Saturday, July 12, 2008

Partial exit from the graceful exit

Recently I suggested on my blog that there should be a procedure whereby Indian scientists in research institutes who are not sufficiently productive be given a "graceful exit" and continue in Universities where they can teach and also do some research. I had marshalled in support of my argument the fact that the Perimeter Institute in Canada has limited-tenure appointments.

The blog resulted in a total of 25 posted comments to date. Reading these comments and thinking about it some more, I began to realise that while the problem I had identified was undoubtedly present, my solution was probably wrong. I was approaching things from the wrong end by suggesting the creation of a "repulsive potential" from the institutes, which would hopefully send several people into the arms of the universities. In practice this might instead send people elsewhere, for example abroad. One does not attract objects to a point by repelling them from everywhere else, but by creating an attractive central potential. So clearly the goal is to make Universities more attractive than they presently are.

The problem is that every time the Universities become more attractive (e.g. by salaries going up) the research institutes become even more attractive (e.g. by salaries going up even more). I plan to cogitate a bit more about this and then maybe come up with a revised proposal to solve the graceful exit problem.

Comment number 25 on my earlier blog came from Joe Polchinski who made several valuable points, one of them being that Perimeter Institute has given up its own limited-tenure system as it isn't working for them. I guess that was the final blow to my pet idea.

But as I said, the problem is real and I intend to continue seeking a solution on this blog until something semi-serious emerges.

30 comments:

Ramanan said...

Perhaps one can give a permanent position after a "probation period" and make the member permanent like the corporate world. Since nothing is permanent, the corporate world also doesnt want to break this rule and "Permanent" comes with a catch.. you can be fired anytime by being given a "Notice". This saves the problem of people thinking of the next move. Sunil, dont mind my comment: after moving to the corporate world from academics, I realize that lotsa ideas from the corporate world can be used in academics.

Rahul Basu said...

Well, Sunil, the problem with your previous post on the graceful exit issue was not just what you mentioned. The main and overriding problem was the patronising tone of suggesting that those who are no longer as productive should be farmed out to universities so that they compensate by teaching. I don't want to open up the whole Debajyoti-Mukhi discussion again obviously, and perhaps it was not your intention to give it that colour, but that was the crux of the post and therefore the crux of the problem. Numerous people who read your post -- and particularly from teaching centres, had exactly the same immediate reaction, though they may not have contributed to your comments section.

Anant said...

Rahul: having said what you said, do you not think that it is creditable that Sunil should say that maybe he was not entirely correct, maybe his position needs reworking, maybe he is mistaken, etc.? In any case, the main point of the current post is that solutions to perceived problems do exist, and one should think about what these are. It is also a fact, as I hear from many colleagues from IITs that their teaching `load' (usage that was commented upon by Arunn over a nonoscience) is actually back breaking leaving very little time for research. These are all very real problems which require solution. Perhaps the `load' can be shared by Institute people, productive and not-so-productive, so that others may get a chance to do research that they are dying to do. Now, I know that such load-sharing will also attract other problems --- who will teach the plum courses, and who will teach the slog courses? Surely some sensible solutions can be found?

Love, Anant

Sunil Mukhi said...

Rahul,

I may be anything else but I'm not patronising. The fact that people did not like my post is not entirely to do with the solution I suggested. Many people - most vocally Debajyoti - simply disagreed with my basic proposition: that research institutes in India take away some of the best people from Universities.

If you disagree that there is such a problem, then you are bound to find my approach patronising. If on the other hand you agree there is such a problem, then it is worth talking about the solution and this is just what I intend to do.

Incidentally, nobody ever asked me roughly how many TIFR people would be asked to move out by the age of 50 under my original proposal - of the order of 10 percent, or of the order of 90 percent?

I actually had the latter figure in mind. If you assume I had the former figure in mind then indeed the proposal looks patronising, but if you take the latter it looks quite different. I will stick my neck out and say there that if 90 percent of TIFR faculty were at Universities it would significantly raise the level of both research and teaching there (and also raise the numbers to a point where, say, the teaching load at IIT could be less back-breaking).

Therefore I stick to my view that what was wrong with my original proposal was that it was not practical. As seen in the Perimeter Institute experiment, one doesn't acquire a sense of belonging if one is on fixed-term. And Universities don't want to commit a position (even paying no salary) unless the benefits to them are clearly defined. Both these are simple objective facts and have nothing to do with so emotional an issue as a "patronising tone".

Ninque said...

I have an interesting observation to make and a (perhaps controversial) theory to explain it.

If you look at all 'naturally grown' academic systems( by which I mean grown over centuries without stalwarts like homi bhabha aiming for the stars and achieving quick growth), you will find that the scientist is forced to interact at her residence hall or in undergraduate classrooms with students who will end up becoming lawyers or bankers or even call centre executives.

In the US they teach undergraduates in general physics courses. In The UK they often have duties that involve interaction with the community and students in residence halls and in the media. Limited public lectures are not the same as going to a class full of people who will often end up in call centres or shops.... and teaching.

In fact stand alone institutions with no responsibility to the university are rare. places like IAS for example come up in the vicinity of universities and the general populace is benefited by the proximity.

I am of the opinion that the 'Homi Bhabha path', set up a small institute to concentrate limited talent and hope that this talent will filter down, is flawed.
Imagine the following. TIFR was never created.... but at least two of the Faculty there, who had to come to India anyway (to look after parents perhaps),were at Bombay university. And the government funded them with the bravado they show TIFR. What a beautiful situation that would be. Maybe those two would single handedly achieve more for the general public than all fo tifr's public lectures put together.

I think I have stronger points than a blog comment allows room for. But let me point out for your consideration my claim.

there is no shortcut to academic growth of a country. you cannot create talent pools and isolate them in order to achieve quick results. they will achieve results but the goal of a nation is not to publish N PRL's a year. and the more you set up stand alone institutions(instead of strengthening funding for universities) the more you add to the problems created by a policy which(dare I utter such sacrilegious views) is wrong in hindsight. no matter how intelligently you design a system there is no subsititute for a century of moulding by thoughtful authorities with a long term view.

do not set up Ten IISCR's. Do not setup Centres of theoretical physics and centres for nanoscience

the solution. give scientists at TIFR an assurance that if they go to mumbai university they will get the same funding that they would get a t tifr. maybe more. maybe 1.5 times. watch them run to a place where their labs can be bigger and better stocked and where they can get more students.

if you disagree with me I would gladly contribute a better written article with clearly listed points and more ideas for possible inclusion/dissection on your blog.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

ninque: I partly agree. But the reasons scientists prefer to join TIFR rather than Mumbai University are (1) more money (in grants, etc); (2) less bureaucracy; (3) prestige.

Prestige takes time to build up and TIFR has done it over 50 years, so regardless of the merits of Bhabha's decision, it will not be productive to undo it. I think for the solution for the money thing is make ALL scientists, whether at research institutes or at universities, work for their money via grants (which should also be usable to augment salary). Make the playing field level as far as applications go. Make it easy for scientists to move between institutions and take their grant money with them. De-bureaucratise the usage of the grant money.

I don't think an "assurance" of money is a good thing, either at TIFR or at a university.

The above applies to public money. Of course, institutions should be free to look for private funding, in whatever form, and our domestic rich people should step up.

If, in addition, the research institutes cease to have tenure/lifetime positions (as Sunil recommends), there will be considerable incentive for scientists to move to universities, where they can get a job for life AND use their grants to continue top-notch research.

There are many caveats -- even if you have the money, do you have the facilities to set up a competitive lab at a typical universities? But over time, with vision, these things should get sorted out.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Ninque, I found your input extremely valuable. Articulating a "heretical" position, however right or wrong it may be, is the way to move forward.

Let us take the heretical view that Homi Bhabha's vision was flawed and things would have been better had he not been in the picture. A useful comparison might be China, where as far as I can see there was no such visionary. Whatever brilliant Chinese scientists one has heard of, have (to my knowledge) settled and worked in the US. I believe that without the Bhabha vision, at least up to the present, a significant fraction of very good Indian scientists presently working in India would instead have settled in the developed world (barring the few who, as you say, were obliged to come back for strong personal reasons.)

I suspect we agree up to this point. The question is whether that would have been a good or a bad thing for India.

Let's leave this question basically open for debate. I will make a slightly tangential comment here. I feel your picture breaks down at the point where you suggest that the government might have funded a few scientists at Bombay U. with the same bravado (as you call it) that they funded TIFR. At least in the culture of our country, the government could not and would not have done that.

The voter (to the small extent that she thinks consciously of TIFR) agrees to fund TIFR precisely for its elite nature. Somewhere in people there is this ability to take vicarious pleasure in the success of something that SYMBOLICALLY represents the country.

Many people (outside academia) have expressed this to me and, invariably, the sub-text is something like this: "We Indians are always dealing with the West from a position of inferiority, but our best scientists can deal with them from a position of equality. Seeing this adds to our confidence as Indians. Even if we ourselves are not part of this elite, we are happy it is there."

Now before some of you jump on my back, please understand that I am quoting a view that exists out there. The view may be flawed, politically incorrect or any other thing. But it is there.

In fact if you run the clock back to Homi Bhabha's time I think this view was not that flawed. Post-independence India was a time when there was considerable doubt about how well we would ever do as a country. Symbols of success were relatively few and it's possible that TIFR/AEC played an important role in keeping spirits high.

So if Bhabha's approach needs correction today, it is not because it was wrong at its time. The rise of the IIT's and infotech companies and their impact on India's global image must have roots deep down in the "Indians are good at science" paradigm which, even if it dates from ancient times, was effectively fostered post-independence by the likes of Bhabha.

Today, things are changing rapidly and the negatives of his approach might well be outweighing the positives. From sport to infotech to business, the "existence proof" that Indians in India can be the equals in achievement of people from developed countries is no longer needed. Today we probably have an excess of symbolic elitism in India and it hides the sad state of our primary education system, health care system and university system. Visits to countries like Turkey, Iran and Thailand have convinced me that all the above indicators are in better shape there, though in fundamental science (and many other creative pursuits) they are no match for us (intriguingly, as democracies they also have a much poorer record than us!).

In short, it is possible to think about revising our system now without believing it was wrong all along. The goal would be to preserve (as R. Sid also points out), while perhaps re-distributing, the many good things we've achieved in science.

AMOK said...

This blogger thinks it is okay not to have a sense of belonging, entitlement, etc. If a term appointment makes the person looks elsewhere, why then, the Perimeter (or other) institute must make sure the next choice falls where desired by Perimeter, ie, within Perimeter or outside. In other words why not work to maintain people based on alignment with the institutional goals, rather than entitlement?

Indeed, people will be anxious to move to the Universities once this is seen as desirable goal in terms of prestige, money, type of work, etc. As the chemistry texts would say, make the chemical potential edo it for you, keeping in mind the different missions of the institutions and the strengths required from faculty in the different environments.

No ad hominem attacks intended, but consider the following: "Dr. S. Mukhi was welcomed today by Mumbai University as he joined the faculty. Dr. Mukhi expressed his happiness at being offered this position where he can contribute to the lives of more students at an earlier stage of their development as scientists, engineers and leaders of our country. Of the twenty faculty from TIFR who vied for this position, Dr. Mukhi was one of the few selected to serve. It is very satisfying, Dr. Mukhi said, to move on to the next phase of my career and leverage my research experience towards enriching real lives outside of the small set of highly specialised peers."

Ninque said...

@ Rahul - I agree ! an assurance is a crappy way to spend money on people. however at TIFR in experimental groups at least this is exactly wat happens. you make a token powerpoint presentation once every five yearrs. ask for 5 crores and get one! If you sit in on te TIFR planning meeting thingamajigs you shall see incredibly arcane uninteresting and -at least once- blatantly wrong pysics getting a nice spin and some funding. I was just advocating you show this scientist ina university the same degree of critical scrutiny. or more if you please, but open up the possibility that he will get 3 crore to set up a lab(which is par for the course in some TIFR groups)

@Sunil - youre quite a smart fellow arent you! :-) I was totally taken in by your argument. But then I wondered if TIFR / Nuclear programme had more to do with our national pride, or is the new found pride mainly because the indian disapora is quite a smart selection of hardworking intelligent people. for example Jhumpa Lahiri and various spelling bee champions might have done more to shape positive western opinion than TIFR at least to common folk. lets leave that open to debate as well.

I will make two points here. - 1) In the present scenarios our school education does produce some gifted students, IT might be that this could produce more. But then we will have to question everything from primary education upwards. Let us concentrate on the fact that college detroys many of tese few minds. I have seen them come to college and loose it all under the tutelage of inadequate professors. This would have been different if just two, out of a 100 faculty members from TIFR were at the college.. Just two!!!

A second point - A while ago a large number of scientists signed a petition against some plagiarism scam etc. I remember thinking. "why do these guys care if some fellow is fooling people at that godforsaken university" but assuming you people in positions of 'responsibility' are indeed capable of such involvment. I would like to plant an idea. do you think it is correct to oppose the setting up of IISER's, Centres for NANOSCIENCE(a building in IISc that nobody knows how to use! Ive been there and they just dont know) or Centres for Biophysics and theoretical physics. and instead to force the poeple with these grand visions to execute them in a university. With the money being spent to build these places surely you could spruce up a building on the Bombay university campus and make it look as pretty as TIFR maybe even give it an MF Hussain painting or two. What are your views?

Sunil Mukhi said...

Ninque,

The last person who called me "quite a smart fellow" was my aged auntie, who gave me a toffee and eight annas along with the compliment. I was then 5 years old so, not knowing better, I accepted the whole package. My point here is that a compliment like this needs to carry a cash (or toffee) incentive for it to be acceptable.

I have a comment on your statement "If you sit in on the TIFR planning meeting thingamajigs you shall see incredibly arcane uninteresting and -at least once- blatantly wrong physics getting a nice spin and some funding."

Suppose you were put in charge of deciding which science proposal out of many to fund (I don't know who you are, by the way, so I can't tell if you would be put in charge. But then you appear to be "quite a smart fellow" so maybe you would.) Now, let's say you were told that you would be executed, or at least made to drink Seagram's Nine Hills wine, within ten years if: (i) any project you funded turned out a dud, (ii) any project you didn't fund turned out to do well elsewhere, including elsewhere in the world. How well would you manage?

I personally would be terrified. It's easy enough to trash things as flaky or plain wrong science, but creativity is a funny thing and our own prejudices are another funny thing. I've repeatedly had people assure me that some approach to science was utter bunk only to find it turned into gold one fine day. I've often thought some people were manifest morons only to find they turned out great work one fine day. Conversely people I thought were really good scientists have turned out damp squibs.

My point here is that it's easy to be in the opposition.

For the same reason I don't wish to oppose the IISER's, centres for Nanoscience et al. In fact I've offered to teach a course next year at an IISER and (unless they turn me down, which they might) I intend to do it.

Am I saying I would never oppose anything then? Not really. But at the level of a blog discussion I feel we don't need to oppose A to promote B. Let's just concentrate on the thing we want to promote, and try to promote it.

Ninque said...

ok! I accept all the criticism. it is all totally justified! Thank god I'm anonymous !

I didnt mean to be as rude/arrogant/judgemental as I can see I sounded. I usually try to hide that side of me. And I certainly wouldnt be put in any position to judge grants because I dont know enough(yet)! But I hope that someday I will be able to set up a lab in a university and do good science.

Rahul Basu said...

ninque: Why hide behind anonymity if you think you have something useful to say? I presume you are an academic from the tone of your comments, and anonymity is not a pleasant practice in academics or academic
discussions.

Ramanan said...

There was an article today in Times that Stephen Hawking has denied rumours of his moving to Canada... no smoke without fire... but its interesting .. the institute has atleast managed to make some news...

AMOK said...

This blogger totally agrees with Dr. Basu. Ninque -- you need to stop being so anonymous. Come out and say what you think and don't worry about anything! It's like that in academics, don't you know yet? Just write a paper or two and you will see the referees will make personal calls to your house and help you work through any shortcomings in the paper. You will see that they will not make a single anonymous or uncharitable comment!! One day, you too can aspire to become such a referee.

Rahul Basu said...

Oh! Puleeze AMOK.....

Sunil Mukhi said...

Rahul B: While I generally don't favour anonymous postings, I have to say Ninque has otherwise been perfectly well-behaved (apart from the minor offence of calling me "quite a smart fellow" for which she appears to have apologised).

In contrast, I found Amok's latest comment truly offensive. Why waste the time and dampen the mood of other people with such purposeless sarcasm and negativity? It doesn't make any novel point and it's not even slightly witty.

Of course Amok cannot win prizes for this kind of sarcasm when there is Debajyoti around. Let me recall the following purposeless gem posted as part of D's comment on my Graceful Exit blog: "There are certain further advantages to being at a premier inst even after your salad days are long over. You can still claim to serve the cause of Indian Science by being on several committees. Indeed, you can be involved in reforming science education or enthusing young minds to a career in science (absolute lack of any experience in UG/PG teaching is no hindrance).

Furthermore, staying at an Inst often affords you much greater clout as far as shaping of Univ policies or making appointments go (actually much more than what you can do if you actually
teach there). Who, in his/her right mind, would throw away such perks ?"

Notice how this comment adds nothing to the discussion - it's the equivalent of chanting "maaro saale ko".

AMOK said...

Oops -- this blogger did not at all mean to dampen the mood, negativity etc. Ninque, keep up the good work. I was simply pointing out that Rahul's principle of "Why hide behind anonymity if you think you have something useful to say?" is routinely violated in the academic peer review process. Perhaps my friendly sarcasm was too strong for which I offer my sincere ( but anonymous ) apologies.

Anant said...

Maybe off-topic, but addresses many issues here. While one may not like sarcastic notes and anonymous comments, the blogosphere is a new and emergent-space, and clearly the rules of other modes of communication do not apply in exactly the same way. I don't think Debchou's comments were the equivalent to `maro...ko'. He was just putting a point across using some examples as to why jobs in research institutes are so sought-after and I think it is perfectly valid. I have said this before and I say it again: one cannot impose the highest standards of refereed publications on blog-comments for the simple reason that people will simply stop posting comments. Secondly, one cannot say that posting anonymous comments is equivalent to hiding. There are many in insecure positions in life who cannot give their views under their own names. That is why the anonymous comment and blogging option is available in the first place.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Sunil:
1. Sarcasm stings the most when it's true, and such seems to be the case with AMOK's post that you objected to. I'm not really convinced that referees need to be anonymous when authors aren't (and double-blind doesn't work either, it's generally not hard to guess the authors.) (I'd like to know the names of the referees in my most recent experience, because they were so helpful and so obviously at the top of the profession.)

2. I didn't see the sarcasm in the long quote from Debajyoti. I think he means what he says, and many people would argue it's quite true. And I don't think it is purposeless to say so.

3. For someone like me, outside the loop, "debajyoti" is just as anonymous as "ninque".

Ninque said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ninque said...

To those who think there some hidden devilry in anonymous comments - While It encourages trolls, It is in fact useful. I have been a blogger off and on for 5 years, and in my experience (mainly with blogs not run by scientists) people didnt really care what name the poster posted with. In fact there was a very famous incident where two great bloggers slugged it out anonymously only to find that they had each other on their blog rolls and were the third and fifth ranked blogs in india at the time. They were Sidin vadukut and Ammani venkatesh respectively. I believe it is part of a system where ideas matter more than names. I dont see why that should change in a science blog. In fact I could argue( I would lose but I could argue) if papers were anonymous we wouldnt have had the whole problem with Henrik Schons falsified papers being accepted to Nature because he was from Bell labs. Though I dont want to enter anymore debates because I feel I am derailing someone elses blog discusion. If it is important, let us assume my name is, in fact, Ninque.

Now enough of misusing someone elses blog space to fight silly battles. let me restart the discussion by asking a question (I am really curious and offer no opinions!) If I were to join, let us say delhi university physics department. Could I come to the TIFR Five year plan meeting and present my ideas to get funding ? If not couldnt such a system be set up where other researchers could get funding if their ideas were as plausible?

Oh! and by the way the previous comment was deleted only to fix a typo ( I said 'loose' instead of 'lose')

Rahul Siddharthan said...

ninque: I doubt you could get funding from TIFR's five year plan without a TIFR affiliation. That is why I said above that research institutes shouldn't have such direct access to public money, and everyone, whether in TIFR or in DU or in Trichy, should compete for the same grants (which should moreover be transferable, i.e. if you join TIFR and then move to DU, you should be able to take your money with you: the recipient of the grant money is you and not TIFR).

I suppose one could envision a scheme where research institutes acted as funding organisations for less elite people -- in fact I think this was the original idea behind IUCAA, and for a long time JNCASR acted as a de facto funding agency for IISc -- but I think that's a terrible idea too.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

PS - to repeat myself again, private money is a whole other issue. I would entirely welcome a domestic version of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for example. I would also be fine with a private organisation sponsoring a programme at TIFR specifically, or even the whole organisation (the way Fred Kavli did with the ITP at Santa Barbara and other places).

I suspect the reason this has not already been happening to any significant degree is, at least partly, that our industrialists aren't very impressed with our research institutes.

AMOK said...

A very interesting discussion. This blogger notes that Ninque committed a "minor offense" and apologised. Yours truly submitted a sarcasm overdose ("offensive") and apologised. Sunil's post was found to be patronising and he.... brushed it away "I may be anything else but I am not patronising". However, we are the judge of that. Sunil, join the crowd. Do I hear an apology? I am waiting.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Ninque: Within the present system there are extremely generous sources of funding for scientists at Universities. A visit to http://dst.gov.in will provide you some of the requisite information. Please do explore these sources when/if you get your job at Delhi University.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Amok: The original charge against me (by Rahul B) was having a "patronising tone" towards Indian Universities.

That is a charge I deny, therefore there is no question of apologising for it. But I'm happy to say explicitly that any patronising tone towards Indian Universities that readers may have detected was sincerely unintended.

I started this entire thread looking for ways to resolve, or ameliorate, a situation that Indian universities find themselves in today, and with the recognition that they have been treated unfairly - or at least that others have been treated very much better without good enough reason.

As for being patronising toward yourself and some of the other shining wits who have shown up on my blog, I plead guilty and must confess that I've enjoyed it too! Of course I do offer my sincere apologies and promise it will happen again.

Anant said...

While the situation in our Universities may be grim, how does one account for the anomaly recorded, for instance, here. Sorry for quoting myself and giving myself publicity on this space.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Anant: The cases you describe are relevant and important. But, as you yourself describe them as "anomalies", there's nothing to account for, is there!

The problem is not that it is impossible to do good research in universities, but that an unreasonably large fraction of people who are good at research get drawn in to research institutes where conditions (not only for research but for many other aspects of life) tend to be a lot better. This is true both for faculty and for Ph.D. students.

As things stand there seems little hope for change. Research institutes are not going to voluntarily give up their situation of entitlement. People in universities are - in my experience - generally bitter about the situation but, far from engaging in a discussion of what to do, seem to become more aggrieved whenever someone (e.g. yours truly) points out the existence of the situation.

What next?

Anant said...

Sunil: thanks for your response. Maybe I have said enough on this subject. Let the field be open for more thoughts. Best regards, Anant

Dileep said...

Dear Sunil

I have been reading blogs and discussions on the issue of
"graceful exit or not" and interaction of institutes and universities.
I have some comments to make on this topic but before that
I would like to give a disclaimer: I have no experience
in discussion/blogging as well as do not possess detailed
understanding of what is the problem with university system
in India. This is largely because I am an institute animal and
have not spent any time in the university system. My comments
therefore may not reflect correct university perspective.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Let me start by stating my four assumptions. Among these fourth
is the most important and crucial one. I am assuming that

1) Research requires constant flow of fresh ideas which are most
likely to come from young researchers.

2) A seasoned(read senior) researcher can function in not so
friendly environment as well.

3) Teaching and research are part of same profession. Although
a good researcher need not be a good teacher and vice versa.
(I will use the word researcher and teacher interchangeably.)

4) We have used latest internet technology to network all universities and
institutes together. Funds are available to provide universal internet
connectivity. Universal access to all research journals is made available
at every research and teaching location in India. This will remove some
hurdles in movement of a researcher from institute to univ. (Certainly, there
are several other issues that may bother a researcher when moving from
institute to university, but these are beyond the scope of this note.)

-------------------------------------------------------------

Scope of the suggestion: I believe these suggestions are applicable
to pure sciences. However, my knowledge of pure sciences is quite
limited and if I am pushed to the wall, I will restrict it to theoretical
physics. In this corner of pure science stream, I am believe such
a solution is feasible, actual implementation is another matter!!

------------------------------------------------------------

I think we should turn this issue on its head. I would like to
call it "graceful entry". The idea is to not have research institutes
affiliated to any university but have every researcher in any
institute affiliated to some university. That is, in one department
of the institute some member is affiliated to Mumbai Univ. some
other to Bangalore U., someone else to Utkal U. and so on.
Conversely, every member of the university is affiliated to some
institute or other. The map is bijective for the permanent univ.
staff. Every hiring in the university follows the rules/guidelines
mentioned below. (University, however, can have contractual
(non-permanent) teaching staff, which also would be encouraged
to pursue quality improvement by doing Ph.D., preferably, at
some institute.)

How do we decide this affiliation? Well, when we hire a
researcher/teacher we hire the person for this dual affiliation.
This dual affiliation remains as long as the researcher is
pursuing her/his career, i.e., research and teaching. The
researcher cannot relinquish one affiliation. You either
have both or you have none. However, the researcher
can change university affiliation from univ. A to univ. B if both
universities agree for such a change. Universities may even
go for a swap of faculty. This may be useful if univ. A chooses
to have a stronger condensed matter theory group and univ. B
chooses, say, string theory.

Needless to say, every research paper carries both affiliations,
i.e., institute and university.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Rules(?)/Guidelines(!)

0) Research group(s) in the institute/institutes and the relevant
department in some university form a common committee.
If the univ. department wants to hire, say, 3 faculty members, then
these three members can be hired in same institute or they may
belong to 3 different institutes. Based on the requirement,
a shortlist is made and 3 researchers are hired in the institute(s).
The choice of institute-university combination can be negotiable
for the entering researcher. However, the negotiability will be
limited. (E.g, in 2009 TIFR-Utkal U., TIFR-Jadhavpur U. are available
but TIFR-Mumbai U. is not. On the other hand IMSc-Mumbai U.
IMSc-Hyderabad U., HRI-Madras U and IOP-Pune U. are available.
Researcher can choose 5 years in TIFR and rest in Jadhavpur U. or
Utkal U. or can choose 5 years in IMSc and rest in Mumbai U. etc.)
I chose this structure to avoid giving unfair advantage to some
universities purely due to geographical proximity.


1) New recruit spends 5 years in the institute with adjunct like
position in the affiliated univ. This researcher can spend 9
months in the institute and at least 1 month and at most 3 in
the Univ. (s)he is affiliated to. Of course, 1 month in Univ. and
remaining 2 months abroad is another possibility.

2) After 5 years in the institute, the researcher can continue at
the institute for another 5 years with same terms and conditions
about univ. but with one promotion.

3) However, if researcher moves to univ. then researcher gets
double promotion. But then rules have changed, the researcher
will spend 9 months in Univ. and at least 1 month in the institute
(s)he is affiliated to. The researcher can either spend remaining
2 months abroad or in the institute (s)he is affiliated to.

4) Like the term of the US president, no researcher can spend
more than 2 five year terms as a primary member of the institute.
However, every researcher is lifetime member of some institute
or other in adjunct like capacity. Again research paper written
during Univ. days still carry affiliation to the institute.

5) No institute is affiliated to any university but every institute
or a conglomerate of several institutes themselves can be a
degree giving body. This can be followed as a starting criterion
and if universities can process theses promptly then students
from institutes can get degree from the univ. their advisor is
affiliated to.

6) Students passing out of the institute/university cannot get
a job in the same institute or university. At least one of them
should be different.

7) Existing faculty in the institute with age group 40+ is given
a choice of moving to some university or if possible to new
IITs/IISERs or they can stay in the institute till they are 60.
Sorry, no superannuation! However, superannuation is
possible if they move to univ. Conversely, univ. faculty will
become adjunct faculty of institutes. (more about this after
these guidelines.)

8) No researcher can get any accolade unless (s)he has
done at least 5 semester worth of university teaching.
(Imagine a news item, Ashoke Sen was nominated for
Bhatnagar award but was not shortlisted due to inadequate
teaching experience at university level. Clearly, this has no
effect on the status of Ashoke Sen because as a researcher
his value is determined by his work and not by awards.
While giving such awards to stalwarts improves the value
of the award, not giving them due to lack of univ. teaching
experience may do good to education and research in the
long run.)
However, promising young researchers can be brought back
to India on fellowships like Swarnajayanti. These can be
awarded to the researcher before coming to India but will
come into force only after the researcher has spent 2 years
in the institute. The fellowship will continue up to 5 years
only if the researcher moves to her/his affiliated university
after finishing 5 year terms in the institute else it is for 3
years only.

------------------------------------------------------------

In this scenario, average profile in the institute will be around 35,
however, average age profile of permanent faculty in university
department will be higher, and would probably be around 45.
This is because of my prejudice, as stated in assumption 1.

Coming back to dual membership, it looks like permanent
membership of the institute and spending 1 month does not
seem feasible. At the moment we have fewer institutes and
several universities. One month visit of every faculty member of
every university would be impossible to handle with the present setup
at institutes. Therefore the programme could start with a few universities
in the pool and as a function of time more universities will be added
in the pool. Similarly, more organizations could be brought under
"institute" tag. One may start with a select institutes but then one
can add IITs and IISERs to this list. In fact, one could even start
the programme with IITs/IISERs on the univ. side for first few years
and then switch them over to "institute". This may appear to contradict
the guidelines but that can be remedied by "affirmative action".

Affirmative action: Any organization which switches from "University"
tag to "Institute" tag gives 5 year immunity to its entire faculty from being
moved out to "University" and after five years, all the rules/guidelines
stated above apply to this institute.

The implementation can start with "quality improvement" programme.
This programme will run for 3 years for each researcher. In this
programme the institute members in the first year spends 1 month
teaching a course of their choice in their affiliated university. Natural
time for this is during the mandatory 1 month in univ. This gradually
goes over to a semester(3 month) long course at univ. Again during
adjunctship visit. This is called quality improvement because no
assumption is made about good researcher = good teacher. Please
see assumption 3. The "quality improvement" programme runs both
ways. Univ. faculty will visit affiliated institute for 3 months in the first
year and it can gradually come down to one month at the end of
3 year quality improvement programme. Again reversed structure is
because of my prejudice: starting cutting edge research requires more
time but once you are in it, picking up threads and continuing is relatively
easy. On the other hand, giving a short course is relatively easy but
a semester long course is harder and requires much more time
investment. Also one becomes a good teacher only by experience,
VERY few among us are natural born teachers.

I also think that univ. teachers (both permanent and on contract)
be paid well so much so that people do not think of the teaching
profession as "those who can't, teach!". IIT/IIM professors earn
salary of the order of Rs 40K per month whereas the student
passing out if these places, almost irrespective of her/his actual
performance in these places, earns Rs 40K per month on day
one. Same is true at univ. level as well. Fresh thoughts and
enthusiasm in teaching profession can come only if remuneration,
if not equal; is at least competitive and attractive for young entrants.