BRAIN DRAIN TO BRAIN GAIN
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