Sunday, January 3, 2010

PM allures Overseas Indians

for collaborative research


Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 3 : Government is likely to announce special incentives to encourage scientists of Indian origin currently working abroad to return to India or to associate themselves with Indian universities and scientific institutions for a short period.

The Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh inaugurating the 97th Indian Science Congress here on Sunday outlined the need to rebuild the country as a knowledge power in the 21st century through a strong capability in science and technology.

He said : “ We must make a special effort to encourage scientists of Indian origin currently working abroad to return to India, including coming to our universities or scientific institutions for a short period. In this way we can, convert the brain drain of the past into a brain gain for the future. This will require special incentives. We need to think creatively on how this can be done so that high quality minds are attracted to teaching and research.”

The prime minister’s pronouncement is significant as it come a few days before the two-day conference of Overseas Indians – Pravasi Bharatiya Divas – scheduled in Delhi from January 8. The newly formed Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians would meet for the first time on January 7.

Building upon the recent comments of the Nobel Laureate of Indian origin, Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan on the need for greater autonomy for Indian scientists from red tape and local politics, he said : “I invite you to explore all these issues and engage with us so that we can do what is needed to liberate Indian science from the shackles and deadweight of bureaucratism and in-house favouritism.” While investment of money being only one part which was needed, the change in the mindset of senior faculty and university administration was the hardest thing to do, he said.

The prime minister announced that the National Science and Engineering Research Board will start functioning before March 2010. A National Policy for Data Sharing and Accountability has been formulated. The Protection of Intellectual Property Bill focussed on sharing revenue from intellectual properties with researchers will be taken up for discussion in the parliament soon. He called for a partnership of academia, research and industry and involvement of venture funds.

The government is considering the revision of the value of doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships as well as formation of schemes that would cover all research scholars with some funding support. The government would award one student within the age group 10-15 years from each school in the country under the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Scheme

As the government has declared 2010-2020 as the “Decade of Innovations” , Singh urged scientists to find new solutions in many areas for achieving inclusive and sustainable growth like in healthcare, energy security, infrastructure, water, transportation, renewable sources of energy. Describing the outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit as “not satisfactory”, he stressed the need for a low
greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficient development path with a shift to use of renewable sources of energy.

The government has decided to launch Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission for setting up of 20,000 MW of solar generation capacity by 2020. The PAN-IIT programme for solar energy research will drive down the costs of technology options through R&D led innovations. Euro 5 million collaborative research programme on solar energy research with European Union and a similar collaborative programme with UK for pound 5 million has been launched.

The prime minister said that the technology solutions for 25 different water-related challenges being discovered by the Technology Mission for Winning, Augmentation and Renovation of Water (WAR) would be applied by 2011.

On applications of transgenic technology in agriculture, he said that Bt cotton has been well accepted in the country and has made a great difference to production. He said that genetic modification technology was being extended to food crops which raises legitimate questions of safety and these must be given full weightage with appropriate regulatory control based on strictly scientific criteria. He lauded DRDO for developing a new and rapid diagnostic method for detecting the H1N1 virus

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