At present, there is no mechanism for scientists to gain access to facilities needed for experiments, which are not available in their labs. (HT)
At present, there is no mechanism for scientists to gain access to facilities needed for experiments, which are not available in their labs. (HT)

Govt to launch portal of publicly-funded research facilities

  • The web portal ‘I-STEM’ has been developed by scientists from the Indian Institute of Science-Bengaluru
  • I-STEM will allow researchers to identify the specific facility they need, located closest to them and available at the earliest

NEW DELHI: The centre is all set to launch a national portal of publicly-funded research facilities and equipment to enable easy and timely access of resources to researchers working anywhere in the country.

The web portal, called “I-STEM" developed by scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, is is expected to be officially launched soon, said K. Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific advisor to the Prime Minister, said on Wednesday.

“State universities, where 95% of our students go, have little awareness of where they can access certain equipment needed for their experiments. We wanted to bridge that gap between researchers and resources," Raghavan said.

At present, there is no mechanism for young scientists to gain access to facilities needed for experiments, which are not available in their labs. As a result, they have to individually approach institutes to seek permissions to use their facilities, a process that is tedious.

“By the time a researcher gets a time slot to make use of the facility, their samples get degraded. Our aim was to make that entire process hassle-free," said Sanjeev Kumar Shrivastava from the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering, IISc, who led the project.

A map on the live portal would allow them to identify the specific facilities they need for their research—showing what is closest to them and available at the earliest. A secure payment gateway and SMS-based booking confirmation would enable them to compare the usage charges, make payments and schedule the time-slots.

The map presently lists over 3,500 pieces of equipment worth several hundred crores of rupees in about 70 research institutions, including CSIR, IITs, NITs and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISERs).

Since most of the equipment, like X-ray diffractometer and scanning electron microscope are costly and imported, the portal could also help bring down the cost of research. The portal is funded by Office of Principal Scientific Advisor to the prime minister office also gives access to monitoring agencies including the Department of Science and Technology to evaluate how much the equipment funded by them are being used.

In the near future, the team also plans to include private laboratories and universities in the database, which could also benefit start-ups.

The portal would also be available as a mobile app on Google Play Store.

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