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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."
July 18, 2019 (New Delhi)
Indian agreement to boost 'IP culture' in defence
Indian government agencies have signed an agreement to strengthen intellectual property (IP) rights within India's defence industry.The Ministry of Defence said on 10 July that the agreement was signed by the Department of Defence Production's Intellectual Property Facilitation Cell (IPFC) and the Ministry of Science and Technology's National Research Development Corporation (NRDC).
The MoD said the partnership between the IPFC and NRDC is ?expected to bridge a capacity shortfall and provide a major fillip to the ongoing efforts of the MoD towards promoting a culture of innovation and IP rights in India's defence industry".The agreement is intended to enable the two agencies to support domestic defence companies to file patents for defence technologies and to commercialise related products and IPs.
India's Defence Production Secretary Ajay Kumar announced in June that India's state-owned enterprises filed for 730 patents during fiscal year (FY) 2018?19 and are aiming to file 1,000 patents in FY 2019?20.Mr.Kumar said the growth was because of the success of the Indian government's campaign - launched in November 2018 - to boost the IP rights culture within India's defence industry.
This campaign is dubbed 'Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti' (MRGS) and as part of related reforms the IPFC was launched in 2018 under the DDP's Directorate General of Quality Assurance.
July 18, 2019 (New Delhi)
MoU Signed between Ministry of Health and Ministry of AYUSH for 'Tuberculosis Free India' initiative
Ministry of AYUSH and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare have signed MoU today to forge inter-sectoral convergence at the level of policy, planning and programme implementation for accelerated response towards "Tuberculosis Free India" initiative. The intended collaboration between the two Ministries aims at development of linkages and integration of TB care services within the infrastructure and institutional network of AYUSH. The MoU was signed by Secretary Health and Family Welfare Smt. Preeti Sudan and Secretary AYUSH, Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha in the presence of Minister of Health and Family Welfare Shri Harshvardhan, MoS Health and Family Welfare Shri Ashwini Choubey and Minister of State for AYUSH and MoS Defence Shri Shripad Yesso Naik.
On this occasion Shri Shripad Naik said that Tuberculosis is not only a challenge for medical fraternity but also a serious social problems mainly hitting the populations battling with poverty, malnutrition, poor hygiene, housing and working conditions. The Minister said that AYUSH systems have potential knowledge base, qualified & trained human resources and holistic healthcare practices to help achieving the objective of TB- free India. He further said that accordingly, it is expected that multifaceted issues of the people suffering from TB can be addressed with integrated approaches, inter- sectoral convergence and meaningful involvement of AYUSH sector.
The MoU with the Central TB Division of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare outlines the scope and extent of AYUSH involvement in sensitization, awareness generation, capacity building of AYUSH institutions and health service providers in the areas of TB diagnosis, control and management. Focused activities envisaged under the MoU will cover joint planning to work with AYUSH organisations & professional bodies and promote adjuvant use of evidence- based AYUSH interventions for, TB control and management. It is also intended to facilitate research collaboration and best practices of AYUSH healthcare and build up capacities for TB-free work places and communities. Both Ministries will appoint Nodal Officers for development of implementation plan, modalities of operationalization and steering the collaboration activities outlined in the MoU.
July 16, 2019 (New Delhi)
IIT Delhi signs MoU with five CSIR laboratories to promote cooperative research
As a part of MoU, IIT Delhi plans to promote collaborative research, exchange of ideas, development of knowledge, enhancing high quality research throughput.
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, recognised by the Government of India as an Institution of Eminence,has entered into an agreement with five of the renowned national laboratories of by signing an MoU to promote cooperative research. The laboratories are CSIR-Advanced Materials and Processes Research Institute, CSIRCentral Scientific Instruments Organisation, CSIR-Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute, CSIRInstitute of Minerals & Materials Technology and CSIR-National Physical Laboratory of India.
CSIR or Council of Scientific and Industrial Research works under the Government of India as the largest research and development organisation in the country.The MoU was signed by the Directors of the laboratories and Prof V. Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi in the presence of Dr Shekhar C. Mande, DG, CSIR today.Prof. Rao in his opening remarks said that IIT Delhi has been pioneering in providing its students and faculty with world class infrastructure and conducive environment for research.He also spoke about the plans to initiate about 60 Interdisciplinary Research projects with the five CSIR laboratories this year.
Welcoming the partnership, Dr Mande said that the CSIR laboratories can benefit immensely with such collaborations that are in the mutual interest areas of research and together it can participate more proactively in solving nation's persisting problem in the areas of science and technology, healthcare. As a part of MoU, IIT Delhi plans to promote collaborative research, exchange of ideas, development of knowledge, enhancing high quality research throughput. The MoU would also serve as a platform to students, faculty and other research scholars equally to contribute towards research and development growth of nation and fuelling its growth, an IIT Delhi statement said.
July 5, 2019 (New Delhi)
HRD plans National Research Foundation
The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry is working on a plan to create a National Research Foundation (NRF) and is veering towards structuring it as a commission created by an act of Parliament and headed by the Prime Minister.
The NRF's mandate is to foster research, much like the US' National Science Foundation does, although it will do this by working almost exclusively through universities and premier educational institutions.
Some people expect an announcement of the funding and creation of NRF to come in the Union Budget which will be presented on Friday.
According to a senior government official familiar with the matter, a panel of nearly 80 experts including NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, former revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Niti Aayog, principal scientific adviser to the PM, K VijayRaghaThe van, former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, former Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan and top HRD officials led by higher education secretary R Subrahmanyam, has given a detailed plan on setting up NRF to the ministry.
According to the report submitted by these experts under the ministry's Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP), NRF may be commission by an Act of Parliament and will aim at achieving excellence in knowledge creation and research and innovation infrastructure.
Its operations should follow a so-called hub-and-spoke model with a network of Centres of Excellence (CoEs) located in premier institutions, the report further says.
NRF will fund research projects through grants. It will establish high- intensity thematic research labs in areas of science such as oceanography, nanotechnology, and Information & Communication Technology.
"NRF will be an apex body formed under the chairmanship of Prime Minister and will aim for excellence in knowledge, people and infrastructure. It will focus on promoting R&D activities in branches of science and technology, humanities and social sciences identified through national and state missions," the report says.
HT has reviewed a copy of the report.
According to the panel, which was formed on the direction of the Prime Minister's office and whose report was submitted to HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, NRF will establish and support research centres in existing higher education institutions. It will also support and fund postdoctoral students.
"The overarching goal of NRF will be to enable a culture of research to permeate through our universities. In particular, NRF will explicitly aim to remove the current obstacles in creating a global quality research ecosystem in the country by providing a reliable base of merit-based peerreviewed research funding, helping to develop a culture of research in the country through suitable incentives for and recognition of outstanding research, and by undertaking major initiatives to seed and grow research at state universities and other public institutions where research capability is currently limited," the report says.
The report also calls for an innovation fund for supporting innovative projects at pre-incubation, incubation and start-up levels.
"It is an excellent idea. The New Education Policy draft has also called for setting up a research foundation. However, creating it through an act of parliament and headed by the prime minister as aspects will add to its stature...," said former UGC member Inder Mohan Kapahy.
July 3, 2019 (New Delhi)
Human cell atlas: An initiative for holistic understanding of human body
A new human atlas initiative has been launched to create a unified database of molecular network of all the tissues in the human body and to derive a holistic picture of working of human body. The project named Manav has been launched by the Department of Biotechnology and Persistent Systems, a biotechnology company.
This mega project will collate and integrate molecular information on human tissues and organs that currently lies hidden in research articles in an unstructured and disorganized form. The project would utilize large biological community, both students and scientists, for extracting and adding the information from scientific literature at the level of cells and organs. The database would eventually help researchers in identifying gaps in current knowledge and help in future projects in diagnostics and disease biology.
The idea emerged from the success of "Smart India hackathon", a nationwide contest in which large number of engineering students are being encouraged to find solutions to the pressing problems. In the same way, Manav will engage biology students to build their skills in reading scientific literature and deepen their understanding of biological system.
"On one hand, we have large amount of published literature and on the other hand we have few lakhs students involved in biological courses. The thought process behind Manav was to orient our students towards an aim that will train them to read scientific literature, analyze it and also the knowledge on how to design experiments," explained Dr. Abhay Jere, national coordinator of the project, while talking to India Science Wire.
In this public-private venture, DBT and Persistent Systems will invest Rs 13 crore and Rs 7 crore respectively. The project will be executed by Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and National Center for Cell Sciences (NCCS) based at Pune. While the institutes will train students, the technology platform and data management will be provided by the private partner. Students and faculty from DBT Star colleges and Biotechnology Information network system (BTIS) network will also be involved.
The project team is in talks with other scientific agencies such as the All India Council of Technical Education, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), University Grants Commission and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for possible collaboration.
This initiative will not only seal the gaps in knowledge on human body but will also create a trained population of biologists. With the data curation and analysis skills imparted during this project, students will have better opportunities for the job in life science sector. The undergraduates and postgraduates from the various distinct fields of biology such as zoology, biotechnology, botany, biochemistry, pharmacology and medical sciences can register and contribute to this project.
A similar Human Cell Atlas project was launched in 2016 as a collaborative effort between scientists. This project is designed to generate data pertaining to cellular and molecular activities of various cell types in the body in both its normal and disease state using techniques such as single cell genomics. The Indian project, on the other hand, depends on the knowledge already available in scientific literature to derive information on cellular network.
The project will be executed in four steps. First will be creation of a robust online data annotation platform. Second step would involve data annotation and curation by students on the platform. Evaluation of generated data and model by faculty and then senior scientists for quality check would constitute third step. Finally, integration of data, model building and visualization.
Currently the project is in its beta testing mode where students are being trained at NCCS, Pune campus to annotate and curate the molecular data related to research on human skin and assign them to various cells, tissues and organs via the newly created annotation platform. The information obtained will be checked by teachers and scientists. The team says that the feedback from students and faculty would help in fine tuning the system. The training in future will be conducted through webinars which will ensure involvement of larger student community from across the country can contribute to this project.
"The general methodology of acquiring and visualizing data methodology and technical platform developed during this project can be extrapolated to do other science project on biodiversity, ecology, environment etc. which may be relevant nationally or globally," added Dr. Jere.
The information gathered in the project will help scientists to understand the differential molecular factors which vary between diseased states versus a healthy state of an organ.
Further, it will bring out the cross-talk of molecular factors in various organs helping in understanding the networking between organs in a better way.
July 2, 2019 (New Delhi)
Government bats for sharing biological research data
Wants better use of public funds
Draft note from the government on use and sharing of biological data requires researchers who collect such data and use public funds for the same, to ensure that this data is made public within two years at the latest.
The draft document, called the Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy of India, is primarily meant to address a long-standing peeve among many scientists, that several scientists use government funds to conduct research and collect biological specimens and data such as DNA samples, cell and tissue samples, store these details in databases and often lock them up - sometimes for good, barring access to other researchers and scientists who may be interested in them. This leads to duplication of data collection exercises, lost opportunities to access data collected over the years and wastage of public money.
Raw (Level-1) data must be shared, by placement on a database identified and approved by the funding agency of the Government of India, within one year of a generation of the data.'' If no such database is identified by the agency, then raw data must be made available to anyone working in any Indian institution, public or private, requesting for these data,'' says the draft note which is open for public comments until July 31.
While data generated from public funds will now be open to private companies too, the data has to be excised of all features that would identify individuals, the draft note adds.
Such a bill is necessary because it would bring in a culture of scientists sharing their data. However we also have to think about whether the draft bill discusses long term storage of data, who has access to preserving these databases,- said a scientist aware of the background to the Bill but who didn't want to be identified.
July 1, 2019 (New Delhi)
UGC announces new Initiative - Scheme for Trans-disciplinary Research for India's Developing Economy (STRIDE) to boost research culture in India
STRIDE scheme will strengthen research culture and innovation in colleges and Universities - Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank'
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved a new scheme - ''Scheme for Trans-disciplinary Research for India's Developing Economy'' (STRIDE). Broadly, STRIDE will provide support to research projects that are socially relevant, locally need-based, nationally important and globally significant. STRIDE shall support research capacity building as well as basic, applied and transformational action research that can contribute to national priorities with a focus on inclusive human development. STRIDE shall support creation, development and integration of new ideas, concepts and practices for the public good and strengthening civil society.
Union HRD Minister Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said that STRIDE scheme will strengthen research culture and innovation in colleges and Universities and help students and faculty to contribute towards India's developing economy with the help of collaborative research. He also added that focus on Humanities and Human Sciences will boost quality research on Indian languages and knowledge systems.
Trans-disciplinary research is a team effort of investigators from different disciplines to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological innovations that integrate and transcends beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem. Trans-disciplinary research goes beyond the mere production of knowledge and extends to the practical use of the knowledge outside academic endeavour. In essence, it takes into consideration the societal impact of knowledge enunciating as what should be the main aim of the research. It creates unity of intellectual frameworks beyond the disciplinary perspectives and solves problems by going beyond the boundaries of disciplines to involve various stakeholders. Trans-disciplinary research generates knowledge through the use of multi and inter-disciplinary concepts and integrates new theories among science and society.
Component-1 will endeavour to identify the motivated young talents with research and innovation aptitude in universities and colleges. The Scheme will provide research capacity building in diverse disciplines by mentoring, nurturing and supporting young talents to innovate pragmatic solutions for local, regional, national and global problems. This component is open to all disciplines for a grant up to 1 crore.
Component-2 will be mainly to enhance problem-solving skills with the help of social innovation and action research to improve the wellbeing of people and contribute to India's developing economy. Collaborations between universities, government, voluntary organizations and industries are encouraged under this scheme. This component is open to all disciplines for grant up to 50 lakh - 1 crore.
Component-3 will fund high impact research projects in the identified thrust areas inhumanities and human sciences through a national network of eminent scientists from leading institutions. Disciplines eligible for funding under this component include Philosophy, History, Archaeology, Anthropology, Psychology, Liberal Arts, Linguistics, Indian Languages and Culture, Indian Knowledge Systems, Law, Education, Journalism, Mass Communication, Commerce, Management, Environment and Sustainable Development. Grant available for this component is up to 1 crore for one HEI and up to 5 crores for the multi-institutional network. To encourage high-quality high impact research in humanities, there is a provision to identify experts and invite them to develop a proposal. UGC is also proposing to provide a grant of Rs 2 lakh for developing proposals.
An Advisory Committee has been set up by the UGC under the chairmanship of Prof Bhushan Patwardhan, Vice Chairman to oversee the entire scheme. Details of the scheme will be available on the UGC website by 8th July 2019. Call for proposals will be announced by the UGC by 20th July 2019. Applications will have to be submitted online. STRIDE web portal will be open for receiving applications by 31st July 2019.
Award of the grant will be based on the merit of the project proposal. STRIDE scheme proposals will be carefully evaluated with the help of peer review and assessment by expert committees. Shortlisted applicants may be invited for presentation.
Shri R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary HRD Ministry said that the National Innovation Foundation has a database of over 3 lakh technological ideas from over 608 districts waiting to be explored. STRIDE scheme will help students and faculty to undertake collaborative research to explore these knowledge resources for India's developing economy. The ten grand challenges facing the humanities in India described in the report to MHRD are part of thrust areas identified for funding under STRIDE.
UGC Chairman Prof D.P. Singh said STRIDE will provide support to the innovative research projects that are Socially Relevant, Locally Need-based, Nationally Important and Globally Significant.
UGC Vice chairman Prof Bhushan Patwardhan said that the three components of STRIDE will help to strengthen transdisciplinary research culture in colleges and universities. It will provide an opportunity to build multisectoral linkages between university-government-community-industry for national development and wellbeing of people. In addition, STRIDE will give a major impetus to high impact research in Humanities and Human Sciences.