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.


Anonymous said...

"Management of research" almost sounds like a contradiction in terms. Typically, just setting the hiring bar very high might be sufficient management of research? Followed by some de-weeding at later stages (i.e. tenure). The Nature article says some of the opinions emerged from MBAs. Scary! Perhaps it would have been better if they had gotten opinions from some Venture Capitalists instead -- the VC paradigm is a better one for "management" of research perhaps.

Anonymous said...

‘identify and expand areas…which are already doing well rather than starting small institutes from scratch’

I concur with this. Especially in Engg i think institutes like IISc and old IITs can have 70/80+ profs per Dept(based on the model of NUS Singapore) and thereby have 3-4 profs per field as supposed to 1/2 that IISc/IIT has.

'Institutions in India also struggle with internal constraints, historical inheritances which show no signs of disappearing'
Very well said also.

iitmsriram said...

What NUS model? As per the annual report of NUS available at their web site, in 2011, the total engineering faculty head count at NUS was 320. I dont believe that can lead to 70/80+ profs per department. At 320 faculty members, NUS Engineering is smaller than IISc and all the old IITs. The research budget is about S$100 million or about Rs. 400 crores, somewhat more than IIX, but of the same order. Research output in terms of publications is about 500 papers a year, again of the same order as IIX.

Anonymous said...

IISc engineering has less than 150 teaching faculty,

Anonymous said...

This is only for the Computer Science Dept. If one adds Dept of Information Systems to this(which is basically a clone of the Computer Science Dept) the numbers go even higher than 70+.

Dept of Electrical and Computer Engg has 106 members!!

One can check other Depts like Mechanical, Chemical to see similar high strengths.

Anonymous said...

NUS has 70+ faculty strength in its Computer Science Dept and 20+ more in its Information Systems Dept. It has 100+ in Dept of Electrical and Computer Engg. Similar strengths can be noted in other Depts like Mechanical, Chemical, etc.

Anonymous said...

Does IITM generate sponsored research in the order of Rs 400 Crore? NUS's S$100M is research budget and not the total operating budget.


Prof. TA

Anonymous said...

Completely off topic. But I felt, I should share this

@ Prof. Giri @Prof TA, @other eminent scientists here

Can any of you please cover case of Soni Sori?

Here is the link.

She is a teacher in tribal area. I am sure, if you write on the issue, someone in main stream media will pick up the matter. Read yourself and if find worthwhile, please write.

An Ex-IISc Student

Anonymous said...

MY ignorance. Finally, thing come up in The Hindu.

Ex-IISc Student

iitmsriram said...

TA asks, "Does IITM generate sponsored research in the order of Rs 400 Crore?". For 2011-'12, the total value of sponsored projects was about Rs. 200 Crores. Consultancy projects (research oriented, not the usual consultancy; IITM has a special category for this) add another 25 crores or so to this. I am following the same methodology as given in the NUS annual report I cited which is value of projects awarded, not expenditure. Also, the NUS figure includes money given by the government as student scholarships.

Anonymous said...

Whole day I was laughing as someone is equating NUS with IITM. The arguments are NUS and IITM have nearly same faculty and same sponsored funding!!!!!
Where is is the quality of research IITM stands in-front of NUS. How many PRL, JACS, Nature, Science IITM produced. absolute zero. The reason is simple. faculty with drive and passion required. In IITM, in the last few years, see poor quality of the faculty joined in IITM (without good postdoc and mediocre publications. Here the person is trying to equate IITM and NUS through number games. You should compare the quality and for that you need to have professional approach in the activities and for that IITM has to learn a lot

Anonymous said...

"You should compare the quality and for that you need to have professional approach in the activities and for that IITM has to learn a lot"

It is indeed sad when one tries to compare IIX with NUS through number games. I don't even think IIX should be aiming for things like papers in Nature, Science, etc(in which in fact NUS has published quite a few papers). Even in number of publications in standard high impact journals for specific fields NUS is way ahead of IIX. Some exceptions are there like Prof Giri, but they are few and far between.

NUS has variable faculty strengths. some depts have 10/15 faculty while others have 100+, 50+, etc. Their faculty strengths are devised on the market value of research/Dept, something the IIX should learn. In IIX all Depts usually have 15/25 faculty irrespective of the Dept or the market value of the Dept. Ideally Engg Depts must have a higher faculty strength than say Physics or Maths.

The reason for mentioning NUS here vis a vis IIX is that NUS does not get mega budgets like a top US Univ but still manages to get top notch value research through good administration and management.

For Engg Depts to produce good quality research and high output you eventually need collaboration and thus many profs (at least 4-5 profs working in a single field) whereby you can have 20/30 or even larger research groups. In IIX research groups are usually just 4/5 members and collaboration hardly exists. Even Profs who work in similar areas usually never collaborate due to ego problems. (Again there are exceptions like Prof Giri who has collaborated with SSCU)

I hope we can learn something from Universities like NUS and don't resort to things like number games. A simple look at publications/quality of research work in Depts like Computer Science,Electrical,Mechanical is sufficient to figure out that NUS is way ahead of any IIT or IISc.

Anonymous said...

NUS certainly ranks way above IITs in whatever academic terms: publications, citations, h-index etc.

Further, in places like IISc/IIT, it is only the top 20% of faculty who publish 80% of the papers published by the institute. 80% of IISc citations are received by papers published by less than 50 faculty in IISc.

With IISc/IIT outdated policies of handling interdisciplinary research and ego problems of the faculty involved, there is extremely few collaboration in these places.


iitmsriram said...

Anon points out "The arguments are NUS and IITM have nearly same faculty and same sponsored funding!!!!!" It was not my intent to equate NUS with IIX. My point was that faculty head count may not be the issue. The same report I have referred to indicates where the major difference might come from - NUS has about 600 research staff in the Engineering school and about 400 non-academic staff. The detailed break up is not readily available, but the 600 is not just technicians, there are a large number of higher level scientific staff, something majorly missing in IIX.