New Delhi: The Department of Science and Technology on Thursday formed an inter-ministerial committee to improve quality of research and strengthen the PhD programmes across all science and technology laboratories and institutes.

The committee co-headed by the secretary, Department of Science and Technology, and secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, will include directors and vice-chancellors (VCs) from select IITs and universities across the states.

“PhDs are the backbone of our science and technology ecosystem. But there is a need to raise the threshold of quality of research. We will look at the value of PhDs in a holistic way and devise ways to improve the quality of research so that it is on a par with global benchmarks," said Professor Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, Department of Science and Technology, during a press briefing here on Thursday.

Expressing concerns over the existing gaps between quantity and quality of research, Sharma said, “The research projects need to be relevant to the changing dynamics of science."

“We will hold the first meeting within the next ten days," said Sharma, adding that the empowered committee will also incentivise value research taking place in laboratories. “We will develop a system where we can recognise scholars who are doing well in terms of publications and patents and provide them due incentives."

The government also indicated that it will conduct a periodic review of stipends of research scholars and research associates.

“The last order for a hike in fellowships (in October, 2014) had clearly mentioned that it would be reviewed only after four years. However, there is no such mention in the latest order. We have adopted a different model this time. The current hike does not hold for next four years. It will be reviewed periodically, " said the secretary, Department of Science and Technology, adding that the committee will work out the modalities.

The government on Wednesday had announced a 25% hike in stipends for research fellows and a nearly 30% hike for research associates, effective January 1, 2019. The last hike in October 2014 had raised fellowships by at least 56%.

Among other concerns, the committee would also look for ways to streamline the timely disbursal of fellowships to researchers. “There are a number of institutes involved in disbursal of fellowships. We need to see where the gaps are, which are causing the delay, and tie those loose ends," said Renu Swarup, secretary, Department of Biotechnology.

At present, there are 1.25 lakh PhD scholars enrolled in various institutes and laboratories across the country, of which nearly 60,000 are availing fellowships funded by Centre. The hike announced on Wednesday will cost an additional 700 crore to the exchequer.

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