From the left: Dr. Nirmalya Bagchi, Dean of Administrative Staff College of India, Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary DST, Dr. Parveen Arora, Advisor and Head of CHORD Div., DST

A two-day workshop highlighted urgency of bringing greater efficiency in public expenditure in Research and Development by introducing policy measures to create, operate, maintain, share and dispose scientific infrastructure.

The workshop on ‘National Scientific Research Infrastructure Policy’ organised by Academy for Science Policy Implementation & Research (ASPIRE) and catalyzed & supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) took place on 9th and 10th February, 2017 at India International Centre, New Delhi.

The workshop primarily focused on scientific research equipments in the public research organizations (laboratories/ universities/ institutes of national importance/scientific departments) in the non-strategic sector of scientific enterprise. Besides the Inaugural Session, the workshop comprised of four technical sessions related to scientific equipment procurement, maintenance and sharing, disposal and existing best practices.

It stressed upon the standardization of procedures on the above themes across all scientific departments / organizations and academia and felt the need to devise a new policy on scientific research infrastructure. The broad contour of this new policy was also discussed by the participants.

Referring the Prime Minister’s address Secretary Department of Science & Technology Prof. Ashutosh Sharma informed that an ambitious project is underway to start a national S&T portal which is envisaged to be the parent portal for every institution and manufacturer to provide a 360 degree overview of the S&T ecosystem. This portal is envisioned to be a comprehensive point of interface for not only providing an overview of the system but will also provide information on all the facilities like scholarships and infrastructure available. It would be fed by every institute’s portal and would include accomplishments and projects.

Hon’ble Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi in his address at the inauguration of the 104th Session of the Indian Science Congress, Tirupati had stressed on, “Building a strong Science and Technology infrastructure that is accessible to academia, start-ups, industry and R&D labs is a priority of the government. We need to address the problems of ease of access, maintenance, redundancy and duplication of expensive equipments in our Scientific Institutions. The desirability of establishing professionally managed, large regional centers in PPP mode housing high value scientific equipment should be examined.”

Prof. Sharma discussed the vision behind the Prime Minister’s speech at the Indian Science Congress at Tirupati in January 2017 and its relevance in today’s context.

“DST has helped establish the infrastructure in the country by way of grants, programmes, proposals, FIST, funding etc. But keeping it sustainable would require professional management by creating teams of people who are full time employed and trained both operationally and scientifically on using these equipment. These people would need to understand everything about the equipment, its operation, maintenance and interpretation of results. PPP mode could be favoured to ensure ease of access to all including MSME, startups and private sector,” Prof. Sharma informed.

He stressed on tapping of dormant scientific manpower at universities and institutions which have inadequate infrastructure, by making use of research infrastructure from neighbouring institution, by motivating researchers in the college, by giving fellowship and then connecting him/her to scientific infrastructure nearby.

He elaborated on the need to share knowledge and engaging with college and school students through Scientific Social Responsibility to popularize science and help students improve their quality of education.

“The fact that 94% of the equipment is imported goes very contrary to “Make in India” and initiatives are urgently needed to create a domestic eco system for scientific equipment manufacturing and maintenance. We need to create start-ups on each of the campuses that have scientific infrastructure,” he added.

Prof. Sharma stressed on 5 strong pillars of doing R&D and the need for intervention and policy for each of these pillars.

  1. Capacity building: We need effective trained scientists.
  2. Quality of scientists:
  3. Availability of scientific infrastructure for doing research.
  4. Networking
  5. Presentation of our R&D results and connecting to them to our users.

He opined that this workshop on National Scientific Research Infrastructure Policy should bring in more clarity to certain aspects of infrastructure development.

Dr. Nirmalya Bagchi, Dean of Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, delivered the opening remarks which was followed by the welcome address by Dr. Parveen Arora, Advisor and Head of CHORD Division of DST. Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST delivered the Inaugural Address.

The workshop was attended by 39 participants from all across the country including principals, heads and head of division of various organizations. The prominent organizations represented in the workshop were Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal, Department of Science and Technology, Inter University Accelerator Centre, National Institute of Nutrition, Central Manufacturing Technology Institute, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras, C-DAC, Confederation of Indian Industry, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics,  Structural Engineering Research Centre, IISER Pune, Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, National Aeronautics Laboratory, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Bennet University, Fergusson College, TERI, and others.