Sunday, December 9, 2012


ORCID, the Open Researcher and Contributor ID, is an initiative that seeks to remedy the systemic name ambiguity problems seen in scholarly research by assigning unique identifiers linkable to an individual's research output. 

In the near future, researchers will be able to link their Scopus ID and Researcher ID to the ORCID profile. I believe by the end of 2013, all major publishers will require authors to link their ORCID profile when submitting papers to a journal. 

The editorial in Nature reads,

when scientists and their patrons see the practical benefits of ORCID, it will become the de facto standard author identifier in research, much as the digital object identifier (DOI) has become for papers and data.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Skills and Success

In the interview with Livemint, three professors (BN Jagtap, Satyam Suwas, Yamuna Krishnan) give their opinion on the skills required in science.

The skills for science: “You have to be passionate about learning new things. Scientists are a curious and inquisitive lot. It’s important to ask risky questions. Also, be prepared to fail and to experiment all the time. Through school we learn about Galileo, Newton, Darwin or Einstein, and science seems like an individual pursuit. I always tell my students that science is teamwork.”

The skills for science: “Dedication, passion and perseverance is what it takes to be a scientist. Unless you have passion, you’ll get tired soon. You may not succeed in a few attempts, so you have to keep trying.”

The skills for science: “In terms of attitude, I would say you would need curiosity and passion, knowing how to work as a team, flexibility about the path to reach your goal, and belief in your abilities to realize it.”

Based on my experience, I feel to be called successful, you need the above skills and a couple of other "skills". These "skills" are apparent if you read the interview given by Murali Kartik to Cricinfo,

What's the one question the media should stop asking you?
The one about who I upset in the hierarchy to not find a strong footing in the India squad.

If you were an Under-19 cricketer today, what advice would you give to the teenage Murali Kartik?
Keep your mouth shut.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bhatnagar Prize

My heartiest congratulations to my colleagues, Profs. Ravishankar, Arindam Ghosh and Mugesh, for winning the Bhatnagar prize this year. All three of them are my friends, have an outstanding academic record and truly deserving of the award. All three of them had won the Swarnajayanthi fellowship earlier.

It is my privilege that I actively collaborate and have joint students with Ravishankar.

Monday, August 27, 2012


The new rankings by both Shanghai and SciMago for universities is now available. The former ranks the top 500 universities while the latter ranks 3290 institutions.

In the Shanghai overall rankings, only IISc figures in the list from India. After dropping from the list of 201-300 in 2004, it has maintained its rank in the bracket of 301-400 till now. Couple of other IITs used to find a place in the Shanghai overall rankings but now no longer figure in the top 500. In the subject category, IISc maintains its top 50 rank in chemistry and top 100 rank in engineering.

All IITs and some other Indian institutions figure in the SciMago rankings. In these rankings also, IISc is the top Indian institution with a rank of 376. IIT-KGP with a rank of 460 follows. These are the only Indian institutions in the top 500.

For the rankings, both Shanghai and SciMago use the quality of publication output i.e., it calculates the ratio of publications  that an institution publishes in the most influential scholarly journals of the world; those ranked in the top 20% (Shanghai) or top 25% (SciMago) in their categories. While India publishes around 10% of the papers in the top 25% journals, IISc publishes 54.2% of the total number of papers (8,573 in a five year period of 2006-2010) in the top 25% journals.

Update: Fudging data to climb up the rankings (Through Abi's blog)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Comments and blog

  • All opinions expressed in the blog posts are mine and mine alone. Comments on my blogs are not moderated. That is because even I though I may not agree with what you say, I believe in your right in saying so. This brings me to the main point: I am not responsible for the comments on the blog. They are expressed by readers and I neither endorse nor disagree with any of the comments.
  • Just because I have a website for prospective candidates for IITs/IISc, it does NOT mean that I encourage doctorates to join these places. If YOU take a decision to return to India or join these places, the website provides you information to do so. It does not mean that I encourage you to return to India and/or take up a position in these institutes. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Academicians do a lot of things for free. This includes reviewing papers, reviewing projects submitted to various funding agencies, sitting on oral examination boards etc. However, there has always been a remuneration for reviewing thesis/dissertation. For example, IISc and IITs pay somewhere between Rs. 5000 to 8000 for a review of the doctoral dissertation.

The universities, on the other hand, used to pay ridiculous amounts. Bombay university used to pay Rs. 166.67 and you had to send a detailed claim form and an additional letter that you have reported this remuneration in your tax form. This was based because the three examiners of the thesis had to share Rs. 500. Recently, I agreed to review a thesis for another state university. They sent me the thesis yesterday, which is around 200 pages long, and the remuneration claim bill of Rs. 10. You read it correctly. Posting the remuneration claim bill will be costlier than the remuneration itself. Can not the universities simply request that this review is to be done for free and I will be gladly able to do so.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pinned IISc admissions 2012

Please read this post and comments before posting.

Interview call letters for the M.Tech/M.Mgt program was posted on the website on March 30. The admission letters for ME will be posted on April 12. 
For the research (Ph.D/M.Sc) program, interview letters will be posted by May 12, interviews are from 1 June to 10 June and offer letters will be online on June 18. The last date to pay the fees is June 30 and the last day to withdraw is July 10. The wait listed candidates will be offered on July 13.
For the UG program, the first round of offers based on KVPY will be made by May 15 and the second round of offers based on JEE will be made on June 1. The third round of offers based on AIPMT, JEE, AIEEE will be made on June 23/25.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Congratulations to Anand for winning the world championship. Each of the tiebreak games were excellent to watch. The first game was even and both had chances to win but both ran out of time. The second game was definitely even till around move 45, even though Anand was a pawn up, but Gelfand had no time left and Anand won the end game in 77 moves. Games 3 and 4 were drawn by Anand by moving away from standard variations.

Congratulations to Anand for defending his title again! After his family moved back from Madrid to Chennai permanently, many critics accused him of losing his edge. Glad he has proved everyone wrong.

He is coming to Chennai in three days and I hope he is welcomed well. After all, recently the state sponsored the victory celebrations of a private club.

Pinned post for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc

This is a pinned post for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc. Please, please read this site and the old posts, herehere, herehere,  here and here also. There are over 1700 comments and replies to these comments in these posts. 

Use the search function at the top of the blog or advanced search in google to see whether your comment has already been answered. If you require an answer to your question, post it with a name, initials, pseudonym or anything that is distinguishable.

Please do not post off-topic like queries on student admission here; use the comment section of the IISc admissions below.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Education policies

The author of the blog states,

Good-hearted policy makers would have decided that if you throw a lot of money into equipment -- independent of all other aspects that go into research and education -- surely research quality will improve!

It is not as if the policy makers are unaware that this alone will not work. It is just that this is the easiest. It is too difficult to overhaul the complete system or even think about this...just give money and hope things work out !

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Amazing game

What an amazing game..a world championship game decided in 17 moves. That the move 14...Qf6 was a blunder was not predicted even by GM's doing live commentary. They realized it only after Anand played 17. Qf2, which Gelfand admitted that he did not see. Anand said that he calculated the complete line when he played the moves of 11.exf5 and 12.g4. It is simply amazing because in out-of-box games, Anand seems simply unbeatable, like what he did to Kramnik in 2008.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

JEE results

With the JEE results announced yesterday, I get a lot of emails asking about branches that can be chosen etc. I suggest you read the best counseling advice here.

Some of you have asked about the UG admission in IISc. The first round of offers were made last week based on KVPY. All KVPY (SA/SX/SB) in non-GN categories and all from KVPY (SA/SB) and many from KVPY-SX in GN were offered.  In the current batch of students, most of the GN students are KVPY fellows though they have also qualified in JEE. The cutoff for the GN category based on JEE will always be high in IISc because only sixty seats are available for the GN category and most of them are filled by KVPY fellows.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

IISc Admissions 2012

I have been receiving several queries on admissions to IISc. Unfortunately, I am unable to answer all emails individually. All I can say that the cutoffs for the M.E. program are usually in the 99th percentile. The last year cutoff score in GATE and other national exams for various categories to be called for interview for the Ph.D program is mentioned in the website and use this as a guideline. Emails to me regarding this year cutoffs will not help because cutoffs are decided by the number of students applying.

Update: Interview call letters for the M.Tech/M.Mgt program was posted on the website on March 30. M.E. admission is not by interview and only through GATE score. The admission letters for ME will be posted around April 20 on April 12. There are no waiting lists for ME admission, though second lists are operated occasionally. The admission is based on a ratio of offered to joining based on the experience of the last few years. For the research program, interview letters will be posted by May 12, interviews are from 1 June to 10 June. The offer letters for the research program will be online by June 18. For the UG program, the first round of offers will be made by May 15 and the second round of offers will be made on June 1.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Work day

There is an interesting discussion on the length of work day, especially in academics. I think many academicians look only for productivity and I think advisors only look at the work ethic of the student if the student was being non--productive for a few years. The time that is spent on the work bench is probably less important than the time spent required in thinking about the project.

For the faculty, the key is to plan well and not spend lots of time on long coffee breaks and mostly useless meetings. Of course, in IISc parlance, if the faculty is called hard working, it normally means that (s)he is not very bright !

Saturday, May 5, 2012

GM closes

GM closes its R&D lab in Bangalore. Approximately 90 researchers, including a few of these who obtained their doctorate in chemical engineering in IISc, were laid off.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Open access

There is an editorial in The Hindu on open access. I have written about this before in this blog several times. 

While Harvard spends around $4 million of its $400 million budget on the library (i.e., 1%), IITs/IISc spends around $2 million per year on its library budget, which is nearly 5-10% of the overall budget. Much of these are wasted on commercial publishers while the cost of many society journals are still manageable. It is rather critical to understand the differences between a society and a commercial publisher. I have written in detail about the differences in commercial and society publishers and the need for a faculty to understand the cost involved in publishing. 

While nearly 80% of the IISc budget is paid to the commercial publisher, less than 40% of the articles published by faculty are in journals published by commercial publishersA librarian (especially in India) wants to buy the entire package sold by the publisher as the commercial publishers continue to add journals without adding to the contentLibrarians would withdraw from "big deals" and ask themselves what the faculty actually needs. At the initial stages (like the new IITs), the librarians should ask the faculty to buy the journals as individual subscriptions and subsidize it through institution funding rather than get institution-wide site licence.

Recently, in a meeting with the publishers, I was appalled to see Springer quoting nearly $100,000 for subscription to each new IIT. Many new IITs do not have any reasonable number of faculty and the number of full text downloads are minimal (< 1000). When questioned why this cost was nearly 10 times that offered to an Indian university, they were quick to point out that IITs are funded better and may have higher usage later. This differential pricing (depending on the ability to pay) is ridiculous. This is like that the price of a car is determined depending on my pay and   how much I will use the car !

Later in the meeting, the representative made a statement that scientists can not survive without them. In USA, statements like this leads to scientists withdrawing from editorial boards, refusing to review and publish with these publishers. Not that it may make any difference, but as a scientist, I will not publish any more with journals published by Springer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Academic Science

In an excellent editorial on academic science facing public scrutiny, Professor Balaram analyzes several recent editorials and talks truly like a person who moves uneasily between that of a laboratory scientist and academic administrator,

Ponderous committees, and the unending search for consensus often facilitate ‘decisional paralysis’ in our own institutions.
The suggested prescription is to ‘identify and expand  areas…which are already doing well rather than starting small institutes from scratch’. This is a route that has been pointedly and deliberately ignored in India, especially in ‘hot funding areas’ like biotechnology and nanotechnology.
Institutions in India also struggle with internal constraints, historical inheritances which show no signs of disappearing, that contribute substantially to widespread inefficiency in coping with the volume of work generated by greater spending.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Teaching Research

Professor Balaram writes on teaching research,

Brushing aside the temptation to tread familiar ground I decided to address two issues that are matters of concern to many young researchers, beginning careers as independent investigators in India – research facilities and teaching. Everyone I have met (or almost everyone) seems to want more of the former and less of the latter. For those with an insatiable desire to accumulate sophisticated research facilities. I turned to Richard Hamming: ‘It is a poor workman who blames his tools. The good man gets on with the job, given what he has got and gets the best answer he can.’
Science, as taught today, can hardly enthuse a new generation, which is fortunate enough to encounter an ever expanding range of career options. The excitement of science and the pleasures of research can only be communicated by exposing students at the earliest opportunity to laboratory work, in which outcomes are not always anticipated.

Professor Balaram's point is valid and important. However, in a system where tap water is scarce in university laboratories and getting a simple chemical involves an arduous procedure, how can the joys of a laboratory be communicated? This has resulted in undue importance given to theoretical research, especially in engineering, even in premier institutions. Workshops have been replaced by Acad; distillation columns have been replaced by Aspen. Both the researchers and administrators (Professor Balaram is an exception to this) feel that theoretical research is better and certainly less stressful. The institute represented by both researchers and researchers-turned-administrators do not have to worry about infrastructure (space, power, water etc) and maintenance. This has led to the situation that 70% of the doctoral thesis produced in engineering in IISc (and possibly in other IITs) are based on theory/simulation.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Indian Science Policy

An interesting article on Indian Science Policy.

It is not enough for the prime minister to resort to platitudes by saying (as in his recent speech) that “things are changing but we cannot be satisfied with what has been achieved”, or that we should make “scientific output more relevant”. He and his advisers must ask themselves if there are underlying causes for this lack of satisfaction and relevance. Until then, no amount of bankrolling, populism, bureaucrat bashing or whistle-stop tours by prominent Western scientists will help.

 In this part of the world, age is blindly equated with wisdom, and youth with immaturity. This facilitates the continuance of the status quo. Geriatric individuals with administrative and political clout reinforce their positions so well that we are unable to eject them. So we hail scientists in their eighties, film actors in their seventies and cricketers in their forties.

These variants of corruption — along with general indifference, absence of incisive introspection, old-boys' networks, administrative vindictiveness, vagaries in research funding and studied silences — conspire to create an atmosphere that lacks innovation and creativity. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Awarding degrees

Professor Dheeraj Sanghi writes about the new IITs and how they are not eligible to award degrees in 2012 if the bill is not passed in the Parliament. I do not understand why the new IITs should award degrees for the batch graduating in 2012. IISER graduated a batch last year and they did not award any degrees but I am sure that the students are doing fine. They are also not eligible to award degrees because the NIT amendment bill has not been passed by the Parliament. However, you can be assured that the government is working hard to get this bill passed soon, maybe in the next couple of years. I think we place too much importance on awarding degrees.

Of course, I am being sarcastic.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Faculty salaries

From the chronicle

The latest project that looks at professorial paychecks shows that the United States lags behind Canada, India, Italy, and South Africa when it comes to the purchasing power of their salaries and academic fringe benefits, according to data compiled jointly by the Laboratory for Institutional Analysis from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and the Boston College Center for International Higher Education.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Job offers

When I was reading the article, "Withdrawing From a Job You've Accepted", in the chronicle and its comments, I am reminded of a recent incident. A person X, who had his basic degree in IIT and Ph.D in a top 5 school in USA, applied to six IITs last year and was interviewed in all of them. All of these IITs made him offers. Finally, he joined a newly established IIT. However, within a year, he wanted to leave this IIT and join an older metro IIT and, guess what, he has been offered there and will join there next month. The faculty brought equipment worth crores for starting up his research in the newly established IIT and now that he is leaving this IIT, I do not know whether this equipment will be used by the rest. But as the above article ends,
As someone told me along the way: Watch out for yourself, because no one else will. I would add: And be prepared to live with the consequences.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Mr. Greg Chappell at his pontificating best

Chappell then spoke about what was wrong with the Indian culture. "The culture is very different, it's not a team culture," Chappell said. "They lack leaders in the team because they are not trained to be leaders. From an early age, their parents make all the decisions, their schoolteachers make their decisions, their cricket coaches make the decisions. The culture of India is such that, if you put your head above the parapet someone will shoot it. Knock your head off. So they learn to keep their head down and not take responsibility. The Poms (British) taught them really well to keep their head down. For if someone was deemed to be responsible, they'd get punished. So the Indians have learned to avoid responsibility. So before taking responsibility for any decisions, they prefer not to."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ph.D fellowships

Just when IISc has decided to stop admission to non-GATE qualified students for its direct Ph.D (i.e., after B.E./B.Tech) programme, IIT-Gandhinagar has announced the following
In  order  to  attract  students  of  IITs,  NITs,  and  certain  top engineering colleges in the country to its Ph. D. programme, the Institute  is  offering  direct  admission  to  fourth  year  B.  Tech. students  regardless  of  whether  they  have  qualified  GATE.  An additional fellowship of Rs 10, 000 per month will be given to the
students who qualify GATE.

How do you define a top engineering college? Should one go by the rankings, where Amity University is ranked 18 while IISc is ranked 41.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pinned post for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc

This is a pinned post for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc. Please, please read this site and the old posts, here, here, here, here, and here. There are over 1400 comments and replies to these comments in these posts.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Admissions 2012

The website for admissions 2012 is now open.

Aspirants for the UG (BS) programme can start applying from today (Feb 1) while aspirants for PG (M.Sc(Engg), Ph.D, M.E, M.Tech, MBA, MDes etc.) can start applying from Feb 6. The key difference from last year is that no offline applications will be entertained for both UG and PG. Everything will be online. The offer letters will also be online and the fees to be paid on joining will be also online.

The admission criteria for each program is clearly spelled out in the information brochure. Please read through it carefully. The cutoff marks in JEE/AIEEE etc. for applying to the BS program is mentioned. The last year cutoff marks in GATE etc to be called for interview for the Ph.D program is mentioned and use this as a guideline. Emails to me regarding this year cutoffs will not help because cutoffs are decided by the number of students applying.

This year, GATE is written by 9 lakh students. The scanned copy of the OMR (answer sheet) of each student, the marks of each student and the cut offs for qualification in GATE will be put online. Similarly, for IISc admissions, the cutoffs at each stage (if there are multiple lists) will be put online. While it will be ensured that this will be done as soon as possible, it can not be done earlier than possible because lists have to be approved by competent authority. Emails and phone calls to me will not help.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Online GATE

The GATE online was completed successfully for six papers last weekend. I was supposed to visit Hyderabad on Saturday morning and I had booked the morning flight of AI. On Friday night at 11:30 pm, when I was sound asleep, the AI call center person calls me up and says that the flight for Saturday morning has been cancelled and AI has helpfully rebooked it for the Sunday morning flight. When I told him that it is not acceptable, as I had to conduct a (mock) exam on Saturday and he can not rebook me, he was surprised at two things: (a) the necessity for me to be there on Saturday (b) my inability to speak in fluent Hindi (he refused to speak in English). Please note that I can speak Hindi reasonably well, just that I am not fluent it at it, especially at midnight. This person cancelled my ticket and did not charge me for the cancellation. In case you are wondering why they might charge cancellation fee for a flight that they have cancelled, all I can say that you do not know how AI (or the government) works.

I booked my ticket in a profit making airline (Indigo) at midnight, arrived at the airport in the morning, checked in and then went to the AI counter to make sure my ticket has been cancelled. The person there told me that the ticket has not yet been cancelled and they would have not have refunded my money as they would marked it as a "no-show". He, however, cancelled my ticket and when I insisted, he gave me a receipt that the flight and ticket has been cancelled. There was a long line of passengers who had switched off their mobiles at 11 pm and never got the message that the flight has been cancelled. I can not understand how passengers can switch off their mobiles by 11 pm :-7

Unlike AI, the GATE online exam went off smoothly. However, due to lack of electricity, the computers were operated using a generator. GATE is being written by 9 lakh students this year. If you remove the four major papers (EE, ECE, CS, ME), then we will have 1.5 lakh students. All these papers can be made online possibly in the next 3-4 years. The only issue that it may not be feasible to hold the online exam in tier III cites, where it may be difficult to source 300 computers for a session.

After the exam, one of my colleagues called me to check whether the exam was completed successfully and how many more papers can be made online next year. I remarked that the complete GATE can be made online next year considering the country's excellent infrastructure. He said, "Not many people understand your sarcasm; you should come back to Bangalore and read the comments of the recent post. People are discussing your h-index vis-a-vis your non-IIT undergraduation." The emoticons for sarcasm are known but what if people do not understand this either. Therefore, I should use something obvious, "Just like AI is the most customer friendly airline in the world, an undergraduation in IIT is required to become a good researcher and get a faculty position in IISc."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Just one more postdoc

I was talking to a former student (he was not my Ph.D student, but he was a student of my colleague) about his search for faculty position. He has completed three years of post doc in engineering and has now got a faculty position in what he calls a "second tier" IIT. He feels that if he does one more post doc in USA, he will get into that "first tier" IIT. I see many students, including some of my own former students, get into illusion that they will get this "dream" job if they do one more postdoc.

The following advice is apt,

The reality is that after 4-5 years of undergraduate, and 4-6 years of Ph.D. you've painted a pretty good picture of yourself. A few years of post-doc might help you gain some new skills, but that isn't going to make or break your career. Neither is that "just one more paper" going to make all the difference. Instead, people need to put the same effort into looking for a job as they do in doing research. The results might be a lot better.

There are still others who do not apply for these jobs thinking their resume is incomplete, whether they are worth applying and if they have to do one more postdoc. The best is to apply,

Because we all know that hiring is stochastic--that elusive "fit" you mentioned and variability in other candidates--it's probably a better strategy to start applying before we think we might be the ideal candidate. And with our minds' powers to reduce cognitive dissonance, we might just start convincing ourselves that we completely deserve what we're going after. I just stumbled on this thread, which I find pretty reassuring and hilarious.
I would think that the chances of getting a faculty position actually decreases after the third year of postdoc in engineering (sixth year in sciences). It could be also due my conservativeness to think that one should have a permanent (there is no other job which is more permanent and non-transferable than a government academic position) job rather than a temporary post doctoral position.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lowered expectations

In an article in the chronicle titled,  "Upside of the Downturn", the author states that reduced expectations for our material success might make us happier, even if we’re poorer. The article goes on to say,

When expectations are high, the best we can hope to do is match them. When expectations are lower, matching them is easier and exceeding them is possible. By lowering expectations and keeping expectations modest, the downturn may actually enable people to derive satisfaction from activities and possessions that would previously have been disappointing. Managing expectations is a crucial determinant of well-being, and the downturn may be managing our expectations for us. 

This is good advice for almost everyone working in government jobs. As the article notes (in a different context), "They may seek what is good about their institution, and be grateful for it, instead of noticing the ways their institution falls short, and resenting it."

Friday, January 20, 2012


The above is the caption of the T-shirt featured under the column "Impressive Ph.D stories" The author concludes that the following are the keys to the success for finishing the doctorate quickly and effectively.

  • Always meet and report your work to your supervisor. At least once a week.
  • Set a goal and reason why you want to complete your Ph.D. That will drive and motivate you to finish your study.
  • Publish your work in reputable journals with impact factors. That's like an insurance policy during the VIVA.
I would just add a rider to point #1, which my advisor told me,  "Give the progress and what you want to do in writing. What you say and what I hear may be completely different :-)"

Sunday, January 15, 2012


A postdoctoral student in USA (call him X) applies to the Ramanujam Fellowship and does not get even an acknowledgment. After a few months, he gets an offer for an assistant professor in IISc, joins a department in IISc and starts setting up his lab. On 2 Jan, a colleague calls him and says, "Happy new year to you. As a Ramanujam fellowship recipient, can you help me with my proposal?" X is surprised and denies being a recipient of the award. His colleagues points him to the DST website, which shows his name as being recommended ! He calls DST and finds that they have sent the money to IISc but had not informed X. IISc, of course, has taken the money but also had not informed X. Luckily for him, they did not ask him for a yearly report (yet!).

In another case, IISc is insisting that they pay me Rs. 25000 for JC Bose fellowship even though I am not a recipient of the same. When they paid me the fellowship in September, I informed them that I am not a recipient. So, they did not pay me the fellowship in October. In fact, to resolve the problem, they did not pay the fellowship of all the 39 recipients in IISc in October. Then, in November, after verification (!), they paid me the fellowship with arrears for both October and November!

In yet another case, IISc paid the fellowship of the DBT wellcome grant to a faculty, who had not got the fellowship. Apparently, DBT Wellcome grants are of two types: a project grant and a fellowship. Some get only the project grant while some get both. Apparently, this faculty had not got the fellowship but only the grant. He was paid the fellowship for one year before IISc and/or the faculty noticed. I will leave it to your imagination on how the case was resolved.Clue: The obvious solution is not the correct solution!

On this happy note of IISc paying fellowships to everyone ineligible, let me wish you a very happy Makara Sankaranthi and pongal.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Merit and academia

Professor Balaram, in his editorial on Current Science, writes,

    The Indian academic system  differs dramatically from the  American  model  in  that,  with  very,  very  few exceptions,  tenure  is  not  an  issue.  Faculty  are  invariably recruited  to  ‘permanent  positions’.  Even  in cases  where the initial appointment is a contract of fixed term, renewals  are  practically  automatic. Academic  performance  is not  demanded  and  academic  freedom  often  degenerates into  a  licence  to  legitimise  non-performance....While  both  the  carrot  and  stick  are used equally effectively in the West to enhance academic performance,  neither  is  available  to  most  institutions  in India.  Administrations  must  follow  the  policy  of  benign neglect with respect to high performers, even while turning a blind eye to the significant dead wood accumulating in our institutions. 

I do not know whether the tenure system will be generally successful in India, except in a few niche institutions like NCBS. In other places, this may actually result in high performers being denied tenure to ensure that "non-performance" remains the standard. Prof. Balaram fails to mention why administrators must follow the policy of turning a blind eye to the dead wood and neglect the performers. I do not think that there is an inherent need for an administrator to follow this policy. A strong head of an institution can turn down appointments and promotions to undeserving faculty. This may, of course, result in making him/her unpopular.Actually, it is the majority of (science) administrators who choose to follow this policy to keep their "bosses" (ranging from politicians to academic scientists who decide major policies/recruitment of "high" posts) happy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pinned post for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc

This is a pinned post (i.e., this post will always appear at the top of this blog though newer posts appear below it) for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc. 

Please, please read this site and the old posts, here, here, here and here. There are over 1100 comments and replies to these comments in these posts. Read them carefully before you post here. 

  If you require an answer to your question, post it with a name, initials, pseudonym or anything that is distinguishable.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year

Unlike last year, I am not making a year-end round up, though I did more publications, reviews and committee work for IISc! People often discuss about new year resolutions.

Just as I was leaving a committee meeting last year, a young faculty remarked about the problems he was facing with his chairman. I spoke to him for nearly 5 min on how he could potentially handle the issue. My senior colleague, who was next to me, smiled and said, "Now, I know you are getting old.  The older one grows, the more one starts giving advice.." And he was correct as I began to notice that I have really started giving unsolicited advice.

When you’ve been there and done that and have the battle scars to prove it, the temptation to offer unsolicited advice can be almost overwhelming. Avoiding doing so feels almost like watching someone go into cardiac arrest and not calling an ambulance. But there’s a big difference between the analogy and the reality: The ambulance will actually help that person; unsolicited advice will not. Unsolicited advice is almost useless for one simple reason: Many lessons must be learned, not just intellectually, but emotionally. Taking action to change your life requires not only thought, but intent, and intent is driven by our internal pain and pleasure associations.

If other people really wanted your advice, they would ask for it. Happiness is not obtained from listening to others but by listening to oneself. On that happy note, wish you all a very happy new year.