Sunday, June 14, 2009

Advice

Subsequent to my post on on your post Faculty positions in IIT/IISc, I have been getting several emails and phone calls seeking advice. There have been some comments for that post and some of my responses have been somewhat advisory. A recent comment on that post by an ex-student of IISc states

PRof. giri presents a rosy picture of iisc. i am a former student of iisc and know his students. he works extremely hard in excess of 14 hrs a day and also does a lot of administrative jobs ike GATE. He publishes 20 papers a year, others publish less than 2 papers a year. Why? Not everyone can work like that and he is writing from his experience. Setting up labs, especially experimental, is extremely difficult. less than 10% in engineering do experimental work because of the lack of facilities, support etc. Also experimental research is not encouraged in iisc in engineering. Giridhar Sir's intention is good but he should understand that not everyone can work like him and they find working in IIT/IISc doing experimental work extremely difficult. Maybe he should present this side of the story.


To clarify, irrespective of whether I work long hours or not, the number of publications has been due to my students. Most of them are brighter than me and work harder than I do. Therefore, the credit belongs to them and not to me.

Regarding setting up of labs, I agree setting up a laboratory to do experiments is difficult. In my case, it was my initial students who did all the work. However, I had written that doing experimental research in engineering is not encouraged and I have had some of my colleagues complain they are discriminated against by the faculty who do theory. However, these are subjective personal statements that can not be backed up with data.

Billings said, "Advice is like castor oil, easy to give but difficult to swallow." Any advice is based on personal experience. Experiences to the same event are different depending on the person. I write based on my own experience and what I have experienced in IISc may be quite different from others have experienced.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I first left my country in 2001 to pursue my PhD I could not dream of anybody working more than 8 h a day in the lab. I was so naive :)

In any institution (in India or elsewhere), top researchers will work at least 12 h a day, with almost no holidays or vacation. It has to be self-motivated, nobody is going to babysit anybody.

Anyway...

Thank you very much for taking time to post such valuable information. Would you please elaborate about some other aspect of choosing about working at IIT/IISc: Life in US is very stressful and competitive, at least if one wishes to do a "good" work. There is no "easy" life here. How is the life of a faculty member of IIT/IISc compared with a faculty in non tier-1 US university.

Thanks again.

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Anon,

Thanks for your comment. In USA, getting funding is very stressful even if you are in a top tier university. In India, funding is easy if you are in IISc/IIT. However, admin support and technical support needs lot of improvement. Unlike the USA, this is essentially a government job and, therefore, one can not be sacked for non-performance. Unlike the USA, where increments in salary is linked to performance, here everyone essentially gets the same salary.

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Giridhar Sir,

Thank you for taking my comments and putting it in your post. I had only meant that experiences from both sides should be presented. You are being modest in saying that only students are responsible for papers but all professors get students only from the same pool; so, profs play a role. How many engineering faculty work for more than 5 hrs a day for iisc and students, without counting consultancy work. Look at hard data, how many engineering faculty publish more than 1 paper every year? Between 10-20%. But all get the same salary leading to frustration. Thus, lot of young faculty in India are frustrated.

Sundaraman

Anonymous said...

I am a faculty in US and came across this site very recently. This blog has very interesting discussion on Sci/Eng in Indian scenario.

Excellent service being done by Prof. Giri. Kudos to him!!!

My question/comment is: what could be done or what is being done to get rid of the policies where every faculty (performer vs. non-performer) is treated alike in terms of salary increase?

One of my colleagues here suggested "why not make pay only 11 month salary to faculty in India". That way non-performing faculty will be compelled to generate their one month salary from research grants and become a bit more active. (Most of the US faculty have 9 month appointment and generate their 3 month salary from research grants). I know this is not easy in Indian system but could be worth trying at some point of time.

Being passive to keep mediocrity alive can never be an excuse in a competing world.

Anonymous said...

There are several awards that are given so that the faculty who get these awards get salaries of Rs. 3-5 lakhs more than other faculty. So, the system for rewarding people who "perform" already exists.

The linking of performance to salaries is not a good idea in India, where there is *no* system of judging or awarding merit.

The chairmen and members of the committees who decide three major awards (Swarnajayanti, Bhatnagar and J.C. Bose) of the country are above 70 years of age, have published less than 100 papers (with minimal citations) in their lifetime. If the committees themselves have such poor people, how can the people given these awards be any good?

These awards are given because of "connections" / publicity and it is not because of merit. Anyone familiar with the grant awarding agencies and their committees in India know that the highest grants are often given to the person who is able to "influence" the chairman of the committee and it has hardly to do much with merit.

In these cases, linking salaries further with performance without having a criteria to judge merit will lead to more frustration.

Kumar

Anonymous said...

Dear Kumar,

Your note about awards to "connected" people reinforces my observation that good people are not being awarded.

Usually awards are given to a very small % of the total faculty whereas 11 month salary will apply to "all" faculty. Those who are performing need not worry but it will put some pressure on non-performers. No system is perfect but current one does not "penalize" non-performers.

How much we may deny but "money" is always an incentive?

Anonymous said...

Let's think about the funding system in US universities for a second. Faculty members are paid a 9-month salary because the academic system runs for 9 months a year. It is not really put in place to "incentivize" research funding.

People go out and solicit funding for projects and it so happens that they can pay themselves a month of salary from the funds.

In India, as far as I know, people cannot pay themselves a consultancy fee from the funds of a project (Prof. Madras, please correct me if I am wrong). So, if ISRO gives you Rs. 5 lacs to do research, you cannot pay yourself 50k from it. But, you don't have to worry about supporting your students (M Tech/PhD) because their stipends are paid from a different bucket. So, there are pros and cons in both systems.

I am curious to know what the biggest source of consultancy in IISc is (private or government) and what fraction of the earnings are shared by IISc. Prof. Madras, we would really appreciate your inputs on this.

Also, as it has been mentioned many times in this blog, I don't think money is everything and if it is to someone, the private sector in India now can be a very rewarding place for you. Being in academia has its own rewards.

Bharat

Anonymous said...

Fully agree with sundararaman on that post.

On a related note, Life in IISc could be very stressful and competetive too for young faculty -for those not well connected. (From my own empirical observations and those of my friends studied there:-) For the following reasons:

(1) Promotion policies seem too unfriendly, esp. for young faculty: they expect you to publish like a top tier US univ, yet give you so less resources
in comparison! One reason they don't encourage experimentalists, although they won't admit it on record.

(2) The expectations from you are so high - but with less resources (grants, students, equipments etc.) you end up working 14 hrs a day to meet the target of papers/research output with such lower salaries (even after 6 pay
commission blah blah..). Compare this with a Bangalore univ prof. who might be working hardly two hours a day, yet walks with the same take home salary and lots of quality time for family!Inevitably, frustration mounts for ordinary folks.

(3) I've noticed that promotions are slow in IISc. In any top tier US univ, you reach a full prof. after 8-9 years, whereas in IISc it takes a minimum of 12 years. I believe this is scandalous. This is due to the very fact that
things move so slow in India - so you need more time to catch up, despite best efforts. I've seen many people hovering at Assoc. profship at IISc, while their peers are full Profs. at top tier US Univs! (Now. prof. Giri might
counter this citing his own specific case, but that is very very exceptional so I don't buy that argument). Penalizing your own staff, primarily due to
your inability to provide sufficient resources! WoW, an achievement on its own!

(4) Most funny of all, all these performance benchmarks are only for the new faculty - In the old generation, so many faculty with very little output and questionable achievements seem to have a cushy life.

Of course, these things don't deter diehard fans of IISc faculty job - there is silver lining for them too - work 14 hrs a day there, Chances are that you'll earn in a few years another PHD:)- Pressure, Heart, Sugar

kumar

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Giridhar,
If a fellow (Ph.D. Chemistry) gets two offers for the position of an Assistant Professor, one from IIT-Kanpur and another from IISER-Pune-which one he should choose and why?
Kindly suggest.

Anonymous said...

Slowly and yet steadily, public sector culture of "low on performance and high on demanding" has descended upon these so called 'premier institutions.' Quite a large fraction of faculty think that whatever salary they get is the 'god given right' to them and for working, they need to see some 'additional benefit.' With only two performance evaluations (at the time of promotions), that too not too stringent ones, people tend to get into low energy states of comfort very soon. Only a small fraction of people push themselves to perform. The administrations do not have either carrots to reward those who are performing or the sticks to beat up those who are not.

Therefore, it may be time for "performance-linked" salaries getting implemented, in part if not in full. While this is quite difficult to do, I think this is the only way forward. Innovative ways are of implementing the pay structures are required.

Anonymous said...

>If a fellow (Ph.D. Chemistry) gets >two offers for the position of an >Assistant Professor, one from IIT->Kanpur and another from IISER-Pune->which one he should choose and why?
>Kindly suggest.

You asked a very simple question. Choosing IIT-Kanpur at all costs except if you are from Pune or if your wife needs a job. Getting a job in Kanpur for your wife will not be easy.

Academically, there is no comparison - IIT Kanpur is head and shoulders about any IISER.

I am a faculty in IISc chemistry department.

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Dr. Kumar:

Your comment regarding awards are given only to connected people has been posted before in the blog. I am just wondering whether you think my awards and ALL people who got it are also not deserving? Just wondering...

Giridhar

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Dr. Kumar (this is the second kumar),

You mention that the young faculty in IISc are stressed while another anonymous poster following you states "With only two performance evaluations (at the time of promotions), that too not too stringent ones, people tend to get into low energy states of comfort very soon."

Therefore, there is a significant difference of opinion.

For the record, the current expectations for promotion in engineering in IISc are 8-10 papers for Asst. to Assoc. and 10-12 for Assoc. to Prof. I do not know what it is in a top tier I university in USA.

Regarding the time for promotion, in IISc, it is 12-13 years on an average from assistant professor to professor while in IITs, it is around 8-10.

Thanks

Giridhar

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Bharat,

"I am curious to know what the biggest source of consultancy in IISc is (private or government) and what fraction of the earnings are shared by IISc."

Projects can be obtained from department of science/tech (DST), biotechnology (DBT), CSIR etc. Most of the projects will not provide personal money but only for research. Some awards given by DST/DBT/CSIR provide you both with project money and personal money like the Swarnajayanthi and Wellcome etc but these are very selective (1-2 per year in engineering)

Consultancy is a whole different issue. The ratio of project money to consultancy money in IISc is 90:10. In the consultancy, there is probably an equi-distribution from industry and government in terms of projects. In all consultancy projects, 40% goes to IISc, 30% to taxes.

Anonymous said...

eMost of the awards are fixed and given to connected people. Yours may be meritorious but that is not the norm just like your promotion is not the average. If you want to pretend that this is not the case, I can not help it and I do not mean to offend you.

Kumar

Ankit said...

Dear Prof. Giridhar,

I just came across your blog today. Thanks for such a useful forum with lots of advices and suggestions. Great work and thanks for your time.

I am currently working in US as a postdoc. I am planning to apply for faculty position in IITs/IISc/IISER. Regarding the visiting faculty in these institutes (as you have just mentioned in your previous comments), how does it differ from a new Asst.Professor. I mean, how about the other benefits such as research facility, start up grant, campus accommodation and of course salary?

I understand, the visiting faculty still needs to apply for the Asst. professorship and go through the recruitment formalities inorder to get the permanent position. Kindly let me know about this.

thanks again for your efforts,

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Ankit,

IISc does not offer a visiting faculty position.Some IITs do offer the visiting faculty position.

As I had mentioned in the selection procedure of faculty, the application goes through the department and dean. Finally, a selection committee consisting of outside members (from other IITs) should approve the selection.

This selection committee meeting is held only 2-3 times a year. Therefore, visiting positions are given till the selection committee approves the appointment. This normally takes 4-6 months. Please note visiting positions are not permanent while a regular position is permanent. There is a small chance that the person who has been given a visiting position is denied a permanent position when he/she appears before a selection committee.

I believe that visiting positions pay a consolidated salary and housing. Startup grants are given only after regular appointment. Things may be different in each IIT and it is better to check with the head of the department.

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

Speaking of visiting faculty positions, has IISc started hiring foreign nationals of Indian origin? I saw an IITD ad that specified that foreign nationals with overseas citizenship of India can be hired as long as permission is given by the Govt. of India.
http://www.iitd.ac.in/faculty-recruitment/Year2009/113.pdf

Dr. Madras, do you think that by having the citizenship of another country, the faculty member would be naturally excluding himself from government funding?

Giri@iisc said...

In IISc, new faculty are recruited on a five year contract initially and there is no bar on foreign citizenship. However, government permission is normally obtained. I do not know about funding.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering. I did not know about contractual appointment for five years. Does that mean that the IISC actually follows the "tenure-track system" of US universities? If a newly hired professor does not make the cut after five years, the contract is not renewed (no tenure).

Giri@iisc said...

The contract is always renewed. I know of only one case in the last twenty years when the contract was not renewed.

Ankit said...

Thanks Professor for your reply regarding 'Visiting faculty'.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Giri,

There seems to be (a lot of!) confusion about this contractual positions: From many previous posts, I got the impression that once you are hired in IISc, it is permanent. Now you say that all new appointments are only for 5 years.

"As I had mentioned in the selection procedure of faculty, the application goes through the department and dean. Finally, a selection committee consisting of outside members (from other IITs) should approve the selection.

This selection committee meeting is held only 2-3 times a year. Therefore, visiting positions are given till the selection committee approves the appointment. This normally takes 4-6 months. Please note visiting positions are not permanent while a regular position is permanent. There is a small chance that the person who has been given a visiting position is denied a permanent position when he/she appears before a selection committee."


So in the new context, is the 'regular position' you mentioned above is only a conract for 5 years? that too, after all these deliberations by the 'selection committe' etc? Looks very interesting - although I would consider withdrawing my application, if this were indeed the case. Thanks,

kumar

Giri@iisc said...

Dear Kumar,

Why become melodramatic and consider withdrawing the application? Please read all the comments.

IITs do not offer contracts. They offer visiting professors and permanent positions regularized by a selection committee. IISc does not offer visiting professors but only contract for five years initially. However, there has been only one case in which the contract has not been renewed.

Similarly, all positions offered in IIT/IISc and many government organizations have an one year probation. Technically, one can be fired during this period, but it is so rare that all positions are called permanent.

Giridhar

Giri@iisc said...

Please note that the 5 year contract for new faculty in IISc does not represent a tenure track system. There is no formal evaluation at the end of five years (it is at the end of six years for promotion).

Regarding permanent jobs, all jobs in IIT/IISc etc start with an one year probation. There have been more people asked to leave before the probation ends than at the end of five years. But what are the actual numbers? Maybe in the last thirty years, these numbers would be 2 and 1, respectively.


But one can keep on arguing what is permanent and what actions can result in one getting fired etc. I do not think that is very fruitful.

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

Prof. Madras,

Thanks for your informative posts. It will be extremely useful to get your opinion on what you think of the possible passage of the foreign universities bill. Will we see a further depletion of faculty from IITs and IISc? Mr. Kapil Sibal has apparently expressed his support for the bill. Perhaps this could be the title of a new post.

Best Regards

Niket said...

Just to add to Giri's statement about visiting faculty positions...

At IIT-M, selection committee interviews take place once in two years (18 to 24 months). So, if a good applicant comes between two interviews, s/he gets offered a visiting faculty position. For all academic purposes, visiting faculty and permanent faculty are one and the same.

All "permanent" faculty can only be hired through the formal procedure involving selection committee. The individual departments implement strict standards; its unlikely that the faculty hired as visiting faculty will get rejected by the committee. Once hired, there is one year probation period after which one becomes permanent faculty (this permanent is without quotes).

During the time someone is a visiting faculty or during the probation period, s/he can be fired from the job or the probation period extended. I know of one case where the probation period was extended. I don't know of any case where a faculty got fired.

This is because 1-2 years is too short a period to judge any new faculty. One would get fired only in the rare cases misconduct or harassment (by the new faculty).

Talking about foreign nationals, Dr. Louyi Tao (http://www.ae.iitm.ac.in/people/faculty/luoyi.html) serves as a faculty in our AE department.

Anonymous said...

Niket,

Thanks for the clarification - so the major difference between IIT and IISc hiring of new faculty at the asst. prof level is the '5 year contract regime' at IISc. There is nothing wrong in offering only 5 yr contract per se, but given the ground realities in India, one might as well look at tenure track US/european/singapore univs - which come with far more resources and emoluments.

Giri@iisc said...

Niket: Thanks for correcting.
Anon: There is no "five year contract regime" There is no tenure track. All jobs are permanent.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Giri,

I have a PhD from IIT in an engineering discipline and now doing my postdoc in a US university. I have been in this postdoc position for a year. I am thinking of applying for a faculty position in one of the old IITs. I came to from your blog that generally candidates below 35 yrs of age will be preferred. I am below this cut-off.. but wonder if I start applying now. Could you please let me know what are my chances of securing a faculty position with just one year postdoc experience in established IITs.. If I stay here one more year will my application be given preference since I will cross 35 years.. Your advice on this will be very much helpful for me to act on my career quickly.

Thank you

Giri@iisc said...

I suggest you apply now. You can always come after one more year. However, because you are a ph.d from IIT, your research supervisor is the best person to advice you. He/She would know what your chances are based on your track record and publications.

Giri said...

At any rate, I liked some of the vadlo researcher cartoons!

Venkata said...

Dear Prof Giri,

I submitted my PhD thesis recently (New Zealand University).I am average student-got 2 international publications
I am interested in post doc position at IISc
IS it very hard to get the position?
What is the competition for the positions?
What is the process time?.Thanks