A project to beef up research in state universities has taken off with the government forming a high-level committee to attract Indian-origin scientists and researchers working in foreign universities.
The project, called the Welcome Home scheme, was announced in the State Budget by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The government will recruit 50 scientists and 50 teachers under the Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) programme. It will first fill up vacancies in research universities, select affiliating universities and a few renowned colleges.
A high-level committee of eminent scientists will be set up for this task. Karnataka Knowledge Commission (KKC) chairperson K Kasturirangan and Bharat Ratna C N R Rao are some of the scientists being considered for the committee, sources said.
“It is a fact that many Indian faculty working abroad are willing to come back, provided they get suitable responsibilities, work environment and job satisfaction. There are already researchers of Indian origin who are collaborating with universities in the state and they seem to be interested,” said a senior official of the Department of Higher Education.
The department is looking at emulating the model followed by the Indian Institute of Science. “Researchers at IISc interact with their foreign counterparts via Skype, before the final selection is made,” the official said.
“The appointments made under the Welcome Home scheme will be tenure-based. The recruited faculty will be made to sign a minimum target to be reached within a stipulated time and similar facilities will be extended to state faculties and treated on par to promote healthy competition,” the official said.
The salary will be funded fully for the 12th and 13th Plan periods under RUSA and the state government will contribute 35 per cent only till 2022. The state will also support patent registration and royalty to well-performing faculties.
Sources said inputs will be taken from the KKC, which is scheduled to have its first meeting on March 12, and from universities on their research requirements.
In a concept note prepared by the department, a wide array of disciplines have been identified for the Welcome Home scheme. These include robotics, nanotechnology, materials science, advanced chemistry, pharmacology, biochemistry, biotechnology, genomics, stem cell research, bioinformatics, mathematics, cybernetics, space research and also humanities topics such as communicative English and foreign policy research.
Bangalore University Vice-Chancellor B Thimme Gowda likened this scheme to University Grants Commission (UGC) Faculty Recharge programme. “We already have four researchers who have joined our chemistry and biological science departments under this programme. All of them have post-doctoral experience abroad and we are hosting them here to make use of their services, while UGC pays their salaries on a five-year contract,” Gowda said.
Lauding the scheme, Gowda said he never expected the state to devise such a plan. “As a university, we are ready to submit a proposal with a long list of names of Indian-origin scientists working abroad. One of them could be G K Surya Prakash (organic and polymer chemistry) from the University of Southern California. We were in the same laboratory as post-doctoral fellows in Los Angeles in the 1980s. There are many like him who can be roped in,” he said.