Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Promotions in IITs and IISc

There have been some inquires on the procedure for promotion of faculty in IIT/IISc.

In IISc, the normal period of promotion is 6 years from assistant professor to associate professor and 6 years from associate professor to full professor. At the end of 5.5 years, the section will ask you to file your papers. The format of the details to be filed are given here. You suggest 8 referees (4 Indian and 4 foreign) and the department will suggest 8 referees (4 Indian and 4 foreign) and this list is sent to the divisional chairman. [In IISc, we have six divisions and departments belong to a particular division. Each division has a divisional chairman.] He will pick up 8 names from this and send your details to these referees. Once the comments are received, these will be discussed by a promotion and assessment committee. This committee consists of all six divisional chairmen, the associate director, director and 8-12 very eminent scientists from India, who do not belong to IISc. The case will be considered by this committee and you will be promoted. Cases are also considered for early promotion (and termed as "out-of-turn"). These are not frequent and, as far as I know, only ten faculty have been promoted out of turn in the last ten years.

IITMSriram, a frequent commentator on the posts here, has written about the promotions in IITs as follows. This is different from how 'promotions' happen at IITM (generally similar in other IITs also). IITM does not have 'promotion' but actually recruitment to higher posts. So, every 2-3 years or so, an advertisement is put out calling for applications for asso and/or full profs (and also asst profs). Every department has its own norms for shortlisting and the institute also has some overall norms - in the form of x publications, y MS / PhD graduates, z volume of sponsored projects and some norms for teaching activity (new courses introduced, new labs, new teaching methods, tools, aids etc and also feedback from students on effectiveness of teaching). The applications received in response to the advertisement (will include local 'promotion' candidates and also external applicants) are scrutinized by a department level committee for shortlisting. The report of this committee is sent to central administration which then arranges for interviews by a selection committee. The selection committee consists of the Director, subject experts nominated by the department (through senate) and the board of governors and also one of the members of the board of governors (often one of the faculty representative on the board). In the case of professors, there is also an expert nominated by the Visitor (the President of India) whereas for assistant and associate professors, the Head of the Department takes this slot. Candidates called for interview usually make a presentation in the department; the feedback from the department from this presentation, the report of the departmental shortlisting committee and the application package are all presented to the selection committee which then interviews the candidates. Now-a-days, candidates who are not able to be physically present are interviewed over the phone by the selection committee. It is entirely upto this selection committee to decide on appointment and initial salary. Obviously, the subject experts in the selection committee play a crucial role.

It is important to realize that promotions yield hardly any monetary benefits. Continuous increment of 3% of Basic+AGP will ensure that one will reach the end of the scale of 67,000 at the end of 23 years, if never promoted (see orange columns). If promoted to professor under the IISc scheme of 6 years as assistant professor followed by six years as associate professor (see green columns), one will reach the end of the scale at the end of 21 years. The only difference will be in the grade pay.

Please do NOT post individual grievances in response to this post. This post is only meant to provide the norms and guidelines that exist in these places. Exceptions of either kind (early/late promotions) exist in all places. IIT-M recently promoted a faculty in chemical engineering directly from assistant professor to full professor. Similarly, IISc has offered associate professorship to a faculty who had only three years after his Ph.D etc.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Common cycles

Use common cycles to move around in IISc. In an excellent initiative, IISc student council has come out with the colorful `common cycles' idea to help students, visitors and teachers move between departments within the campus. Congratulations to IISc student council !

I had started an initiative where one can commute by electric vehicles, which was successfully employed during the centenary conference but that plan never materialized. But, I think this is even better.

PS: I do not own a motor vehicle and prefer to commute by either bicycle or walk.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New pay scales accepted

The IIT faculty association has accepted the new pay scales. IISc had already accepted the new scales in October and will receive the revised pay on Nov 1. The revised pay and the arrears of the pay can be calculated and will be most likely paid to IISc faculty in November.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Noble reflections on the Nobel

In the recent editorial titled Nobel reflections, Prof. Balaram, the director of IISc, says

This year’s awards had a special significance in India. Venki    Ramakrishnan’s    Indian    origins,    catalysed  a  remarkable outpouring of public interest, after the Nobel announcement; even the reflected glory of a Nobel prize can  be  dazzling,  at  times.  The  adulation  suddenly  dissolved into controversy; the rapid transformation demonstrated  the  power  of  the  media  to  influence  opinion. Ramakrishnan’s  understandable  discomfort  at  the  deluge of e-mails and phone calls from India and his characterization  of  his  Indian  origins  as  an  ‘accident  of  history’ have  been  widely  reported  and  discussed. 
But  even  as  I write,  an  extraordinary  piece  of  invective  has  appeared. While  such  pieces  normally  deserve  to  be  ignored,  the fact that the author happens to be an articulate Member of Parliament and a ‘spokesman of the Congress party’ suggest  that  a  comment  may  be  merited.  Abhishek  Singhvi writing  in  the  Times  of  India  (20  October  2009)  argues that  Ramakrishnan’s  somewhat  plaintive  request  to  be spared  the  excessive  adulation,  suggests  that  he  is  in some way insensitive to the ‘patriotic’ urges that come to the fore, when an Indian (or one of Indian origin) gets a major  international  award.  Curiously,  Singhvi  is  aware, as he should undoubtedly be,  that patriotism  can be  ‘the refuge of the scoundrel’. He notes that patriotism ‘has an intersection of noble values which in this case, appear to have  completely  escaped  the  mind  of  a  brilliant  Nobel laureate’.  Singhvi  adds  that  ‘success  has  many  fathers while  failure  is  an  orphan’,  a  phenomenon  that  is  also widely  observed  in  the  West.  Singhvi’s  diatribe  is  both distasteful and inappropriate, coming as it does from one who is distinguished  in public  life. He would do well  to remember that scientific success can sometimes be an orphan in India.
Ironically, one of the founders of the field of  structural  biology,  an  area  recognized  by  this  year’s Chemistry  prize,  was  an  Indian;  G.  N.  Ramachandran who determined the structure of collagen in the 1950s and developed  the  conformational  analysis  of  protein  chains in  the  1960s,  at  Madras  University.  Ramachandran  died in 2001, unhonoured by the Government of India even in the annual Republic Day awards, which are given by the dozen  every  year.  Cholera  researchers  also  celebrate  the 50th  anniversary  of  Sambhu  Nath  De’s  famous  work  on cholera  toxin  this  month.  De  died  in  1985  unhonoured even  by  the  Indian  scientific  community.  The  fact  that Ramachandran  and  De  did  not  get  the  call  from  Stockholm may only be an ‘accident of history’. Patriotism can often  be  misplaced.  Our  reactions  to  this  year’s  Nobel prize in chemistry are undoubtedly an example.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Subsequent to my post on JEE/GATE, people have questioned me whether data for all boards (average, top 10%, top 1%) etc are available. The answer is yes. This is the top 1% percentile cutoff for various boards in India. This is taken from the INSPIRE program of DST, India. These are for overall marks (not Physics, chemistry and Maths) but percentiles for science subjects can be generated. In some boards, having a cutoff at the 10 percentile will result in lower marks than the current cutoff of 60% marks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reforms in JEE and GATE

In my previous posts on reforms in GATE and JEE, I discussed a few reforms that are likely to be implemented. I had mentioned that only the top 2.5 percentile in the XII board exam will be allowed to write JEE. In the IIT council meeting yesterday, apparently it was suggested it will be around 80 percentage in marks but considering that there are 40 boards who conduct the XII exam and there is a need to normalize the marks and, therefore, something like 5 or 10 percentile will be implemented.

Please note it is appears to be a suggestion by the minister but actually it was originally proposed by a JEE reform committee in 2006 itself. This is akin to stating that the minister proposed the 3 years experience requirement for appointment to assistant professor [It was not, this was proposed by the Goverdhan Mehta committee].

In GATE, I had mentioned that "There should be a common section on mathematics, analytical ability (similar to the old analytical section of GRE) and English comprehension that would involve reading a technical paragraph and answering questions on that. This section would be of 50 marks and would be common to all technical papers in GATE." Well, effective GATE 2010, 15 marks each will be for mathematics and general ability with the latter being common for all papers. Also, GATE will conduct online exam for two of its small papers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

AP on contract

This is a lot of discussion on my colleague, Abi's, blog on the issue of appointment of assistant professor on contract. The director of IIT-G, Dr. Gautam Barua, has been patiently responding to the comments of various commentators. I had met him when I visited IIT-G as part of the GATE committee. I laud him because he answers queries in a blog ! In response to the government notification on recruitment of assistant professor on contract, Professor Barua writes,

Some of you have succeeded in hitting a raw nerve in me :-). Directors are being seen as spineless in not opposing OCAP. What is the origin of OCAP? It seems to come out of IISc! Please consider the following: Appointment at the entry level on contract: How did this clause come up? This came up because it was a recommendation of the Goverdhan Mehta Committee. In fact. Prof. Mehta has been quoted by Business Standard in a recent interview as follows:

Was there anything in the IIT wishlist which could not be accommodated?
Yes. There was one point of disagreement. The IIT directors wanted fresh PhDs as assistant professors and we did not allow that. We wanted PhDs with some research experience in the industry so that they can launch themselves into research immediately. Experienced PhDs have a sufficient level of maturity and independently do research and that is when they imbibe the attributes of a mentor. This could be one reason why the IITs have established themselves as premier institutes for undergraduate studies but are not known for their research.
First what does Mehta's committee's recommend? Mehta's committee recommended two years post-Ph.D experience for recruitment at the Rs. 30,000 basic with AGP of Rs. 8000. It also recommended that if one has three years experience at AGP of Rs. 8000 OR five years post-Ph.D experience, one can be directly placed at PB-4 with Rs. 37,400 as basic with AGP of Rs. 9000.

This was changed to three years experience (not necessarily post-Ph.D) by MHRD. It has been a general feeling that faculty with at least an one year post doc experience in engineering and two year post doc experience in sciences perform better in research. Data can not be generated to prove otherwise because everyone in IISc is recruited only with the above profile.

Anyway, I do believe that the selection committees will ultimately decide who to hire as Asst. Prof. and let everyone start at 30+8K and move to PB4 after three years. Therefore, I do not think many will be hired as assistant professors on contract.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

UG admission

I have been getting emails inquiring about the admission of the UG program after the report by Times of India that remarked that it could be by IIT-JEE. The report states that "As IISc is a member of IIT-JEE, one possibility is take students through JEE based on their ranking and performance." IISc is NOT a member of IIT-JEE.

The admission procedure has not been decided yet. But I am suggesting that the admission be through KVPY because IISc has been conducting KVPY exams for a long time. Further, qualification in KVPY ensures a scholarship of Rs. 80,000 per year till the student completes the study.

Two days back, when I was travelling to Pune, I was asked by a fellow passenger, "Aren't you glad that your colleague got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry?" The reason was that the hindustan times had a front page article titled, "IISc prof wins the Nobel prize." Though the online version of the paper has now changed the title (keeping the content the same), I have the printed copy of the newspaper with me.

The message is that newspapers may create news to attract your attention. Do not believe it in entirety.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pay scales in IISc

IISc has adopted the pay scales proposed by MHRD and the new pay scales will be implemented with retrospective effect from 1-1-2006. Faculty will get new pay scales from Nov, 2009.

Existing lecturers will be placed at a minimum of 20,140+6000 (grade pay).

Existing assistant professors will be placed at a minimum of 30,000+8,000

Existing associate professors will be placed at a minimum of 42800 + 9,500

Existing professors will be placed at a minimum of 48000 + 10,500

Existing senior professors will be placed in the HAG scale at the minimum of 67,000 (no grade pay).

In all scales, you have to add 27% as DA and 4064 as TA.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

UG program in IISc

At last, it is through. IISc will offer an UG program that will combine science and engineering but will primarily involve science. As one of the authors of the document that was discussed, I am happy that the council of IISc cleared the program. Though the structure of the program has not been approved and will be discussed extensively in the next few months, here is a brief structure of what the program envisages. The program is of four year duration and will be housed in the current IISc campus.

The need of it arose because a good science program that includes engineering and biology components. No institution in India including IITs/IISERs offers such a program. While engineering students have exposure to science in their first year of engineering degree, the students pursuing a science degree have limited exposure to engineering. This program will provide a unique mix of science and engineering thus enabling the integration of these subjects either in research or industry. The frontiers of research are essentially interdisciplinary. The changing environment of industry also requires that a mix of science and engineering. The UG program will be started in many streams e.g. Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and a few interdisciplinary engineering streams but NOT in conventional branches like electrical, civil, electronics etc. Students will have the flexibility to choose the majors and minors after three semesters.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pay scales

In the issue of pay scales and recruitment of assistant professors on contract, I had written earlier,

"The Institutes need not "fight" with MHRD on the issue of assistant professor on contract, the 10% cap on this cadre, the 40% cap on the promotion of professors etc. All they need to do is to tell MHRD to change the wording to "It is suggested that assistant professors that are recruited have three years experience.." "

Subsequently, yesterday, the minister has apparently "agreed" to this. Well, what did the meeting finally do? Ashok Jhunjhunwala, the eminent professor from IIT-M, puts it correctly, "The teachers were looking for an escape route to wriggle out of this situation, which Sibal provided" However, I had no doubt in my mind earlier that the selection committee will ultimately decide who will be placed in which scale when recruited. As the minister said, "If in a particular discipline faculty is not available as per the existing norms, the IITs can relax the norms to absorb any person." Currently, in IISc, we recruit an assistant professor in chemistry only with three years of postdoc experience while we recruit an assistant professor in electrical engineering with one year of postdoc experience. Therefore, both of them will be placed at 30,000 and moved to PB-4 after 4 years. We might even place a senior professor (currently at the 22,400- scale) in the HAG scale.

Let me repeat, IISc/IIT always had the flexibility to admit students and recruit, promote faculty based on what an admission or a selection or promotion committee or BoG/council decides. This is the reason why we have 15 year olds doing Ph.Ds, a 27-year old recruited as an associate professor or a 38 year old being promoted to professor in IISc. In IIT-M, one of my colleagues was promoted to professor directly from assistant professor.

For those who have referred me to my colleague's, Abi, post calling the above as a major victory for IITs, I have only thing to say to Abi, "The emoticon for sarcasm is :d or :-J" Please put the emoticon in your posts (this one and the earlier post) because no one (except me!) is able to figure out that you are being sarcastic !

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gandhi Jayanthi

Here is a quotation of Gandhiji that is displayed in my room.

Mine is a life full of joy in the midst of incessant work. In not wanting to think of what tomorrow will bring for me I feel as free as a bird... The thought that I am ceaselessly and honestly struggling against the requirements of the flesh sustains me. The spirit in me pulls one way, the flesh in me pulls in the opposite direction. There is freedom from the action of these two forces, but that freedom is attainable only by slow and painful stages.

I cannot attain freedom by a mechanical refusal to act, but only by intelligent action in a detached manner. This struggle resolves itself into an incessant crucifixion of the flesh so that the spirit may become entirely free. This is the maxim of life which I have accepted, namely, that no work done by any man, no matter how great he is, will really prosper unless he has religious backing. But what is religion?…. I for one would answer : Not the religion which you will get after reading all the scriptures of the world; it is not really a grasp by the brain, but it is a heart-grasp. It is a thing which is not alien to us but it is a thing which has to be evolved out of us. It is always within us : with some consciously so; with the other quite unconsciously. But it is [always] there; and whether we wake up this religious instinct in us through outside assistance or by inward growth, no matter how it is done, it has got to be done if we want to do anything in the right manner and anything that is going to persist.

The incessant search for material comforts and their multiplication is such an evil, and I am bold to say that the Europeans themselves have to remodel their outlook. Let us engrave on our hearts ‘Plain Living and high thinking.’ Today it is certain that millions cannot have high living and we the few who profess to do the thinking for the masses run the risk, in a vain search after high living, of missing high thinking.