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Research is more rewarding

New Delhi, July 30: Elaya Nambi Sundaramoorthy was fishing for proteins in blood to predict heart attacks when smiles broke out in his laboratory: word had spread that research in India would pay more.

The department of science and technology today announced a 50 per cent hike in monthly fellowships in an attempt to make careers in research more attractive.

The revision, with effect from April this year, will benefit several thousand postgraduate science students as it will apply across all rungs of the research ladder — junior and senior research fellows pursuing PhD degrees as well as those engaged in post-doctoral research.

Scientists welcomed the revision and said the increase might help reduce the flow of talent out of India and into industry.

“We see our former classmates in software and call centres earning more,” said Meetu Gupta, at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi. Nambi also researches there.

But some voiced concern. “When they get more money, they’ll want to spend it, and they’ll have to spend it outside the laboratory. Which means spending less time on research,” a scientist said.

Students with postgraduate science degrees or graduate engineers (BTech) who pass the National Eligibility Test to qualify as junior research fellows will now get Rs 12,000 a month, instead of the Rs 8,000 they had been getting.

The basic fellowship for candidates who have professional degrees such as MTech, MBBS and M.Pharm or have two years experience after a graduate professional degree will increase from Rs 9,500 to Rs 14,000.

Scientists who have got a PhD and are research associates will begin on a fellowship of Rs 16,000 instead of the current Rs 11,000. The fellowship for each category — junior, senior and research associate — will increase after two years.

“We’ve been waiting so long for this to happen,” said Suchandra Chowdhury, a research fellow at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Calcutta, who is pursuing research in cancer immunology.

Nambi echoed her. “Now we’ll get more or less what our colleagues in MD get in central government medical colleges. For MBBS graduates in two minds — whether to continue medicine or move into research — this hike may be the deciding factor.”

Science and technology officials said the revision will cover some 7,000 junior and senior research fellows across laboratories run by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, universities and academic institutions. The number of research associates is estimated to be higher, the officials added.

The University Grants Commission had last year increased junior research fellowships from Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 a month. Now, all fellowships will be harmonised — equalised — so UGC fellows will also get Rs 12,000, the officials said.

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