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National Research Foundation UPSC NOTE

 


What is the National Research Foundation?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill in Parliament.

  • Setting up the NRF was one of the key recommendations of the National Education Policy 2020.

  • The NRF intends to act as a coordinating agency between researchers, various government bodies and industry, thus bringing industry into the mainstream of research.

  • Providing research grants to individuals.

  • The NRF plans to seed, grow and facilitate research in India’s universities, especially State universities, by funding research infrastructure and researchers.

How will it be funded?

  • The NRF will operate with a budget of ₹50,000 crore for five years.

    • Out of which 28% (₹14,000 crore) will be the government’s share.

    • Remaining 72% (₹36,000 crore) will come from the private sector. 

  • The NRF draft proposes the government’s share to increase eventually to ₹20,000 crore per year.

  • Out of the government’s share, ₹4,000 crore will be used from the existing Science and Engineering Research Board’s budget, which will be subsumed under the NRF. 

  • Therefore, the government has earmarked an additional 10,000 crore over the next five years for the NRF.

  • However, this increase in the nation’s gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) seems too less (less than 2% of GERD) especially if one compares the GDP and the comparative spending in other big economies, such as the U.S. and China. 

  • As per the last available statistics (2017-18), India’s GERD was ₹1,13,825 crore. 

  • While India’s GDP was 7.6 and 5.1 times smaller than that of the U.S and China respectively.

  • India’s GERD was nearly 24 times less than both these countries during the same period.

How can the NRF facilitate the “ease of doing science”?

  • The time between applying for a research grant and receiving the money must be minimal, preferably within six months. 

    • Although the NRF draft mentions that the peer-review process will be completed within six months, releasing funds may take time, pending financial clearance. 

  • All the paperwork must be digitally processed without sending stacks of papers in hard copies to the NRF. 

  • All finance-related queries, paperwork, approval, and acceptance need to be between the NRF and the finance department of the university/research institution keeping the scientist free to focus on research. 

  • The NRF needs explicit spending guidelines away from the General Financial Rules (GFR) and the government’s e-Marketplace (GeM) usage.

  • Scientific research needs independent guidelines for spending money, which provides flexibility while making scientists accountable. 

  • The release of money needs to be timely.

  • Although the NRF draft mentions timely disbursal of funds, a mechanism needs to be in place to facilitate and implement this.

  • While the participation of the private industry in the NRF is an important and welcome step.

    • It is unclear how the government will raise ₹36,000 crore from the industry. 

  • Although the NRF describes a legislative route to facilitate this.

    • Detailed plan and establishing mechanisms similar to escrow accounts.

What next?

  • The proposed NRF is largely modelled after the National Science Foundation of the U.S. 

  • It borrows some of the best practices from the German, U.K., Swiss, Norwegian, South Korean, and Singapore science agencies. 

  • NRF draft discusses critical thinking, creativity, and bringing innovation to the forefront.

  • It is unclear how the NRF will transparently seed, fund and coordinate research across institutions.

  • The success of NRF will lie in how the government sets rules and implements the same, different from what already exists.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: National Research Foundation UPSC NOTE
National Research Foundation UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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