National Research Foundation 2020 in pursuit of science: An initiative by Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser

National Research Foundation, an initiative by Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA),Government of India is being formulated to make the pursuit of science, humanities, art & culture accessible and available in the language one is most comfortable with.In India, the most creative brains and thoughts stemming in regional languages, are lost to the demands of English articulation. To overcome the challenge, other than English, the detailed proposal document is available in 12 major regional languages –Assamese, Bangla, Gujarati, Hindi,Kannada, Malyalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

The idea to set up a National Research Foundation (NRF) in India, as a body to catalyse, facilitate, coordinate, seed, grow, and mentor research in institutions around the country, has been in the minds of researchers in the nation for many decades. Such a National Research Foundation was one of the key recommendations of the Draft National Education Policy 2019, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2017. The importance of research across the disciplines has been envisaged for higher education, for addressing key societal challenges, for the development of an enlightened knowledge society, for sustainable development.

As there is no single factor more important to the intellectual, social, and economic progress of a nation, and to the enhanced well-being of its citizens than the continuous creation and acquisition of new knowledge, NRF aims to become a major driver of that process for India, helping to sustainably thrust forward the nation’s economy, enhance its security, promote well-being and societal progress, and grow India’s position as a global leader. The current status of research and innovation investment, research output, and other impediments to research are being considered as the raw material in NRF formulation.

Primary objectives of the NRF includes funding of competitive peer-reviewed grant proposals of all types,facilitating research at academic institutions, funding of research infrastructure, increasing of India’s role and participation in key areas of national and global importance, acting as a liason and coordinating amongst researchers, support the development of the next generation of researchers,supporting various activities and initiatives for increasing the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in research, creating a central clearinghouse for the analysis of information and data,recognising outstanding research and progress, and serving as a high-level think tank for the coordination, short- and long-term planning of research in the country and for the recommendation of key policy initiatives to the Prime Minister and to the Parliament regarding research, innovation, and education.

The NRF will be governed by an 18-member Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals in their respective fields. Experts may be drawn from within the country or internationally, and it is expected that about a third of the Board member would be women. A President, a Vice-President, and a Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the NRF will be searched for and selected by the NRF Board, based on research credentials, integrity, and capacity for leadership and administration. The President will serve a six-year term at the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.The President of the NRF will periodically meet with Secretaries of all Ministries and with Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories in conference in order to assess their research needs and programmes, and formulate potential collaborations. The President, Vice-President, and COO will help set the culture of the NRF, which will be one of excitement and encouragement for attaining high-quality research in India across institutions and across fields.The NRF will consist of ten major Directorates – Natural Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Engineering, Environmental & Earth Sciences, Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities, Indian Languages & Knowledge Systems; Health; Agriculture; and Innovation & Entrepreneurship – with the provision to fuse or add additional Directorates whenever it may be determined to be beneficial by the NRF Board.

The NRF will be given an annual grant that will eventually aim to reach at least 0.1% of GDP (in current terms, approximately INR 20,000 crores) and will be conferred with the autonomy to set its own finances, governance, and statutes.The NRF will competitively fund research in all disciplines across the academic landscape. The NRF’s Office of Information and Data Management will dynamically, on a near-real-time basis, collect information on how the R&I ecosystem is supported by public, private, industry, philanthropic, and other sources.The NRF, through its Office of Missions and Megaprojects, will fund National Mission Projects (NMPs) that helpcreate or grow world class research facilities and Centres of Excellence (CoEs) in major thrust areas of research that are considered important for India’s future. Each NMP would aim to establish or continue to support and grow an existing global class research CoE for the given mission, run by top researchers in the field, who in turn would aim to establish and expand a network of participating researchers, students, institutions, laboratories across the region or the nation in order to promote a regional or national research ecosystem in the given field.

Office of PSA solicits your thoughts and views on how to leverage NRF to meet the goal of excellence and inclusiveness in all fields and in all regional languages. The valuable and innovative suggestions will find a place in the implementation document of NRF 2020.

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