A Roadmap for the Future of Research in IIT Bombay

(This article is based on my small speech during the panel discussion on “A Road map for the future” of the Research Scholars’ Confluence, 19-20 October, 2008, IIT Bombay)

As a current research scholar of IIT Bombay, my dream is to witness IIT Bombay growing as a leading research hub of India and the world. Following are some of my ideas for the dream I have, and for the road map ahead.

1. The first point I would like to mention here is “collaborative research“. I agree that we are doing collaborative research at IIT Bombay. But, it is still not enough. Most of our collaborations are with western universities. But, what about the collaborative research with our next door neighbors? We do not have proper and sufficient collaboration with our own research organizations like DRDO, ISRO, CSIR, BARC, etc. We have to realize that most of our PhD alumni are working in these organizations. Organizations of this kind are rich with hard working researchers and creative brains. In my opinion, the brilliant brains of IITs (for which it is known so far) should interact with the hard working researchers of our next door neighbors to make research a success for us, and for the country.

2. To extend the collaborative research, we should form small research groups like IRIS (research group in CSE, of all IITs and IISc), COMNET (research group in Communication and Networking of all IITs and IISc), where we can discuss our problems with our research colleagues of other IITs and IISc and get some help to solve. Similar such initiatives should be taken in all other disciplines too.

3. The 3rd point, and an important point in my opinion is “interdisciplinary research“. A very important achievement would be to unite the research force of the technological, pure science and humanities with the management and application based solutions. Interdisciplinary research have just started in IIT Bombay, needs to be encouraged and emphasized in the future. One should use the expertise of other groups while solving his/her own problems.

4. The fundamental aspect of research is its infrastructure and resources. Fair resource allocation across all research disciplines and all researchers need to be promoted. More and more research grants should be provided, better fellowships should be offered to attract more and more researchers. More industry participation is also required at this stage, for the infrastructure setup and sponsorships. Every research scholar should get some kind of financial help for his/her research. One has to remember that at the age of 30s, the equation is different, very hard to ask for a financial help to our parents. Hence, financial help is must, if we are really serious for the research and our researchers.

5. It is indeed a bad experience on the bureaucratic hurdles and red-tapism. This is a serious issue. The administration should be pro-research and researchers. Implementing new plans, fellowship schemes should be expedited. The amount of time we at IIT Bombay spend to follow up our papers, be it travel grant, or monthly fellowship is just not acceptable. This needs to be looked upon seriously. Else, the most important resource of research scholars – “TIME” will be wasted resulting in inefficiency and lesser output.

6. It is a known fact the we need more research scholars. When the country like USA produces more than 40,000 PhDs per year, how do we expect to compete with them? with less than 1500 PhDs per year (country wide)? Simply not possible. IITs have to increase their PhD strength. In that direction, what about getting at least a fraction of their own BTechs/MTechs? It is a fact that many high quality undergraduates (BTechs) and post graduates (MTechs) leave India to pursue research abroad. If we can provide better research facility in terms of research groups, infrastructure, fellowships, then I’m sure, a fraction of that brain drain can be stopped. But, our attitude towards our PhDs needs to be changed. With 25% (of the total strength) students doing PhDs, we are no more undergraduate centric. We have to remember that.

7. Yes, we need quantity. But do we need quantity at the expense of quality? Are the quality measures we are following adequate? In my opinion the quality measures we have at this moment are simply not sufficient. The “Annual Progress Seminars” are not properly followed, many of our faculties do not read the reports, not for one year, for all these years. Students too do not take progress seminars seriously. This is a serious issue. Either we have to implement this strictly and/or implement something other, like comprehensive tests or something similar. It is good to cite here, that recently CSE dept has introduced comprehensive tests for their PhD scholars. In my opinion, this should be implemented across the depts.

8. The other out of box point, is hiring research faculties. There are cases, some PhDs do not want to pursue a career in teaching, but are very much interested in research, and want IIT like environment. The question is how to involve them into our system? Can we hire them as research faculties at IIT Bombay? They can lead the research groups and guide many young researchers leading to better output. Their dedicated research activity can be complimented with the dedicated teaching staffs for the benefit of all.

9. The last the most important point I would like to mention here is the PhD Alumni-Alma mater interaction. IITs are famous and known for their BTech Alumni. But, we need to change this, add the value and strength of our PhDs. The PhD alumni can definitely help in this regard, by supporting research activities or by involving themselves and their organization into the research facility of IIT Bombay. This needs to be promoted. It is time for us to be known for our PhD alumni too.

These are some of the few thoughts/points I have for the dream – for the road map ahead.

Thank you.

One Response

  1. Ya its really a grand topic in various research organisations in india too.. For example ISRO provides huge amount of money to various private farms in order to build the facility for them. So the debatable point is why no funding to leading institutions like IIT’s. The reason can be these in my view..

    1. Like less organisational co-operation among our self.
    2. Less believe on proper fund utilisation.
    3. Lack of infrastructure which the research organisations want.

    like this reasons can be many..So somewhere we need to correct the system and bring out those points to make it happen.

    And last but not least the leading research organisations in india have such a monopoly that they believe in the thought that” If someone is coming to deliver me in my door step( whatever cost it may be) why should i go to market and buy it..

    So until this thought is controlled by some governing authority nothing is going to change and all our brains will be shipped to foreign countries like happening now.

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