I recently wrote an article in TOI on research funding in India, highlighting three specific changes which can incentivise research as well as make research funding a potent tool for driving the research agend. The three specific suggestions are:

  1. Allow for some “summer salary equivalent” to be to given to the PI, as is done in US. This will create a huge incentive for researchers.
  2. Travel budget should not distinguish between domestic and foreign travel
  3. Overheads given to Institutions should be increased to a reasonable level (from the current levels of 15-20%), so it creates a strong incentive for Institutions to encourage research

The full article can be found here.  Since its publication, some colleagues have provided some other information and have raised one point in particular, both worthy of sharing.

  • It seems that countries like China and Korea now allow the PI to take some percentage of the grant (5%, I am told) as personal compensation.  This is much more direct method of providing PI incentive, and gets around the technical problem of providing “summer salary” type support when a faculty member is on a 12 month salary. It can also be limited like the summer salary, if desired, but stipulating that no more than some fraction (say 50%) of the yearly income can be earned through the grants. China has repeatedly shown that it is capable of taking bold steps to improve its research – this is one such example. A move like this in India can also change the scenario dramatically, and will provide granting agencies the power to influence research direction through funding, which is currently not as strong as not many scientists are vying for grants.
  • Many younger faculty members pointed out another area where change is highly desirable :  the level of transparency in the whole process of proposal processing. Often the process itself is not fully clear to the submitter, and no status information or technical feedback is provided on the proposals. The system of research funding will benefit immensely if the entire process from submission till approval and disbursal of funds is clearly explained, and systems are established for online proposal submission, tracking, reviewing, etc. A move like this will make the granting agencies more professional and dramatically increase the respect the young scientists have in these agencies.

Commentators often focus on the level of funding of research, and have not given sufficient attention to these factors which can help motivate researchers to do more and higher quality research.