The advancement of both a student’s abilities as well as the cause of education relies on scholarly research. At various levels of education, students involved in research are constantly honing a variety of future ready skills, while also achieving significant breakthroughs. Research thrives when scientists can devote their time and energy to solving problems. India presents a promising landscape of research and when Indian researchers can strike the delicate balance between teaching, administrative tasks, and their core research, they are able to achieve outstanding scientific outcomes. Like any other genre of work, research in India also presents labyrinthine challenges waiting to be conquered. In this article, we explore the multifaceted complexities that researchers encounter in their pursuit of scientific excellence and examine the steps needed to elevate the research ecosystem in India.
- Cultivating a supportive ecosystem
A flourishing research ecosystem thrives on funding opportunities, infrastructure, and a critical mass of expertise. Enhancing the quantum of allocation of research funds through government grants, which is the primary support for Indian researchers albeit competitive to secure, can result in proliferation of more ideas coming to life. To avoid delays in research, an early start is recommended, especially when reaching out to foreign companies for equipment, software, and technical services. Since technical support and repair services for imported equipment are time-consuming, once these stumbling blocks are overcome by building domestic supply chain and local manufacturing, research can be pursued smoothly. Enabling research exposure at undergraduate level can motivate more youngsters to pursue research as a career.
- Focusing on Positive Funding Balance
The essence of research lies in its contribution to society's betterment. Practical solutions derived from research endeavors typically emerge as the culmination of efforts spanning fundamental and applied stages, alongside engineering development across various Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). Striking the right equilibrium among these facets - fundamental exploration, application-driven research, and technological advancement - is pivotal in nurturing a sustainable innovation pipeline. This holistic approach ensures the creation of impactful solutions to address grand challenges.
Notably, contemporary trends in funded projects exhibit a significant drive toward supporting initiatives with the potential for commercial translation into products or services. While this direction fosters practicality, it's essential to remember that preserving space for fundamental research is equally vital. This positive synergy among various research dimensions fosters a vibrant and holistic research ecosystem.
- Enhancing the Evaluation System
Researchers are driven by their desire to translate their discoveries into meaningful social contributions. However, a hurdle arises when the researcher’s credibility is assessed primarily through metrics tied to publications rather than real-world impact generated. To better align with the broader goal of social impact, there’s a growing need for a refined metric that accurately gauges the extent of positive change. Shifting the balance to assign greater importance to impact will catalyze research endeavors that drive meaningful transformations in society.
- Building Trust
Scientists often prioritize delving into the fundamental aspects of a problem, and publishing their observations, sometimes sidelining the application of their findings. However, recognizing the value of impactful outcomes, researchers can make significant contributions by formulating research proposals that address pressing societal needs. By bridging this gap between fundamental exploration and real-world innovation, the innovation pipeline gains momentum, revitalizing the confidence of grant agencies in research proposals with a focus on fundamental aspects. Subsequently, funding agencies will show greater appetite for risk and support novel, ‘high-risk-high-reward’ ideas that pave the way for groundbreaking discoveries.
- Nurturing Collaboration and Entrepreneurship
To ensure the sustainable growth of research laboratories, scientists often dedicate their energies to securing grants, sometimes overshadowing the potential of commercializing outcomes through patents and technology transfers to industry. However, a more sustainable approach emerges through embracing entrepreneurship and collaborative innovation. In the modern research landscape, interdisciplinary efforts have become paramount, with collaboration of engineers with physicists, chemists, biologists, and material scientists propelling progress. A shift from solely competitive mindset to a cooperative one, will fuel sustained advancement and nurture an environment where researchers can achieve greater breakthroughs together.
About the author: Dr. Amruta R Behera is an Assistant Professor at Plaksha University. He holds a PhD in Nano Science and Engineering. At Plaksha, Dr. Behera plans to pursue utilitarian research focused on internet-of-things and sensor technologies to find solutions for the grand challenges in the agriculture and healthcare sector.