Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Academic research is necessary, but not sufficient

Investment in research can translate into national development only through the pursuit of post-academic research.
By IASToppers
August 07, 2020


  • Introduction
  • Science policies in India
  • STIP 2020
  • Framework for Research
  • Pursuing AR and PAR
  • Way Forward
  • Conclusion

Academic research is necessary, but not sufficient

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The Government of India is in the process of revisiting the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy. The policy will serve as a guideline to the agencies of government to fund research in higher education institutions and national laboratories. At this stage, we need to ponder the question: What kind of research should be funded?

Science policies in India:

  • India drafted its first science policy in 1958 called the Scientific Policy Resolution, its focus was on scientific temper and capacity building.
  • In 1983, India came up with the Technology Policy Statement, stressing on technological competence and self-reliance.
  • The 2003 Science and Technology Policy called for increased investment in research and development.
  • STIP 2013 called for science and technology-led innovation for socio-economic development.
  • STIP 2020 is under development and is expected to be approved till the end of the year 2020.

Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) 2020:

  • STIP 2020 is a decentralized, bottom-up and inclusive design process.
  • It aims to restrategize priorities, sectoral focus and methods of research and technology development for larger socio-economic welfare.
  • The formulation process is organised into 4 highly interlinked tracks, which will reach out to around 15000 stakeholders for consultation in the policy formulation.
  • Track I: Extensive public and expert consultation process through Science Policy Forum – a dedicated platform for soliciting inputs from larger public and expert pool during and after the policy drafting process.
  • Track II: Experts-driven thematic consultations to feed evidence-informed recommendations into the policy drafting process.
  • Track III: Consultations with Ministries and States.
  • Track IV: Apex level multi-stakeholder consultation.

Framework for Research:

  • NASA has proposed an approach in the form of Technology Readiness Levels (TRL).
  • TRL is a type of measurement system used to assess the maturity level of a particular technology.
  • TRL-1 corresponds to the observation of basic principles. Its result is publications.
  • TRL-2 corresponds to the formulation of technology at the level of concepts.
  • In the next stage, TRL framework advances to proof of concept, validation in a laboratory environment, followed by a relevant environment, and then to prototype demonstration, and ending with actual deployment.

Pursuing AR and PAR:

  • Academic Research (AR) corresponds to TRL-1.
  • Post-Academic Research (PAR) can be divided into early-stage PAR and late-stage PAR.
  • AR and early-stage PAR can be done at higher education institutions and large laboratories.
  • Late-stage PAR has to be done by large laboratories (national or those supported by industry).
  • Both AR and PAR generate knowledge, but when examined from the perspective of national development, the pursuit of AR alone, while necessary, is not sufficient.
  • The research being pursued in India is either not addressing national needs or is limited to AR.
  • India needs to orient its priorities to address national needs and engage in both AR and early-stage PAR and provide inputs necessary to raise the technology intensity of the industry.
  • For example, A research in electrochemistry can be accompanied by the development of battery technologies.

Way Forward:

  • The STI policy should emphasise PAR to ensure that investment in research results in economic growth.
  • To motivate the research community to pursue at least early-stage PAR, the reward system needs significant reorientation from the present bibliometric indicators.
  • The reward system in higher education institutions and national laboratories should be reoriented to promote PAR.
  • The Academics in higher education institutions pursuing AR should pursue early-stage PAR themselves, or team up with those who are keen to pursue PAR.
  • India’s investment in research is lower than that by advanced countries, and there is a need to decide where to increase investment: in AR or PAR.
  • India should focus on industries that have high technology intensity, such as aircraft and spacecraft, medical, precision and optical instruments, and communication equipment which have a low presence.


The norms of industrial and academic research should be combined with collaboration, patronage and investment to develop a post-academic model. AR and PAR, when pursued together and taken to their logical conclusion, will result in a product or a process, or better clinical practice, or a scientifically robust understanding of human health and disease, or provide inputs for a policy decision.

Mains 2020 Editorial Notes

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