Centre bats for sharing research infrastructure, incentivising funding

Releasing the guidelines recently, Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh noted that 90 per cent of the high-end research equipment is imported and not shared among the research community.

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Researchers from smaller cities will soon be able to access expensive research infrastructure at state-funded institutions as the Centre has released guidelines for sharing such scientific equipment at a small cost.

While researchers from mofussil towns will get access to cutting-edge equipment, the Scientific Research Infrastructure Sharing Maintenance and Networks (SRIMAN) guidelines also seek to incentivise the institutions by rating them for the extent of participation in the initiative, which may have a bearing on the funds they receive in the future.

Releasing the guidelines recently, Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh noted that 90 per cent of the high-end research equipment is imported and not shared among the research community.

The objective of the SRIMAN initiative is to “make publicly-funded scientific research infrastructure available as valuable public resource by providing better access and sharing for extensive and optimal use of the community”.

The initiative also seeks to improve efficiency of public expenditure by sharing expensive and state-of-the-art publicly-funded research infrastructure.

“Scientific infrastructure is the foundation of research and innovation and facilitating its availability, accessibility and sharing needs to become a key goal, particularly for countries like India with limited resources,” Singh said.

The initiative also seeks to promote the domestic instrumentation industry by encouraging universities and research-and-development institutions to set up start-ups to manufacture research instruments and also develop the workforce for its maintenance.

The guidelines make it clear that the discretionary authority to define exclusive and shareable infrastructure, along with providing exceptions, will remain with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), except in the case of strategic departments, which will be the discretionary authorities for their own infrastructure.

The guidelines make it clear that individual researchers availing the facility under the initiative will enjoy complete rights on intellectual property.

“Just by providing access and sharing research infrastructure, a grantee agency cannot claim IPR on the work done by individual researchers,” the guidelines said.

However, researchers should duly acknowledge the benefit received by accessing and sharing the research infrastructure, the guidelines said.

The granting agencies will maintain an online portfolio of expensive research infrastructure, generally instruments with a value of above Rs 25 lakh, to provide access to researchers through a national portal or other online tools.

The guidelines envisage the setting up of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to implement the SRIMAN initiative under the overall control and supervision of the Department of Science and Technology.

The SPV will primarily look at the management of the national portal for research infrastructure, which will enable users to reserve time slots for research after due preference to the grantee agency.

The portal will also allow collection of usage charges and remote-tracking of research work through online tools.

“As far as possible, the physical presence of the researcher in the premises of the grantee agency will be minimised and the researcher would be aided with sufficient assessment mechanisms to track the progress of the research work through online tools,” the guidelines said.

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