Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pursuit of research

In the article titled, In search of research, the author states,

A student does his MSc and then heads for Outer Ring Road instead of a PhD because…well, because the companies on Outer Ring Road pay more to do mindless repetitive tasks than a professor at a university would earn trying to build a knowledge society. It’s a triumph of materialism that has infected every part of our culture: from politics to economics and medicine to applied art. Or so we like to believe. But, there are a couple of flaws in the argument. Even if a student wanted to pursue research, where are the universities and the faculty to ensure the quality of research that students aspire for? 
So here we are, seemingly in a spiral of hopelessness: To begin with, we lack a culture of research; adding to it is the fact that faculty and facilities don’t quite encourage a life of academic and scientific pursuit. Let’s phrase it another way: We just don’t have the right fuel to fire a knowledge society. But, can we stop blaming the knowledge economy and the pay cheques that come with it?
In 1985, Indian researchers accounted for 12,500 research papers indexed by Thomson Reuters. By 2000, India began to see a remarkable growth in its scientific output. By 2007, more than 27,000 papers were indexed by Thomson Reuters. ..... Indian desire to pursue research hasn’t exactly died. Far from it. But great Indian institutions and inspiring faculty to support the desire to pursue knowledge have slowly vanished. 

However, this articles ignores two main points.

First, the number of papers published from India have doubled from 1985 to 2007 (as stated by the author); however, China has grown 100 fold. Thus, our growth may be "remarkable" in terms of numbers, but in terms of % output compared to the rest of the world, the output has actually remained stagnant from 1985 to 2007. In terms of growth with respect to other developing countries, our growth has actually decreased.

Secondly, the author says that the great Indian institutions and inspiring faculty have slowly vanished. Why? The current state of affairs is such that a graduating B.Tech from IIT, a Ph.D from IIT and an assistant professor at IIT all get the same salaries. While it is understandable that a few will be keen on research and pursue it irrespective of monetary benefits, it is not possible to build a large number of universities and institutions that will attract the best researchers. The author of the above article asks, "where are the universities and the faculty to ensure the quality of research that students aspire for?" but one may ask, "What has brought about this situation that even the best institutions in India are unable to fill their faculty positions with good scientists?"

80 comments:

Yayaver said...

As a student, you look for your teacher for inspiration. You can go for graduation and post graduation because there are higher learning institutes attached to it. And,when the salar Most of students cony figure of person sitting next to you is increasing ten fold, you will think 10 time before grilling your intelligence for 3 years in PHD. Also, the decline of state universities by corruption and plagiarism has put original researchers heartbroken. Take an example of APJ Kalam. People are flocking to ISRO & DRDO because of his inspiring figure. Youths need role model who give them hope that one can rise with hard work and talent. When the students studied in a college 'A' don't want to be part of College 'A' faculty but want to migrate to the college 'B' , there is no chance of college 'A' to excel in the future. And how much quality colleges we have; 4 Lakhs give for mere 8000 seats in IIT at graduation level. So, you had already excluded majority of students at graduation level only who had interest in that field. Sir, when the institutes don't scale them or set satellite campus for the fear of brand dilution, they will kill the mediocre guy who has urge to research but can't stand in top 1%.

Ranga said...

I am saying this because this comparison between number of papers from China has been cited as one of the benchmarks by other sources as well. China is seeing a huge spurt in the number of private publishers and hundreds of new journals are being born, many unheard of outside the country. Number of publications in the top 10 or so international journals may be a better scale, and yes, India lags behind even on this scale.

Giri@iisc said...

Thanks for the comments

Yayaver: While I agree that Dr. Kalam is an inspiring figure, I do not see people flocking to ISRO or DRDO. There are a huge number of vacancies in these organizations.

I agree a large number of IITs and satellite campuses have to be started but where are the faculty?

Ranga: The numbers given by me are based on web of science. Web of science does not index all journals. In India, we publish 2400 journals and Web of science indexes 20 of them. China may publish a lot of journals but all are not indexed by web of science. Further, one can look at citations or top 10 journals in each field. In each category, the growth has been tremendous.

Ankur Kulkarni said...

Dear Prof Giri,

I think salaries or research environment are not the only matter here. The fundamental reason why, I think, Indian youth are not entering research as much as they ought to is because of the mental picture they have of the *Indian* researcher. And the term Indian is important, as I will explain shortly.

There is an impression in the minds of youth that the pursuit of research in India is in some form an act of sacrifice. An Indian researcher is not just perceived as a thinker but he is also seen as a renouncer or a monk -- like Buddha. This is in keeping with our civilisational values, for research is, after all, a quest for some kind of enlightenment. Somehow people don't think the same way about foreign researchers (they are seen more like whiz-kids); only Indian researchers conjure such a picture.

Consequently, pursuit of research in India is considered worthwhile only in a perfect setting - a setting that houses inspiring one-in-a-billion type personalities like Dr Kalam, and dedicated students and zero external distractions. Thus, life in Indian research is held to very high standards of "worthwhileness", and these standards are not applied to other occupations, including life as a researcher in a foreign university.

So to answer your question about why aren't we filling up posts in top institutions, I think the reason is because of this impression that exists in people's minds. This impression sometimes changes if one has seen research in these institutions as a student. But for people outside, particularly those who guide young students in their formative years, the impression is of this kind. I think institutions like IITs need to do significant PR exercises to demystify the image of an Indian researcher in the minds of the public. They need to convey that the image of a self-sacrificing researcher is not true so that people know the true side of research - the thrill and joy of it. Unfortunately, merely giving good salaries to researchers doesn't change that image entirely. Salaries are still seen with the suspicion that there may be some hidden vice behind them. Once research is seen as an enjoyable process, or as a way of freely exploring ones curiosities, more will yearn for it.

Ankur

Anonymous said...

"There is an impression in the minds of youth that the pursuit of research in India is in some form an act of sacrifice. "

Ankur, it is a sacrifice. I did my masters in IISc in 1994 from computer science. My salary is 79 lakhs per year; my professor earns 9 lakhs per year. Both of us are in Bangalore, so the cost of living is not very different. Look at the difference of salaries, though.

If I had wanted to become a professor, I would have did my Ph.D, postdoc and still not become a professor because it takes approximately 20 years after masters to become a full professor.

Anonymous said...

To attract th best people good salaries are a necesarry but not a sufficient condition. From personal experience I can say (have tried applying to Indian research & academic institutions)it is not a pleseant experience. Firstly execting someone should apply a year in advance is simply ridiculous. Institution in Europe take less 3 weeks after due date to shortlist and vey often let you know 2 days after the interview if you have been selected/rejected. The world changes in a year & many a good candidate would be lost in this process. Secondly most institutions simply dont respond beyond saying we will get back to you.Another issue is bureaucracy. A number of institutions (incl IIT) ask for photocopies of markshets from 10th standard (for heavens sake why does it matter).I have also ben asked by a CSIR institute to fill an application in my own handwriting (technology chalenged) and submit it with a draft of 100 rupees.
Another aspect i complete lack of respect for someone else's time. People agree on a date for a visit & then back out of it asking one to postpone the visit by a monnth. Lastly I will tell of a funny incident (funny bcause I wasnt a victim) where a colleague of mine applied to a research lab in INdia got an acknowledgement (all via email).After that he contacted them twice by email asking for the status. There was no reply. Then one day he got a letter (yes a letter by post)saying you have been shortlisted for interview and if he cannot make it in person selection committee may want to call him on phone on a particular date. Great, except the letter reached him a week after the interview date. Why couldnt someone email?Then he called the place & the head told him oh we havent yet filled up the place but I will keep your application on file & next time you are in India come over for a seminar. A month later he tlls the head ok I am here on these dates, when can I come & he is told we considered you in absentia but we did not select you. So the poor guy wasnt even told he was rejected until he asked.
With such a recruitment procedure & systems one should be surprised anyone actually comes & works in India

Anonymous said...

I quite agree with you. Also, you did not mention that all NITs and some IITs require you enclose a draft of Rs. 500 or 1000 to consider the application. WTF.

Did someone say what is the procedure for selection? What criteria is used? NOTHING. I know that the blog author has started a website and gives such information. Why the hell does any of the IIT or IISc provide such information in an official manner.

"With such a recruitment procedure & systems one should be surprised anyone actually comes & works in India"

Yes, the only reason that people seem to be returning to India is personal, not professional.

Anonymous said...

@anon 5:59 PM Agree with you The work the author of the blog has done is commendable but lets not forget it is an individual (maybe a team)effort. It has no official sanction from the institute.
Reasons for coming back are either personal reasons or that they cant find jobs abroad.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 5.51pm:

In the land where votes are sold on auction, this is the kind of leaders (be it spiritual or political or academic) people will deserve and get. Why do you expect the IIT system for recruitment to be unbiased and professional when the rest of the systems in India aren't?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon @ 5.51,

I totally agree with you. The faculty recruitment system in IITs(dont know about IISc)is totally esoteric. On one hand IITs say that they don't get "good quality faculty applications" and on other hand they don't call excellent applicants without citing any reason. Not to mention the entire time frame to carry out recruitment is very long with no definite milestones.

I am a professor in US. Recently one of my PhD students applied to IITs. I can assure you that this guy's CV is better than several of the assistant professors already working at IITs for 2-3 years. But IIT did not even call him for the interview. Finally this guy was so fed up that he decided to stay in US and is being interviewed for a tenure-track position in Research I schools. I have heard similar incidents from my academic colleagues. I definitely see a major disconnect between IIT's cry of lack of quality faculty and their recruitment process.

I agree with Anon@7.08 PM, this is all due to lack of leadership whether academic, political or spiritual.

Anonymous said...

Anon @7.31pm:

Many departments in IIT/IISc will only recruit someone if they are Ph.D students of the same department. Look at the faculty profile of civil engineering, aerospace departments of IISc. The same case with IITs.

Why is this so? Because of lack of professionalism and academic leadership. The system has to be corrected. For this, you need professional and people with good academic records. To get this, you need to pay well. If you pay peanuts, you will get only monkeys. A few faculty in IIT are very professional but that is the minority. Which is partly why Prof. Giridhar says that one should pay well.

Look at the quality of services offered by private and public sector units. The quality difference in service is due to the quality of the people employed. Unless good people are employed in academics, the system is doomed.

Anonymous said...

Dear anon@7:31pm,

"don't call excellent applicants without citing any reason"; I don't know of any Univ (US or India) that tells applicants that they are not being called for interview because blah blah blah. Perhaps your univ does? There are some peculiarities in the recruitment process at IIT's - while the department faculty or head may correspond with candidates, the interviews themselves are organized by the central administration, so the channel of communication may differ. Should having a better CV automatically ensure interview calls? Does not the sub-field of the candidate matter? Our own host here got selected in IISc only on the second attempt and he is very good, to put it mildly.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon @8.39 PM,

In general, I agree with you about sub fields and shortlisting for the interview. Unfortunately I can not reveal more details here for this specific case due to obvious reasons. But if IIT HOD (in an informal chat with the candidate) says that 40% of the faculty positions in his large department are vacant then sub field issue should not matter.

It is true that not all US universities send a regret letter to faculty applicants (several of them do). But US Universities don't have a problem of shortage of faculty. It is a matter of demand and supply. In US, it is average of 150 applicants per position, sometimes up to 250. And at least 25% applicants are outstanding. It is a major challenge to shortlist 4-5 from 150 for the interview. I may be wrong but it seems to be a logical assumption that such situation does not exist in IITs. The bottomline is that if IITs make their recruitment process more transparent and streamlined then there faculty shortage problem will reduce. I believe a good academic leader (HOD) can do a lot about it.

Regards

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon @8.26PM,

Though money is very important but it is not everything. Academic leadership is very critical in building a University. It is the human resources (right faculty and students) which makes a place. Money could attract some more people but a system with greater integrity needs to be maintained. IIX have been able to maintain fair degree of this, but, of course they are also not untouched by biases of region, state, language etc. Lot of academic leaders tend to hire people of their own language and state. It is not always merit-based.

Anonymous said...

I am the anon @8.26.

Anon at 9.10. From the website of Prof. Giridhar,

The suggested timeline is as follows: Apply to several institutes at month X. Follow up and try to get an acknowledgment by month X+1 or X+2. Then, send an email saying that you are visiting India in X+3 month and would like to give a seminar. Try to schedule as many seminars in many institutes in that month. After the seminar, inform them you are willing to return around X+6 months, which will require them to make a quick decision. You can return after X+12 months because the institutes will give you time to join. Please note that each department in IIT/IISc receives at least around 30 to 40 applications per position. Simply applying by email and expecting a detailed response is foolhardy. Unless the applicant shows repeated interest (followed by a visit to give a seminar), it is unlikely that the application will be considered seriously.

Thus, if your student had not followed the above, he may not have been seriously considered.

Anon at 9.26:
"Though money is very important but it is not everything."

As you say, money is very important. When the best professional people are not attracted to science because of money, you can not expect leadership from non-professionals.

Anonymous said...

Dear anon@8:26,

"Look at the faculty profile of civil engineering, aerospace departments of IISc. The same case with IITs." A generalization, that fails for IITM, I would think. My department AE has hired only one local PhD in the last 15 years. The only other local PhD's on the roll are those who joined in the 70's and 80's without a PhD and then got it while on the job - and those will all retire within the next 5 years. In CE too, out of 40 odd faculty, there are maybe 2-3 who dont fall in the above category.

And, anon@9:22pm says "Lot of academic leaders tend to hire people of their own language and state. It is not always merit-based." Given the hiring process - interview by a selection committee that is composed mostly of external subject experts - it is hard to see whose language or state will play a role.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Giri:

Do you really get 30-40 applications per position in all departments in IISc?

NB

Ankur Kulkarni said...

via anon at 9.10PM "But if IIT HOD (in an informal chat with the candidate) says that 40% of the faculty positions in his large department are vacant then sub field issue should not matter."

How is the applicant deciding this? Where does this feeling of entitlement come from? Selections everywhere are subjective, even at the top universities in the world. (When many get selected to US universities for grad studies, that selection is also subjective, it is also not transparent.) Do rejected people go about dictating the selection logic these universities? Why not be as sincere and as trusting when applying to IITs?

Anonymous said...

ok, read all comments - here are my short points

1)only about 20-30 percent of IIT-IIM faculty are world-class

2)the best do not go for academia - generally that is - there are exceptions

3) whether you like it or not, money is a huge factor here

4) Marriage market is another (an example will make this clear):

lets say four 30 year olds (all brilliant students - all IIT Btechs) go to the marriage market

person 1: IAS officer - power, status, prestige, huge perks, post-retirement positions, underhand money if he or she is so inclined - will get the best girl

person 2: US based professor of finance - prestige, glamour, money - will also get the best

person 3: an IIM grad who is a VP of a bank - salary 60 lakhs - will get the best too

person 4: IIT professor - no power, no money, some prestige - will get a much worse girl

so what will an aspiring young man do?

5) bureaucratic interference - governing bodies of all IITs IIms are manned by IAS - they also get higher scales than profs - at least at the higher levels - a prof retires at the joint secy level normally, an IAS at the secy level normally

so much for attracting the best brains !!!

Giri@iisc said...

I agree with Ankur. Recruitment is subjective. I was turned down in IIT-Madras (not saying that I deserved the position)..just showing that decisions are subjective.

A department that is predominantly theory oriented can not judge an experimentalist and vice-versa. I only hope that good people who have been turned down go to some other institution in India and do very well.

Yes, we do get 30-40 applications per position (mostly from abroad). This may vary between departments and science departments may get more applications. In our department, we have got more than 150 applications in the last 12 years and we have selected 3.

If you follow the outline suggested in the website (see the comment by Anon 9:30pm), one's chance of recruitment are better.

Finally, regarding money, I have written before that money is only one criteria; See this post,

http://giridharmadras.blogspot.com/2009/08/rankings-of-iitiisc.html

"I do not think money alone (or funding alone) will solve the issue of research output. Systems like liberal purchase procedures, encouragement for faculty to do research, setting up of centralized facilities, attracting faculty from abroad to join NIT, sending faculty to international conferences, interaction with faculty from IIT/IISc etc. have to be put in place. All this will certainly improve quality of faculty and, once faculty are active in research, postgraduate students will come in large numbers to NITs. And until that happens research quality and quantity in NITs can not improve."

RandomGuy said...

I find this whole comparison of salaries ridiculous..

its ultimately what one looks for in life that counts..for some its making 80 lakhs a year..for others it could be to inspire thousands of minds..

the one who takes home a million dollars need not be the one our society wants at this point in time..

the salaries offered by IIX is decent enough for a person to lead a respectable life, take good care of his/her family and enjoy life in a decent (not extravagant) way...

some thing to think on would be to whats going to happen to all the money that you are going to accumulate?..does your kid need it??.would not (s)he be smart enough to make a decent living on his own?

@anon 7:10 (mar 8)..well the thought process that you have outlined is good enough to not waste time on it..but just to make it clear to you

on pt 2..some of my professors were better than what i saw in the industry..they could have earned many times more had they chosen that path..

pt 4..marriage market??..looks like males are like dogs at an auction house waiting to be picked up by the highest bidder (based on their credentials)...if thats the value people attach to themselves then god help them..

Anonymous said...

I agree with March 8, 2010 7:14 AM.

I am a chemical engineering student in a top 30 school in USA. All the full professors here have more than 100 publications. Let us look at IIT/IISc who atisfy this criteria.

IISc: 1 (the host of this blog)
IITM:0
IITKGP:0
IITB:1
IITR:0
IITK:2
IITD:0

i.e., 4 faculty in all of IIT/IISc.

Thus the statements that only about 20-30 percent of IIT-IIM faculty are world-class is correct.

Anonymous said...

@Random guy: dear, looks like you are one of those guys who belong to category 4 of my classification, hence you rage at my apparent insensitivity and your refusal to "waste" your time and make points "clear: to you. Thank you. I do not know how old you are or what you do, but having graduated from an IIT years back myself, I have had a chance to look at some of these things. The marriage market, like it or not, exists in India. Call them "dogs" or whatever other term you are used to, the fact is dowry for IAS officers or IIM grads is a common enough phenomenon in India. Of cours, there are exceptions, and just in case you get personal, I had a love marriage and am a happy dad of two. I also agree there are some exceptionally brilliant teachers even today and there are honest IAS folks. I was just making a limited point that material aspirations, particularly in today's society. cannot be jsut swept aside. Hope you understand me better this time :)

Anonymous said...

Today most IIM professors are from non-IIM backgrounds. They have PhDs from places like Utkal University. There are some US returned profs in IIMs A, B, and C, but in areas like economics where US jobs are tough. In strategy or marketing or OB you will hardly find good guys. And NO top level publications. And in smaller IIMs the situation is dismal. I know my IIM friends, how unhappy most of them are with faculty quality.

RandomGuy said...

Dear anon@10:34..

thank you for the cat 4 classification..it means i will get a "much worse girl" ..sorry to know that inspite of(or because of) having a love marriage you define a girl as worse or not depending on what she offers you in the "marriage market"..hmm..that explains in some way the limited point that you are making on the "materialistic aspirations"...

anyways ..lets move on..this blog is not meant for a one on one discussion between us..

Anonymous said...

Taking a faculty position in an IIT depends on many factors. For example, an IIT in a small city (like Kharagpur) doesn't attract majority of faculty applicants as they don't have much to do in the city for their spouse and kids. They also don't have quality schools for the faculty kids. On the other hand, IITs don't pay enough to the faculties so that they can live 'happily' in a big city (like Delhi, Bombay) with their family. Outside the campus, they have to spend on their kids education and on the other things which are very expensive in bigger cities.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ankur and Prof. Madras,

I fully agree with both of you about the subjectivity involved in the faculty recruitment process. But one can not deny significant improvement required in the "process" and "duration" of recruitment at IIX.

1. No communication from IISc for 18 months and then suddenly getting an interview call.....Will a person be waiting for 18 months?

2. I hear very frequently this argument from the IIX faculty applicants that their their application packages were not received by IIXs (told later by IIT Deans/HODs). In today's world of communication, this is a lame excuse.

3. Check out websites of several departments (not one or two) in IITs : they still have the old pay scales and old recruitment advertisement. This just shows the lack of interest or "chalta hai" attitude towards the whole recruitment process.

Best Regards

TA

Giri@iisc said...

Dear TA,

Yes, all systems can be improved. However, 18 months delay is not acceptable. I think if someone follows the procedure outlined by me and visits the concerned IIT/IISc, then the decisions will be faster.

To Anon@March 8, 2010 9:53 AM:

I initially did not want to respond but since you brought in figures, I should tell that you have restricted it to just IIT/IISc. Wonderful research is done in NCL and UDCT (ICT), Mumbai. To name a few scientists who I greatly admire: Dr. BD Kulkarni, MM Sharma, JB Joshi..all of them are from there. They all have more than 200 publications, built major institutions and are the nicest people to meet. In fact, JB Joshi, is the most cited engineer in India.

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Madras,

As anon@March 8, 2010 7:14 AM pointed out is it really true that in all IITs+IISc there are only 4 people with 100+ pubs in Chemical engineering. Is this the trend in other branches of Engineering too (except materials where normally pubs are far greater in number).
Can you outline the possible reasons behind it. I think it is lack of phd students, low funding money (that I heard has improved dramatically), slow purchasing process etc. Your view as an academician will be highly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Madras,

Thank you for the wonderful service you are doing. Your timeline to apply to IIX is excellent but there are some logistic issues for students doing their PhD in US.

It is very difficult for a PhD student in US to visit India for one month (in last year of his/her PhD) giving seminars to various IIXs. If the student tries to do this earlier in his PhD period, then his/her seminar will not be taken seriously as a prospective faculty.

After PhD completion, they have a much tougher time to visit India during their OPT period (up to 29 months) due to travel restrictions outside USA (unless they get a full-time regular job in US with a H1 or other less restrictive visa). The only way these students/candidates can be interviewed or give seminar is through video conferencing.

This is something IIXs may want to take into account.

Best Regards

TA

Giri@iisc said...

Anon @9.05pm:

The answer is yes for both your questions. The reason is that the improvement in funding, ph.d students, attitude in research has been on the rise only in the last ten years. Many of the younger faculty will satisfy the criteria of 100+ pubs in the next ten years, though I do not believe that the criteria of papers or citations are the only hallmark of research.

TA,

Thanks for your comment. IISc recruits only postdocs with 1-2 years experience. So, there is no question of Ph.D students visiting. No postdoc has told us that he/she can not visit because of visa restriction. We did have a couple of postdoc who could not visit because of personal reasons. They were interviewed in skype. Normally, the decision is communicated to the candidate within a month after the interview.

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

Prof. Madras,

It is true that number of research papers is not a definitive indicator of quality research. But publishing in good jrls do provide an indicator of the proactiveness of faculties towards research in general. But truth is at this point in life sciences including agricultural sciences there is not a single Highly Cited Author in India.In all fields there are only 11.
Hope this trend is reversed and we have more highly cited authors from India.

Prof. SB

Giri@iisc said...

Professor SB,

Thanks for your knowledgeable comment. I agree that there are only 11 scientists who are listed under highlycited.com. These constitute the top 0.5 percentile. However, the same agency also publishes a list of top 1 percentile and calls it essential science indicators. There are several indian scientists (including me) who are listed there.

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Giridhar,

Is there any search option in your blog that could browse through all the posts on a specific topic?
Thank you for your help.

AS

Anonymous said...

Use google search.

keyword site: giridharmadras.blogspot.com

OR

click on the left top in the main page.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon: 06:37 pm!

AS

Anonymous said...

Prof. Giridhar,

Do you think situations can be improved if like china, India etches out a plan to attract top faculties in the US/UK etc who may want to return if they are given very key and prestigious roles in the Indian Academia. These roles can be head of certain research centers, chaired professorships and more.
Also is there any thought with the MHRD to remove the salary rigidilty that exsits. Can it be that IIX or the Government reserves the right to offer a suitable person much higher salary+perks if they feel that is what is needed to attract an established professor from US. the salary scale in place can remain the default scale with provision of 2x to 5x times increase (this increase can be even fellowships to top salary at the time of hiring) for deserving persons. Existing faculties in India who are doing so well like yourself can also be placed in that category. Well you may be humble enough not to care about money that much but there are researchers who care about both money and research quality (nothing against these guys as it is human nature).I think important lucrative positions+ good salary can attracts lots of Indians who are presently Faculties in US. If China can so can we.

Prof. SB

Anonymous said...

These so called 'excellent' faculties in US always think about themselves only. They don't have to do anything with development of Indian academia. Look at the statistics. Prof. Giri, your Bolg states that reasearch-wise (in terms of publications), IITs are not good. At present, a significant number of faculties in IITs and in IISc are US return. If they are excellent, why are they not delivering. Prof. Giri and few others are ofcourse exceptions but there are many good faculties also who do good research and they had (have) nothing to do with US. So, why to bring faculties from US by paying a lot of money. Pay structure in academia should be performance based and only good-performing faculties should get higher salaries. These US based ones are always busy in self-appraisal!

Rainbow Scientist said...

Dear Prof. SB,

I am reading this discussion with interest, so my humble 2 cents.

Lets say some established faculty would return to India with higher salary as you suggested, would that be sufficient to increase the overall research quality in India? Do you think these people will have same motivation to keep the pace of their research as they had in USA? I personally know many hard working people who returned to India and their motivation and pace changed to match with Indian realities.

My deep feeling is that the problem lies somewhere else. It is with the establishment. The whole system slows down everything.

Another problem is, that we are not aggressive when it comes to research. At least in my field, I see good work coming from India, but not the path breaking or cutting edge. Indian scientist are not the major players in the field. They don't publish in high impact journals and keep low profile. This might be more of a psychological than anything to do with the ability.

And as far the main topic of the discussion about how to attract bright people to research? here I agree with some of the commentator, that we need to provide role models to bright students who will pursue research despite and in-spite of low income. Another option is to allow private players in the research who can pay good salaries and who can tied up with established institutes.

Ankur Kulkarni said...

The idea of attracting private players or any other source of money is ok to the extent that it does not jeopardize the personal research autonomy of the faculty members. As I understand, there is no pressure what so ever right now on faculty members or students in IITs to work only in areas that are lucrative. These are healthy consequences of not having the sword of money dangling on one's head. It allows for the free pursuit of knowledge in its highest form.

Other systems with research tied heavily to money have many pitfalls, which their proponents do not mention. Majority of researchers in the US cannot claim to be seeking knowledge for its own sake; for that is not the expectation from them. Most are mere 'careerists', doing research only because it is a source of employment, and not scholars or scientists, who would do it for knowledge. (note: I am not saying that all profs in India are great scientists or scholars or whatever; I am only saying that the system has the right breeding ground for such people.)

I don't think it is worthwhile to change the very idea of research, unless we are sure that the current system is not good enough or will not be good enough in the medium term.

Rainbow Scientist said...

Ankur,

Your ideas seem to be naive and romantic, but far from realities. Free pursuit of knowledge? Faculties are paid by public money and they are accountable to the public. Indians have right to ask why our country's research output is of not the top level.

There are two ways a country can progress in any field (sports, science or whatever),

1. by creating an atmosphere where you can live by ideas and give your best for the ideas as was the case of science and sports in soviet model, but you need to keep whole society tied up with the idea not just the scientists. They are not isolated from society. The soviet model failed as we all know.
2. By keeping professional barriers and behavior at all level, as all major countries do again for sports and science. This means training big number of players in any field right from beginning stage, and putting pressure on them to perform. and you select best players by pyramid structure, ruling out those who can not play the game. This seems to be more logical step for India if she wants to excel in Science or sports. The ideological model did not and will not work in our too complex society.

Rainbow Scientist said...

Majority of researchers in the US cannot claim to be seeking knowledge for its own sake;

Just check the blog of abi (nanopolitan), and you will see the majority of readable articles he finds on daily basis is from the US media, mostly based on the work by American scientists. Where did you get this idea?

You need to scale up the number and you will see that there are all kinds of scientists, some people work to enhance their own knowledge while contributing to the field, some people are motivated by money, some are by prestige and some people want to give back to the society. You need all type players in the field for overall progress.

Anonymous said...

Rainbow Scientist,

You raise a very pertinent point. Why some hard working scientists (not all) fizzle out in Indian environment.
Don't you agree that this could be due to the lack of performance incentives as well as related issues like infrastructure, research equipments, speedy purchasing etc. As per Prof. Madras's earlier post, there is almost no monetory benefits associated with promotions in IIX and year to year increase has no performance component. This could be one reason why people find it hard to motivate themselves. Now obviously DST fellowships and awards like Bhatnagar increases the salary but how many actually get the bhatnagar. There are many excellent researchers in India but obviously Bhatnagar cannot be give to all of them. So there should be some plan to reward deserving people.
I agree with your points that there are other problems in the system which needs correction.

Prof. SB

Anonymous said...

Prof. SB.

IF one is a fellow of two academies, then one gets additional money also. The problem is lot of undeserving people get awards and are fellows of academies. For example, Prof. Giri is not a fellow though he is one of the most cited scientists in India.

The number of people who get demotivated because they were not given awards like Bhatnagar is very small. People get demotivated when undeserving people get rewarded.

The system has to be corrected.

Rainbow Scientist said...

I think lack of rewards could be one reason, but more importantly politics involve in giving these awards might be bigger problem associated with motivation. Credibility is big issue with Indian system, and they need to find the way to make system of awards and rewards more transparent and competitive, while increasing the numbers.

This problem exists not only in science but everywhere.

However, there may be another reason for lack of performance for US returned scientists. Many people go back to India exactly for the same reason, that they get burn out with continuous competition and want to enjoy research without any pressure, which ultimately result in decreased productivity.

Ankur Kulkarni said...

I completely agree with Rainbow scientist on the point that performance benchmarks should be set and incentives (or penalties?) should be there for achieving (or not achieving?) them.

But that was not my point. I was talking of the possibility of jeopardizing the research autonomy of individuals in an effort of giving them greater monetary rewards. Individuals should be free to pursue research in whatever manner on whatever topic they wish to; in other words their position in the institution should be stable so long as they produce good research, regardless of whether the research is in lucrative field. Others who choose lucrative fields may very well go ahead and enjoy the rewards of it, but there should be no compulsion to make this choice. The problem in India has been that the definition of autonomy has been too loose - it also included the freedom to not do research at all; I agree that this needs tightening and benchmarking.

Also, on your other comment - reflect on the word "majority". I am not talking of the best of the cream, whose research I respect too, such as those articles that Abi mentions. Furthermore, whether my statement is accurate is merely a matter of a subjective guesstimate and one's impression, not of a concept or an idea. So you are welcome to disagree and I see no reason to challenge you on it, so long as I have clarified my point.

Anonymous said...

Faculty positions selections are very subjective, doesn't matter the country, and US is a very good example of that. There is no point in discuss this matter.

Prof. Madras timetable to apply for IISc/IIT will work mainly if the department/centre has "interest" in the candidate. However, in my opinion nobody should be disheartened by what may be perceived as lack of interest from the department. Just try to check BEFORE what kind of new faculty member they are seeking. If you are a good match there are examples in which the answer came back very quick.

About interviews. Faculty selection takes a really long time. As an example, my department (in a known US university) has been interviewing people (even full professors) for more than two years and they haven't hired anybody yet!

In India, it seems common department chairs to receive a large number of "inquiries" and/or applications. For them to go forward with the selection of a qualified applicant the most aggressive thing one can do is to appear in person for a seminar/interview. This would boost your application not because of bureaucracy, but because it shows your commitment (it's less probable that you will not join them after they waited months for you) and you will have a great opportunity to check for synergy with other faculty. Additionally, in a competitive environment it also shows that you are not applying to 200 different places (though you are), but that you are consciously choosing to apply to IISc/IIT because you would like to go there.

In US, as in many other countries, only a fraction of the faculty in a department is responsible for most of the publications. And once they are tenured there is nothing one can do to improve it. In fact is quite easy for them to do ZERO research and there is nothing that the department can do about it, except commenting about it with students and postdocs ;-). Those who work really hard do it mostly because they really like to do a good research with meaningful results.

Publications and good science may come by, but the really positive thing that a researcher working in a top university in US will learn is how to do research in a very aggressive way. And that they will never forget (I hope I won't), and they will carry it with them wherever they will go.

Anonymous said...

Anon@March 11, 2010 3:09 AM

In US Universities, long delay is understandable as the faculties hired have to earn tenure and/or be a very good fit in the department. So say Dr. X is excellent in combustion but Us university Y already has 3-4 people working in that same field. So as much as they want to hire X it is not possible if they want a balanced portfolio. Otherwise you may have people competing gainast one another in the department instead of collaboration. funding wise too it will be a problem with NSF, DOD etc.
In India however this problem is not as severe. While it is desirable to maintain a balanced portfolio in a department in IIX, it may be possible to hire more people in particular area even with large overlap. since IIX have faculty shortage with shortage even in quality faculty applicants,it is prudent to hire a guy if he is excellent even though he may not be the most desired fit in the departmental constellation.Sooner you make an offer to this guy better is the chance that he may join.
Lastly if proper resources and incentives are provided to these newly hired guys (coming from Us/UK or otherwise) there is a possibility that he/she may succeed and continue to be productive. Also a model similar to US Universities can be introduced slowly. This means things like "fund your own students". This is not essentially bad, as 1.) It reduces dependence on Government money which can be used for infrastructure, incentives etc, 2.) It keeps the Faculties on their toes as moment funding runs out, ones research will also fizzle out. This concept cannot be introduced suddenly but a slow implementation can be done.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I saw the profile of a recently recruited faculty in one of the departments at IISc as an assistant professor. He is a fresh graduate completed his ph.d in 2009. Doesn't seem to be a top institute in the US. I could find about 8 publications from his Ph.D which is hugely impressive. Professor Giridhar is this more or less the norm you would expect from a fresh graduate applying for a faculty position? Does the institute name matter at all or is it only publications? You once commented that it is very rare for a fresh graduate to land a faculty job at iisc. Could you please comment on my 2 queries?

Giri@iisc said...

No, I can not comment.

I had 10 publications that were highly cited for my Ph.D followed by 2 years of postdoc, where I had 8 more publications but I was turned down when I applied for a faculty position by IISc the first time. So, what do you want me to say?

I stand by the statement that "is very rare for a fresh doctorate to land a faculty job at iisc." If you find exceptions and that becomes the norm soon, good for you.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ March 15, 2010 11:38 AM

It maybe so that the concerned person was hired because he/she belong to a new field/subfield of research and may have been a perfect fit in the department. Maybe the dept. had a real requirement in that specific area.

Anonymous said...

If i am not so wrong, the newly recruited person who graduated from a univ in Alabama, did his postdoc in IISC for 1 year after finishing his phd. Its not surprising at all to see the person recruited since his postdoc advisor in IISc was a powerful person. faculty recruitment is subjective indeed!! And dont tell me that he works in the completely new field and do cutting edge research!! Anyways thats the way it is unfortunately!!

Anonymous said...

In fact, Prof. Giri should thank his stars for being recruited in IISc. Very few people are recruited in IISc/IIT without a godfather. No wonder he was denied a position when he applied first.

Later, they may recruited him because of some pressure to recruit experimentalists in engineering and hoping he will fail.

Unfortunately for the department (and fortunately for him), he has been hugely successful. Now they will claim credit for recruiting him. If he had failed, they would say i told you so.

Indian recruitment of faculty works in weird ways, which is why the science in India is at the pits.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

My intention was not to find exceptions to your comment. I just came across this profile and being a fresh Ph.D I got excited. I just wanted to know If at all a fresh graduate gets selected is that the quality of work (no of pubs etc) you expect from him? I understand that the candidate needs to be exceptional if he is ought to land a faculty job directly after graduation. I am just trying to know what does that exactly mean. My intention was never to find exceptions to your comments. Infact I completely agree with them. Thats why I didnt take anybody's name etc.. The whole point of my comment was to find out If at all fresh graduate applies for a faculty position (say in your department) what do you look for in his/her application? I apologize if I haven't framed my question correctly in my earlier comment.

Anon@March 15, 2010 11:38 AM

Anonymous said...

Anon,

your question has already been answered. The person who were referring to had one year post doc experience in IISc with a powerful faculty. So, he was recruited.

If you are a fresh Ph.D and have a godfather in IISc to support you, then you can get a faculty position. However, if you already have a godfather, one does not need to worry about getting jobs in India and thus no need to ask this question.

Anonymous said...

@Anon

I am not sure if thats the case. The guy has a very strong case. He has about 8 pubs from his doctoral work alone. And by the way I dont think its as simple as working with a good prof at IISc. I agree he may have been a little lucky. But in every field u need luck and generally people make their own luck. Why not look at it this way? The guy planned it extremely well. I see this happening everywhere even in US new students are usually attracted to big profs, mate it happens everywhere. And remember it wouldn't have been easy to land that post doc as well. If the prof is so popular he would have attracted a lot of applications for the position. Anyways lets not get into this and the concerned may not appreciate discussion on them here by us. I was asking Dr. Giri a general question and not particular to any one case.

Giri@iisc said...

Anon @March 16, 2010 2:18 AM:

You do not need to apologize. You say, " I understand that the candidate needs to be exceptional if he is ought to land a faculty job directly after graduation. I am just trying to know what does that exactly mean."

The answer to this is that "exceptional" is a subjective definition and I can not classify it based on publications, number of citations, area of research, support from other faculty etc.

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

I completely agree (with anon @March 7, 5.51pm and anon@ march 7, 7.31pm) that iit's crying out for lack of qualified faculty does not pass muster when their recruitment process is such a joke and by no means a funny one for most applicants. in fact my experience is similar to the one related by anon@ march 7, 5.51pm. i applied to iitm a few years ago and did not hear from them. then one day i got an email asking me to appear for an interview in 4 days time. i was a postdoc in north america at that time and received the hardcopy of the interview letter much after the interview date. needless to say i am not in iitm.

i agree the hiring process can be subjective but often the subjectivity cannot be explained by the need to hire an applicant in a less represented area over a much more qualified applicant in another well represented area. It seems that connections often play a very important role.

A major problem from my own experience and that of friends and relatives is the lack of response to emails. I really dont understand why many of the iit faculty does not have the decency to reply to emails from prospective faculty. it does not take much time to send a 1-2 line response and it makes a lot of difference to the person looking for faculty positions. So if any iit/iisc faculty is reading this and is also in a position to influence colleagues, please ask them to take a few minutes of their valuable time to reply to emails and also do it yourself if you dont already practice it.
SS

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with SS, March 16th, 6:34 PM. The faculty at IIXs need to develop the practice of answering emails. They just don't bother to reply to emails. This is more so disturbing when here in US people expect and do reply to emails within a day or two (if not earlier). These IIXs expect people from here to join them but often applicants have to face complete unprofessional behavior from them. Until and unless they become more professional it would be impossible for them to get good candidates. On one hand you are paying "peanuts" and on the other hand your attitude is totally unprofessional and yet you expect good candidates to join???? Who are we trying to fool here????

Anonymous said...

We at IIXs are never interested in recruiting professional people.

"Until and unless they become more professional it would be impossible for them to get good candidates. "

We do want good candidates but ee also want candidates who can adjust to the Indian system. In Indian system for funding etc, there will be no reply to emails, phone calls etc. If we recruit purely professional people for faculty positions, all of you will become frustrated within a year and quit.

We train you earlier and look at your attitude. If you get frustrated by not receiving a response within a month of your query, you are most unlikely to fit in IITs/IISc.

Look at the wise words of Prof. Giri in

http://sites.google.com/site/newfacultyiisc/cultural-issues

Remember that the only entitlement you have is salary (that is mentioned in the offer letter), if you think rest (start up grant, students, office, and lab space, which are not mentioned in the offer letter) are favors you are receiving, rather than you are supposed to get, your life will become more easy.

Remember that getting a response for your application is also a favor by the head of the department, who is likely very old and prints out the email, reads it and then writes a response and then types it character by character. All this takes time.

Ankur Kulkarni said...

@anon at March 16, 2010 9:17 PM

Are you a faculty member at an IIX?

Anonymous said...

Sir,

A request - can you write a blog on the entry of foreign universities in India? I wanted to hear from an acclaimed academic like you. Will they come only in subjects like law or management, or all subjects? how will they pay faculty? will faculty with less international pubs and / or Indian PhD get a look in? will the best leave IIT or IISc or IIM? some say, money is not important to faculty, but they recently had even a hunger-strike. so what is likely to happen?

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Madras,

Can one attend an international conference on a his/her research grant?

Thanks.

A.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a number of people regarding the process of recruitment of faculty at IITs. It is too slow. I applied to IIT-KGP in March 2009 and was called for an interview in March 2010... no that is not a typo. Does IIT-KGP think that I have nothing else to do but wait for an interview call for 1 full year?

I have moved on and so will many unless the recruitment process is quick.

VINAI T said...

Respected Sir
I'm writing this from the perspective an Engineering graduate from the rural areas. To do research in India by a student like below are the some of the important obstacles during the fast competitive world.

i - Lack of good professors, those who know the subject well in theoretically and has the ability to explain its ,practicality.

ii - There is no good library at local engineering colleges. Most of the libraries filled with books written by local authors, those who dont even have a proper understanding. Professors like you(sir) should take the necessary steps to make availability of a copy of standard author books/eBooks/journals in every colleges( at least all the government colleges ). As Einstein said by his experience" Secret of knowledge is How to hide your resources ". Keep the exams and degrees are for those who want to settle with the IT job. For making a research scholar, either he need a library full of holy books of his interest to take them in and out or taught by a good professor(GURU). If both it could be great....

iii - Also, it could be nice if the college students( permission from HOD) from any of the institutions from our country are allowed to test his ideas/thoughts in IIT,IISC, DRDO,ISRO and other available HI-FI laboratories...

thank you ....If somebody may think on this perspective, it would be GREAT....

Anonymous said...

Prof. Madras,

I am a faculty in the US who is joining IISc very soon.
I have been keenly observing your blog and useful information that it contains. When you joined, perhaps the extent of funding was very limited and infrastructure was perhaps not adequate. How did you as a young faculty survive and publish at a astonishing rate. If you detail some of the strategies you adopted it will be good for new faculties as well. For e.g. did you focus more on computations than experiments or did you collaborate a lot with your US collegaues during early stages. How did you go about funding and attracting students. In short how did you adapt your research directions in the context of India at a time when things were not as smooth as it is today.
I feel if you share some of your experiences and knowledge that can benefit a lot of incoming faculties. your website allows people to know how to settle down. Perhaps you can write your own experiences which can be a recipe towards success.
Regards
SB

Anonymous said...

congrats SB for the IISc faculty job. wish you good luck.

s.b. said...

SB,
I wish u all the best!

Giri@iisc said...

"Perhaps you can write your own experiences which can be a recipe towards success."

This assumes that I am successful, which I am not. I have, however, asked people who are really successful what their secret to success is. The answer is perseverance.

I think, especially in government institutes in India, there is lot of inefficiencies at every level. It is easy to get frustrated because there is no monetary or other benefit if one is efficient.

Congratulations on your job in IISc and we can meet and discuss when you join !

Thanks

Giridhar

Anonymous said...

Prof. Madras,

A. question "Can one attend an international conference on a his/her research grant?" stirred a good discussion among my friends and me. Different countries have different rules for use of grant money for traveling abroad and/or within the country (to attend conferences/workshops or meet with collaborators).

Would you please tell us, what are the rules for using grant money to travel in India?

Thank you.

M.

Giri@iisc said...

Some agencies allow the travel grant to be used to attend conferences abroad. Most of the agencies allow the travel grant to be used for attend conferences within India.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Giri,

What is the rationale behind the introduction of the 5 year contract in IISc. If as you rightly put all positions are permanent and there has been virtually no instance of anyone being fired after 5 years, then why does IISc implement such a policy while the IITs do not.

Anonymous said...

I got the soft copy of my offer letter from IISC. What additional forms are sent by the registrar with the hard copy of the letter.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Madras,

Could you please suggest on what type of questions are usually asked in an interview by the selection committee for an AP position. I have to prepare for such an interview. Do they ask mostly technical, fundamental questions on the subject?
Thank you in advance.

S.

Anonymous said...

He has posted before that he has not appeared as a selection committee member for any IITs or that he has not appeared as a candidate before a selection committee. So, he does not KNOW.

Anonymous said...

Anon March 26, 2010 9:08 PM:

When Prof. Giri becomes the director of IISc, he will change it. do not worry.

Anonymous said...

Anon March 30, 2010 3:20 PM:

Why are you making comments on behalf of Prof. Giri? Let him speak for himself.

S.

Anonymous said...

Nothing can be said exactly about the pattern of interviews whether technical or fundamental questions will be asked but selection committee do see the resume, background and research area and decide a priori whether the candidate is suitable or not. Interview process is all just a formality in India especially for AP position in IITs. Sometimes, they may comment that the candidate's research area is not new by saying that they are looking for people who already engaged in some cutting edge research. The candidate may spoil his chances if he explains his research topic in a simple manner, however new it may be, so that selection committee understand it. Need not explain any thing but to make complicated. Unfortunately, AP position is for not to teach/explain but to do research. Research topic should be such that nobody in the selection committee could grasp it in 15 min or so. Sometimes, suppose A person completes PhD in IITX and applies for a faculty position in IITX1, then selection committee panel at IITX1 may say that research area is old. Only god can understand why same topic was floated in IITX. It also implies that IITX is not doing any useful research as per the panel opinion. Funny thing is that by the time a person becomes a selection committee member, his or her research area also equally becomes very old as his age!!! Second thing is reference letters. They matter a lot like the referee's current position, his/her colleagues and his past history like any past misunderstanding with any one of the selection committee members. Bottom line is as follows. If the committee wants to select a person, they ask for his grade/marks in 10th class. If they dont want to, then they ask a question about their own grades/marks in 10th class.

Anonymous said...

You have to appear for an interview for getting an award: Young scientist, swarnajayanthi, Bhatnagar etc etc.

I was told that the award committee decides apriori. If they want to select you, they will ask your date of birth, If they do not want to select you, they will ask you their date of birth

Anonymous said...

Selecting candidates a priori is not a bad idea in case of positions like AP and even for awards also. One need not prove anything extra in the interview because resume speaks a lot than 15-20 minutes of interaction. For not selecting candidates who look physically or mentally unfit by their outlook for performing the given duties, selection committe must ensure that no such candidates are selected to avoid any future legal controvorsy.