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Government Discontinues Hundreds of Awards for Scientists and Researchers

Government Discontinues Hundreds of Awards for Scientists and Researchers

Ajay Bhalla. Photo: Twitter

  • In a meeting chaired by home secretary Ajay Bhalla, the Union government decided to do away with hundreds of awards granted by the country’s science and health departments.
  • They should be replaced by national awards of “very high stature” and a Nobel Prize like award called the Vigyan Ratna, according to the minutes of the meeting.
  • Though the meeting resolved to continue the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, they were not announced on September 26 – as they are every year.

New Delhi: The Union government has decided to do away with hundreds of awards that are given to scientists and medical researchers, saying only “really deserving candidates” should be recognised and plans instead to institute a “Nobel Prize like award”.

These decisions were taken at a meeting helmed by home secretary Ajay Bhalla with senior officials of the country’s science departments on September 16 to “review the transformation of awards”. According to the minutes of the meeting, Bhalla stressed that the number of awards and awardees should be very restrictive and the selection process must be transparent to recognise “really deserving candidates”. The home ministry has already issued suitable guidelines, he said.

Bhalla also suggested that one “Nobel Prize like award”, potentially called the ‘Vigyan Ratna’, could be instituted for scientists in consultation with the Principal Scientific Advisor to Government. It will be open to all science disciplines, he said.

According to the news agency PTI, the exercise follows directions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “transform the entire ecosystem of awards” in order to build credibility and trust by focussing on transparency and objectivity in the selection process.

In May, the home secretary had asked all ministries to rationalise awards given by them.

As a consequence of the meeting, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has decided to cut its number of awards from 207 to just four. It will now hand out only national awards and will discontinue private endowments; lecture, scholarship and fellowship-based awards; and Internal Awards.

Instead of scholarship or fellowship-based awards, the department may start a new scheme with a suitable honorarium with “full justification and detailed guidelines”. Some of the internal awards may be merged with the proposed schemes for scholarship or fellowship.

The Department could start a new scheme for scholarship/fellowship with “suitable honorarium and full justification and detailed guidelines”, the minutes said.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences, the Department of Space and the Department of Atomic Energy have been asked to institute new awards of “very high stature” after scrapping the existing awards.

According to The Hindu, the Atomic Energy Department will do away with all of its awards – including 25 performance-based ones and 13 non-core domain awards –  for the new award “of very high stature”. The Indian Space Research Organisation will discontinue three internal awards and instead give a national-level award of a “very high stature”.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences will now hand out just one national award instead of four. The Dr. Anna Mani Award for women scientists will be merged with “awards given to women by other departments like the Ministry of Women and Child Development” and the other three awards will be discontinued and replaced by a “new national award”, the officials decided.

Also Read: Can a Scientist Working in India Win a Science Nobel By 2035?

Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award to continue

Meanwhile, the Council of Scientific Research (CSIR) will continue six of its seven awards. Only the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) Awards – given annually to accomplished scientists under 45 across departments on September 26, the institute’s foundation Day – will be continued. According to The Hindu, the awards were to be announced on Monday but were not. The newspaper said it couldn’t immediately confirm if this was linked to the meeting.

Saying the SSB should continue because it is a “high stature award”, the officials at the meeting discussed the possibility of giving a “lump sum amount” in place of monthly remuneration – but no final decision was taken. However, the monthly allowance will now be given to winners for 15 years, instead of the earlier 20.

The health ministry will “rationalise” 51 Florence Nightingale awards given to nurses and “suspend” three national awards by the National Medical Council.

The Department of Health Research will also scrap its 37 awards, including 32 endowment awards, and convert the Calcutta National Medical College (CNMC) Short Term Studentship (STS) Excellence Award into a research grant. A review meeting in this regard will be held by the Prime Minister’s Office soon, the home secretary said.

The meeting was attended by secretaries and senior officials of the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Earth Sciences, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Department of Atomic Energy and representatives from the Department of Health Research – Indian Council for Medical Research and the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India.

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