R&D) infrastructure and other resources of public-funded entities will soon be opened up for private firms and individuals to carry out their research.
"Sharing of publicly-funded R&D resources has become ever more urgent owing to the very high cost of equipment and facilities and costs laid out over their future operation and maintenance," says a draft, which has been released for feedback/comments from pharma, biotech industry and other stakeholders. Access may be provided for a fee, at subsidised rates or even free of cost, depending on the government policy.
The Centre is working on launching an integrated portal to be called Indian Science, Technology and Engineering Facilities Map, I-STEM Portal, in this regard.
The portal, which will have an up-to-date list of all functioning R&D equipment and facilities procured through government grants located at various institutions and organisation, will be made open to the public, according to the draft guidelines on sharing of public-funded R&D resources, released by Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.
The advanced information technologies can enable the sharing of resources a reality as different agencies of government can create and maintain an updated national and regional inventory of resources.
"This has the potential for revving up R&D productivity and enhancing the effectiveness of public investment. Apparently, the motto is linking researchers and resources," the draft said.
A nodal office should be set up at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore to establish, operate and maintain the I-STEM portal, it suggested. If this becomes a reality, key and expensive equipment installed in various entities, including national and regional research labs under the administrative control of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, among others, could be thrown open to private and individual research projects.
July 22, 2019 (New Delhi)
Government of India is running several research fellowship schemes to attract meritorious students into research-HRD Minister
The undergraduate programmes in the premier institutions such as Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) are the most sought after academic programmes. However, only few of them opt to pursue research after completing their B.Tech. courses. In order to attract these meritorious students into research, Government of India, in 2018 launched Prime Minister's Research Fellows (PMRF) Scheme, which offers direct admission to such students in the Ph.D porgrammes in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) with attractive fellowship of Rs.70,000/- to Rs.80,000/- per month. In addition, a research grant of Rs.2 lakh per year is provided to the selected fellows for a period of five years to present research papers. With further modification, the scheme has been opened for eligible students from all recognized institutions/universities in the country. The rate of fellowship/emoluments for other Ph.D, Junior Research Fellows (JRF) and Senior Research Fellows (SRFs) has also been revised from the existing Rs.25,000/- to Rs.31,000/- and Rs. 28,000/- to Rs.35,000/- per month effective from 01.01.2019. All students pursuing M.Tech. programmes in the Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs) and those affiliated with All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) are offered a monthly fellowship of Rs.12,400/-.
The Department of Science & Technology has also revised the rates of emoluments for Research Associates from the existing Rs.36,000 to 47,000/-, Rs.38,000/- to 49,000/- and Rs.40,000/- to Rs.54,000/- per month as per eligibility. As regards foreign students taking up R&D, no such centralized data is maintained.
The information was given by the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' in a written reply in the Lok Sabha today.
July 22, 2019 (New Delhi)
And the CSIR award goes to... its chief
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has given away one of its prestigious awards to its former director-general a month after his retirement, triggering murmurs of protests within the CSIR family
Scientists described it as a probable case of 'conflict of interest' that needs to be probed. In 2018, the council presented its 'CSIR Technology Award' in the category of life sciences to the Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH), Chandigarh, for developing a state-of-the-art clot-buster drug known as clot specific streptokinase.
Girish Sahni, a scientist who developed the indigenous clot-buster during his long research career at IMTECH, was the director-general of CSIR when his pet project was selected for the award.
"The streptokinase technology was developed years ago. The CSIR had even signed a commercial agreement with a pharmaceutical company in 2011. Then why was it awarded at a time when Sahni was at the helm of affairs to throw around his influence? The issue of conflict of interest can?t be ruled out and the CSIR headquarters must come out clean," a senior CSIR scientist, who didn't wish to be identified, told DH.
Sahni retired as a CSIR director-general on August 23, 2018. The CSIR awards are presented every year on its foundation day on September 26. But the process of selecting the award by a 14-member jury was carried out when Sahni was in charge of India's oldest research council.
A CSIR spokesperson said, "In 2018, the (selection) committee, after deliberations, recommended the nomination 'Clot Busters for Thrombolytic Therapy' submitted by a group of scientists of IMTECH for the award. By a coincidence, Sahni was one of the contributing scientists of IMTECH for the nomination."
"The nominations for CSIR technology awards are scrutinised in detail, deliberated and selected by respective award selection committee comprising high level external members drawn from various institutions in India. This committee is an independent one; non-members (including director-general, CSIR) don't participate in the meeting," the spokesperson said.
Sahni responded to DH, countering the charges. "I'm not aware of any personal knowledge or intervention in this matter. To the best of my knowledge, no influence was exercised. For me, it's very difficult to comment more than this. I can say with utmost honesty that I have a clear conscience in this matter. A large group of scientists and students worked on this project for several years and created a strong societal impact," he said.
Incidentally, the charges against the former CSIR chief come at a time when India's principal scientific advisor has come out with a draft national policy on academic ethics. In one of the chapters dealing with science administration, it says, "Conflicts of interest have to be avoided. When potential conflicts are liable to occur, the official must make this known to the concerned colleagues."