‘Need More Funding’: Profs, Scholars in B’luru March for Science
Students, research scholars, scientists and professors from universities in and around Bengaluru gathered to participate in March for Science 2019 on Saturday, 10 August.
Nearly 200 people participated in the Bengaluru edition of the global event that seeks to bring about the awakening of a scientific temper and rationality in society, breaking away from pseudo-sciences like astrology, and superstitions.
Bearing placards and posters of eminent scientists from history, the march was a call to action not just to members of the scientific community but also to attract the attention of the government – to what they called the under-funding of the sciences, particularly basic sciences.
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Scientific Study Plagued by Staff Shortage, Lack of Funds
According to Professor S Japhet, Vice Chancellor, Bengaluru Central University, there is a severe shortage of faculty, with universities forced to function with nearly 60 percent of the posts vacant.
“State public universities are suffering for lack of funds. Sixty percent of faculty posts have not been filled up, and we are managing only with the guest faculty. How can you expect good teaching of a high quality to happen?” he questioned.
He went on to say that labs were not state-of-the-art, scholarships were few and far between and that under-funding remained one of the major crises to hit science education and research.
“One of the major crises is funding. It is definitely going to affect the economy because its a knowledge economy we are talking about. There is a close relationship between education and economy, so universities will have to gear up. Governments have to invest to be on par with countries like China, Australia and USA.”Prof S Japhet, Vice Chancellor, BCU
A post-doctorate scholar at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), who did not wish to be named, said that there was a lot of fund crunch in the system where scholars did not receive proper stipends.
“We had demanded last time, as a collective stipend hike movement. The hike is not automatically effected every four years, it is only when the students agitate and demand does the department and the ministry take action. We had asked for Rs 40,000 but it was capped at Rs 31,000. Also, we were expecting arrears from last October onwards, but we only got it for the last eight months in July this year,” he said.
Arghya Das, a post-doctoral fellow from the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) said that there had been a problem with students getting fellowships late, or the fellowships being cancelled altogether.
“There has been a fellowship hike announcement, but the fellows do not get the fellowships for months or even years. This is a decade-long issue. Students are demonstrating and scientists are speaking out, but this has not been resolved. Funding grants for projects, scientists have also reduced. In some universities, old fellowships are being stopped. They say science should be more inclusive but the fellowships have been reduced and funding has diminished,” he said.
Dr Ashwathnarayana Gowda, a post-doctoral scholar currently working in IISc said that the tools and instruments available in the labs were obsolete and not up to the mark. “The instruments are not sophisticated and suited to the latest research. It is pathetic to do research like that. Even fellowships are released after six months, one year,” he said.
Problem of Imbalanced Funding
Dipti, an engineer based out of Bengaluru said that while there were different science institutes that received different types of funding, the government was channeling funds only into a few fields.
“Defence, nano-sciences, aerospace engineering, these are the branches where government funds tend to flow. And all this while, the basic sciences take a backseat. So, there is a lack of redistribution of funds. On the other hand, public universities barely get any funding,” she said.
Jyotsna, who has recently completed her PhD from IISc, said that it was a matter of great concern that basic sciences did not receive adequate funding.
“There are other departments where there is so much money that they don’t know what to do, and there are departments where we have people to work with but no funds. The funding procedure is long and tiring, takes very long to get the money. I hope that fund time is cut short and we get more funds in less time so research can be done in a convenient way,” she said.
Many Prefer Going Abroad
According to Nandish Shivarudraiah, who is pursuing an MSc in Germany, apart from a few elite institutions, there were no good opportunities in India for higher studies and advanced research.
“The pool of talented researchers is big but there are no opportunities in India. Except for the IITs, NIITs there are not many options, and even they are not comparable to foreign universities. This is the main reason why not just me, many students prefer to go abroad. And the percentage is only increasing every year,” he said.
“For the last many years in our country, ‘Make in India’ is being promoted. But science is more about think and discover in India. It is only when you discover that you can go ahead and make something,” said a research scholar.
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