India Today - - UPFRONT - —Amar­nath K. Menon

Sci­en­tific re­search and de­vel­op­ment in In­dia is set to gain an in­ter­na­tional di­men­sion in the com­ing months. The Depart­ment of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy is launch­ing a new scheme—the Vis­it­ing Ad­vanced Joint Re­search (VAJRA) Fac­ulty Scheme—with the aim of pro­mot­ing a glob­ally com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment for cut­ting edge re­search and the de­vel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies in the coun­try.

“VAJRA will bring huge value to [our] in­no­va­tion ecosys­tem,” says Dr Harsh Vard­han, Union min­is­ter for sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy. “It will fa­cil­i­tate sus­tained in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tive re­search with the guid­ance and men­tor­ing of masters, PhD and post–doc­toral stu­dents, will ex­pose the best of our young minds to the best of global re­search prac­tices and also en­hance our ac­cess to state-of-the-art [re­search] fa­cil­i­ties in other coun­tries.”

Un­der VAJRA, vis­it­ing sci­en­tists will be hosted for three months, dur­ing which time the prospects for re­search ini­tia­tives will be iden­ti­fied and ex­plored. These sci­en­tists will also be ap­pointed to the post of ad­junct or vis­it­ing fac­ulty at their host in­sti­tu­tions—ei­ther pub­licly funded in­sti­tu­tions or na­tional lab­o­ra­to­ries—for a year and be­yond, if the col­lab­o­ra­tion con­tin­ues suc­cess­fully. VAJRA will also al­low for ex­change vis­its by re­search stu­dents of the col­lab­o­rat­ing groups for six months to a year. An­other scheme for up to a year of over­seas re­search train­ing for In­dian schol­ars is also be­ing ini­ti­ated—not only for those in­volved in VAJRA col­lab­o­ra­tions but oth­ers as well, and will be based on a sep­a­rate com­pet­i­tive se­lec­tion process.

VAJRA fac­ulty mem­bers will be paid $15,000 in the first month and $10,000 each in the next two months—com­pa­ra­ble with what they would earn in their home coun­tries. The hope is to draw 1,000 VAJRA fac­ulty mem­bers an­nu­ally, with the aim of reach­ing that tar­get within seven years. “VAJRA should not be di­luted—it must not be­come a method for NRIs to take a fur­lough,” says Pro­fes­sor D. Bala­sub­ra­ma­nian, re­search direc­tor emer­i­tus at Prof. Brien Holden Eye Re­search Cen­tre. The best schol­ars, he says, will be dif­fi­cult to en­tice. “This scheme, if im­ple­mented ef­fec­tively, can add to [our] core strengths in re­search and in­no­va­tion,” says Dr Kr­ishna Ella, chair­man and MD, Bharat Biotech. “It re­ally de­pends on who comes. With the cut­back in bud­getary re­search grants to just nine months in sev­eral US uni­ver­si­ties, VAJRA may morph into a three-month va­ca­tion for many of In­dian ori­gin work­ing there.”

JOINT VEN­TURE PM Naren­dra Modi with his Por­tuguese coun­ter­part An­to­nio Costa at the Pravasi Bharatiya Di­vas

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