New Delhi, Sept. 17: The Planning Commission has accepted a proposal by scientists to create new academic centres for cognitive science, cyber security and other fields to be shared by scholars and faculty from universities across India.
The proposal for inter- university centres (IUCs) is among key initiatives in science and technology planned during the 12th Five-Year Plan that covers the period up to 2017, K. Kasturirangan, a member of the Planning Commission, told The Telegraph.
The IUCs, inspired by an idea first implemented in astronomy and physics nearly 25 years ago, are intended to serve as common resource centres for PhD-level scholars, postgraduate students and faculty from universities across the country.
In the late-1980s, the University Grants Commission (UGC) established an IUC for astronomy and astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune and an IUC for accelerator physics (IUAP) in New Delhi. The UGC has also established a consortium to make available atomic energy research facilities for university students. “We now want to establish similar centres in several other fields,” Kasturirangan said.
The 12th Plan document approved by the Planning Commission on Saturday recommends IUCs in computer science and cyber security, genetic epidemiology, advanced materials, cognitive science, mathematical modelling and inter-disciplinary humanities, he said.
“For some reason, we’ve been hesitant to try replicate our successes,” Valangiman Ramamurthy, a physicist and director of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, who chaired a panel that proposed the new IUCs, said.
Over the past two decades, IUCAA and IUAP have offered opportunities to hundreds of students and PhD scholars from universities to participate in research they could not have pursued exclusively in their own institutions.
“At any point in time, we have about 25 to 30 PhD- level scholars from different universities with us,” said Ajit Khembavi, IUCAA director. But another 100-odd researchers, both faculty and students, would also be associated through various activities, such as participating in workshops or using telescope resources, or just interacting with faculty, Khembavi said.
Kasturirangan said the 12th Plan period is expected to see a significant rise in funding levels for science and technology, perhaps two times or two-and-a-half times larger than what India spent in science and technology between 2007 and 2012.
The plan document has also approved a spacecraft to study the Sun, a homegrown supercomputer to help scientists forecast the weather, and a programme to accelerate the use of spin-off technologies from space and atomic energy for civilian applications.
Kasturirangan said the government is also hoping to find ways to encourage private sector industry in India to invest significantly in research and development activities during the coming five years. “We have examples of foreign industry organisations establishing research and development centres in our cities and recruiting some of our best scientific brains, why can’t Indian industries do that too?”