How the Science and Technology Councils could be reformed as scientific institutions of national importance?

Published: October 16, 2019

The State Science and Technology Councils (SSTCs) constituted to spearhead the use of science and technologies (S&T) for regional problems and to foster scientific temper have been completely neglected and are now intellectually adrift.

Reforming SSTCs

Funding
  • The Department of Science and Technology must disburse about Rs 2,000-2,500 crore directly to SSTCs with precise guidelines on problem area selection, publicly available reports as research outcomes, identification of regional institutions, strengthening of universities, and working with regional agencies.
  • The DST must function as a clearinghouse for data from central agencies such as the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA).
  • Innovative funding mechanisms must be explored. For example, providing Rs 10 per capita or Rs 1 crore per district per year as research funding to work on regional problems.
Nodal Centre to Spearhead Research and Development
  • The SSTCs must be transformed as nodal centres for research in state and for state agencies and administrative units such as forests lands, watersheds, districts or cities.
  • This will enable sectoral research, funds, logistical support and access to state-level data.
  • The SSTC should also work closely with the state higher education department to evolve curricula and research frameworks for the state’s development requirements and provide academic space for SSTC projects and evolve a network of regional institutions to work with district-level agencies.
Aligning R and D Programmes
  • There should be better alignment of research and development with existing programmes at the national and state level.
  • The SSTC may offer a programme for institutions or enterprises to prepare air quality action plans for cities as required by the National Clean Air Programme or district irrigation plans as a part of the national PMKSY programme.
  • The MHRD institutions are playing an important role since they are largely above the hurly-burly of state-level politics. They must anchor research on regional problems, develop suitable curricula and mentor and collaborate with regional institutions. A beginning would be for each Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) to identify a thrust area of regional interest. The SSTC should help in ensuring this.

The SSTC programme was the brainchild of Bharat Ratna C Subramaniam. He emphasized on the need to bring real science closer to schools and colleges and allow the community to participate in its own development. While SSTC reinvents itself it must uphold this spirit in true sense.

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