The National Research Foundation (NRF) — which found a place in Prime Minister Modi’s national address on the Independence Day — is a soon-to-be-set-up autonomous body envisaged under the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020. Considered to be one of the biggest announcements under NEP, it will look after funding, mentoring, and building ‘quality of research’ in India. The NRF aims to fund researchers working across streams in India.
In order to bring non-science disciplines of research in its ambit, NRF will fund research projects across four major disciplines –Sciences; Technology; Social Sciences; and Arts and Humanities.
Lack of fund allocation has often been cited as one of the biggest reasons behind the lack of researchers in India and NRF aims to cater to the same.
The funds allocated to research have declined from 0.84 per cent of GDP in 2008 to 0.69 per cent in 2014, as mentioned in the draft NEP. The new national education policy also acknowledges, “research and innovation investment in India is, at the current time, only 0.69 per cent of GDP as compared to 2.8 per cent in the United States of America, 4.3 per cent in Israel and 4.2 per cent in South Korea.”
However, lack of funds is not the only problem. The number of students pursuing research is also very low in India. Currently, the number of researchers (per lakh population) in the country is way behind China, US, as well as much smaller nations including Israel. Less than 0.5 per cent of Indian students pursue PhD or equivalent level of education, according to the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) report.
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To ensure increased participation in research, NRF suggests career counselling in schools to identify student interests and talents, promoting research in universities, inclusion of research and internships in the undergraduate curriculum, faculty career management systems that give due weightage to research.
While the draft NEP also offered 500 National Postdoctoral Fellowships (NPDF) and 500 National Doctoral Fellowships (NDF) every year across disciplines and fields for 3 and 5 years, the same does not have a mention in the final policy.
The new policy states that NRF will provide a “reliable base of merit-based but equitable peer-reviewed research funding” which will help to develop a culture of research in the country through “suitable incentives for and recognition of outstanding research”.
It also mentions that the NRF will undertake major initiatives to seed and grow research at state universities and other public institutions where research capability is currently limited.
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