PhD applications plummet in premier research institute Institute of Life Sciences

Although PhD scholars are the main workforce who drive the R&D activities at ILS, the declining number of applicants and selected candidates have become a cause of concern.
Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar
Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar

BHUBANESWAR: One of India’s premier research organisations, Institute of Life Sciences (ILS), Bhubaneswar is not getting enough PhD scholars it requires to carry out various research and development activities.

The number of applicants has drastically dropped from around 258 in 2022 to 88 this year leaving many scientists and researchers worried. Several scholars, who get selected after a rigorous process either do not join or leave their research halfway. One of the 17 national institutions run by the Department of Biotechnology, ILS is known for its studies on infectious disease biology, cancer research and plant and microbial biotechnology. The institute has been a part of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a multi-agency, pan-India network to monitor genomic variations in the novel coronavirus and carrying out genomic surveillance activities for states, including Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.

Although PhD scholars are the main workforce who drive the R&D activities at ILS, the declining number of applicants and selected candidates have become a cause of concern. “The institute had received over 250 applications each during the Covid pandemic period in 2020 and 2021. It is a concern for us as the applicants are declining,” said a scientist.

The phenomenon of dwindling PhD applications is not limited to one specific field and spans across core areas including infectious diseases, cancer biology, genetic and autoimmune disorders besides plant and microbial biotechnology. The situation was so precarious that the institute had received only 27 applications till the last date this session and the applicants went up to 88 only after the deadline was extended. The selection procedure has also come under scrutiny with many applicants flagging irregularities and questionable allocation of guides to prospective scholars.

While only 49 applicants have been shortlisted this year, some meritorious students who have scored high and secured higher ranks have not been given the opportunity to work with the guides of their choice. They alleged that some candidates with lower ranks have been preferred.“The selection and guide allocation are non-transparent and questionable. Apparently, malpractices during the PhD candidate selection has become a norm for last couple of years leading to disillusionment among hopeful scholars,” alleged an aspirant.

Sources said PhD candidates are at the mercy of guides and sometimes are subjected to harassment. A scholar had reportedly attempted to harm herself due to torture by a guide a few months back while another allegation is under investigation, sources added.

ILS director Debasis Dash said the applicants in 2022 were high due to backlogs of previous year. The institute is one of the preferred organisations for PhD scholars. After Covid period many scholars moved out of the country and it may have impacted, he said. Dash, however, refuted allegations of irregularity in selection procedure. “Students and guide selection is a matrix and students always have the first choice. Sometimes they leave if they do not get the guide of their choice,” he added.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express