IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Academic research is necessary, but not sufficient  

7th August, 2020 Editorial

Context: The Government of India is in the process of revisiting the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy. The policy will guide the agencies of the government mandated with funding research in higher education institutions and national laboratories.


Alternate frameworks

  • Experts in science and technology studies have come up with alternate frameworks and terminology to provide a comprehensive picture and avoid any value judgment.
  • One approach was proposed by NASA in the form of Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), a type of measurement system used to assess the maturity level of a particular technology. TRL-1 corresponds to observation of basic principles. Its result is publications. TRL-2 corresponds to formulation of technology at the level of concepts.
  • The framework uses terms as applicable to aerospace applications, but one can come up with alternate terms depending on the field of application, including health sciences where the term ‘translational research’ is commonly used. The number of levels can also be adjusted to suit the application.
  • Both AR and PAR generate knowledge which is necessary for national development. AR and PAR when pursued together and taken to their logical conclusion will result in a product or a process, or a better clinical practice, or a scientifically robust understanding of human health and disease, or provide inputs for a policy decision.


Pursuing AR and PAR

  • One can cite several examples to illustrate how AR and PAR can be pursued together. A programme in high energy physics can be designed to pursue accelerator technology along with high energy physics. Research in electro-chemistry can be accompanied by development of battery technologies.


Way Forward:

  • The STI policy should emphasize PAR to ensure that investment in research results in economic growth. To motivate the research community to pursue at least early-stage PAR, the reward system needs significant reorientation.
  • The current system for rewards relies heavily on bibliometric indicators despite the knowledge that publications alone do not lead to national development.
  • The reward system in higher education institutions and national laboratories should be reoriented to promote PAR.
  • Academics in higher education institutions pursuing AR should pursue early-stage PAR themselves, or team up with those who are keen to pursue PAR.