The first day of the two day ‘Round Table on Asia Science and Social Science Research Councils’ saw participants providing insightful inputs for granting councils to undertake fruitful collaborations and to identify better opportunities, challenges and priorities. It was organized by the Centre for Culture, Media and Governance (CCMG), Jamia Millia Islamia University in collaboration with International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada at the FTK-CIT Seminar Hall, Jamia Millia Islamia University.
The day began with an inaugural session where Vibodh Parthasarathi, CCMG, JMI, gave the welcome note. On behalf of IDRC, Senior Programme Officer Phet Sayo delineated the agenda for the conference and the institutional motivations for organizing the event. On behalf of the host organization, Prof. Biswajit Das gave a brief introduction of CCMG.
The inaugural address was delivered by the chairman of ICSSR Prof Sukhadeo Thorat. Analyzing global trends in research funding and identifying key challenges specific to India, Prof. Thorat spoke at length on how research in India was considerably fragmented due to the presence of multiple councils. After thanking Prof. Thorat for his insightful observations Prof Khan Masood Ahmad, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, JMI explained that Jamia was hosting this event as part of a series of events aimed at building networks and strategies for mobilizing funds for social sciences research. The session ended with Ambika Sharma of IDRC and co-convener of the consultation thanking all for being present.
Private Sector Funding to Science and Social Science research in South Asia
The first session focused on private sector funding to science and social research and was chaired by David O’Brien, IDRC. Dr. Abhimanyu Singh, consultant at IDRC, gave a brief presentation on a work in progress of an IDRC commissioned study titled “Private Sector Funding to Science and Social Science research in South Asia”. Exemplifying with case studies and models from six countries of the sub-continent, he analyzed private sector investment in Research and Development (R&D).
The presentation and the following discussion brought out a lot of recommendations that may help research councils channel private investment into research work. Some of them included capacity building at public research institutions and promotion of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
As exemplary models to take this discussion further, Dr Shrishedu Mukherjee and Dr. A. Moitra shared the experiences of their organizations India Welcome Trust and RNCTP respectively. Elucidating on the tenets of their 360 degree approach, Dr Mukherjee spoke about incorporating a team-based strategy for ensuring execution and delivery of funding programmes. One of the significant advantages of this model is in the fact that even if one team member lacked certain expertise, it could be brought to the table by other team members. This session ended with several delegates sharing their relevant experiences from their own countries.
Institutional mechanisms for collaboration within councils
The post lunch session, titled “Institutional mechanisms for collaboration within councils” was chaired by Dr. Kyaw Zin Thant from Dept of Medical Research, Myanmar who introduced the session by talking about the need to develop common platform for research institutions through step by step approach from research readiness to research completion.
The first discussant, Dr. Jayalakshmi Chittoor, a consultant with IDRC, presented a work in progress on the understanding of inter- and intra- country collaboration through government research councils that mainly support intra-mural research. She suggested that there should be more clarity in the rules of business, and stressed on methods to improve disbursement of funds from these councils through better standardization processes.
Dr Praveen Arora from Department of Science and Technology put forward the need for redefining the understanding of ‘research council’ by emphasizing also on the extra-mural aspects of investment. He also highlighted the difficulty in engaging private partners for particular schemes. He suggested that this can be bridged by bodies like IDRC through better policy planning.
Nafees Meah from Research Council, U.K. talked about the need to use Indian expertise and get inter-disciplinary work done in the country especially for capacity building purposes. The last discussant, Isidro Sia from School of Medicine, Manila talked about the need to address specific national problems through unified agenda-setting while taking care to optimize resources in the process.
Open Data, Open Science and Autonomy in Sciences
The final session was on ‘Open Data, Open Science and Autonomy in Sciences’ chaired by Phet Sayo, IDRC. The first presentation was a historical overview of the global movement for Open Data and Access presented by Prof. Subbiah Arunachalam, Centre for Internet and Society. It was a very informative talk that explained open access concepts for the participants. He also talked about some of the key figures who have made significant contributions to this movement.
Building on the ideas put forth by Prof Arunachalam, Sanjaya Mishra, CEMCA, spoke about different ways in which the open data model could be abused. One of the frequent issues that he discussed was the sub-standard and fake research that is put out through open access journals by vested interests. According to him, a way of circumventing the problem is education of young researchers on the merits of open access.
The last speaker Dr. Sujata Gamage, LIRNEAsia, Sri Lanka spoke about the need to address the ‘demand’ aspect of open access system. She stressed on the fact that academic research is a small part of the picture and that there exists a lot of data out there that needed to be accessed by training people to analyse it.
The day ended with the decision that tomorrow’s programme would begin with the session on ‘Enhanced Sectoral and Bilateral Collaboration in Science and Technology.’