New Delhi: Presenting the first budget of Narendra Modi government 2.0, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced setting up of a National Research Foundation to fund, coordinate and promote research in the country.
Sitharaman said, “The National Research Foundation will be set up to strengthen overall research ecosystem in the country. Funds available under all ministries will be integrated with NRF.”
The Budget speech also committed to the New Education Policy. “NEP will be brought in to transform India’s educational system, major changes in higher as well as school system will be brought in,” said the FM.
India has potential to become education hub, she said while proposing Study in India programme to attract foreign students.
The NRF is also one of the recommendations in the New Education Policy 2019. The NEP document has recommended, “A new NRF will be set up through an Act of Parliament, as an autonomous body of the Government of India, to fund, mentor, incentivize, and build capacity for quality research across the country in all disciplines, primarily at universities and colleges, both public and private. Appropriate infrastructure and a trained staff will be provided to enable it to fulfil its mission.”
It has defined the scope of work in the draft NEP as “the NRF will consist of four major divisions — Sciences; Technology; Social Sciences; and Arts and Humanities — with the provision to add additional divisions (e.g. health, agriculture, environmental issues), whenever it may be determined to be beneficial by the Governing Council of the NRF.”
The NRF as recommended will “competitively fund research in all disciplines across the academic landscape - from subjects such as Medicine, Physics, Agriculture, Artificial Intelligence, and Nano-science to Education, Sociology, Archaeology, Art History, and Literature. It may on occasion identify areas of research that are of special importance to the country and prioritize funding to them, but it will consider and fund outstanding proposals in all areas. The NRF will not directly fund defence-related or other sensitive strategic research.”
In addition to directly funding outstanding research proposals, the NRF is recommended to help “seed centers of research in select disciplines at various universities, through providing institutional funding, bringing in research mentors as well as postdoctoral and doctoral students to grow an ecosystem for research at institutions where it currently does not exist or is limited”.
The NRF is recommended in NEP to have a Governing Board and through this, it will also act as a liaison between researchers and the government, helping to ensure that the most urgent national issues of the day (for instance clean water, sanitation, energy) are well-studied by researchers, and that the latest research breakthroughs are implemented for the public good through policy in an efficient manner.
Finally, the NRF will recognise outstanding research progress (especially research funded by the NRF) through NRF Prizes and through the organisation of national seminars on truly transformative research and successful seeding / growth of research at higher educational institutions.
All proposals funded, together with amounts of annual funding, annual updates on progress, and final results achieved (all explained also in layperson terms) will be publicly displayed on the NRF website.