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Running scientific institutions

Nanjundiah, Vidyanand (2008) Running scientific institutions. In: Current Science, 94 (7). p. 841.


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This is prompted by the recent editorial1 on Homi Bhabha and the importance of developing appropriate systems for running our scientific institutions. The editorial touches upon problems that one should expect to encounter on the way, problems whose essence lies in the absence of a shared perception on the part of scientists and administrators (including those who frame rules) concerning their mutual roles, not to mention the role of the institution itself. Often the gap is widened by the choices made during selection. On the one hand, there is the tendency to pick someone as administrative head of a teaching or research institution, or as head of a department, solely on grounds of scientific standing – or worse, seniority. There is little regard for whether the person is suited for the position by aptitude or training. On the other hand, there is the tendency to pick, for filling the next reaches of the administrative hierarchy, people who have risen in government service and are innocent of the way science works. Compounding the mismatch, the latter may be birds of passage. In that case, they cannot see why they should spend time and effort at developing empathy, either with the scientific institution through which they are transiting or with the researchers in it. The upshot is anguish and frustration – on both sides. The reason is that by tradition, in India we lean on personal connections, on people rather than rules. This applies to those of us engaged in carrying out or supporting scientific research as well. (Think of the havoc wrought by that blissfully unconcerned individual, the ‘concerned’ case-worker.) Unless a huge amount of effort is invested in building a new, quasi-Western, ethos, which is what Bhabha tried to do, it would seem that one has to invent ways of matching the demands of doing science today to the constraints set by our culture.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Current Science
Publisher: Indian Academy of Sciences
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Indian Academy of Sciences.
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 16 May 2008
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 04:44
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/13985

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