Issues with Anusandhan National Research Foundation

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Source-This post on Issues with Anusandhan National Research Foundation has been created based on the article “The ANRF plan has got off on the wrong foot” published in “The Hindu” on 8 July 2024.

UPSC SyllabusGS Paper-3- Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology; Indigenization of Technology and Developing New Technology.

Context– The establishment of the Anusandhan National Research Foundation (ANRF) presents an opportunity to revolutionize India’s research landscape. However, its success depends on addressing the current challenges in governance structure, funding mechanisms, and bureaucratic processes.

In 2023, both Houses of Parliament passed the ANRF Bill, a major achievement for India’s research sector. The scientific community welcomed it, anticipating reduced bureaucracy in academia and more research funding.

What are the objectives of ANRF?

1) Seeding, growing, and facilitating research in India, especially in universities and colleges.

2) Prioritizing the development of outstanding research cells in State Universities, as explicitly mentioned in the 2019 National Research Foundation (NRF) project report.

What are the issues with governance of Anusandhan National Research Foundation?

1) Composition of Governing Bodies -The governing structure includes a 15-member board and a 16-member council. This is dominated by senior government officials and established research institutions.

2) Lack of Diverse Representation:

A) No members from Central or State universities or colleges, despite over 95% of Indian students attending these institutions

B) Inadequate industry representation, with only one member (an Indian American businessman from Silicon Valley)

C) Limited gender diversity, with only one-woman representative (the Secretary of DSIR)

What should be the way forward?

1) Diverse Representation-The board and council should include representatives who understand the challenges faced at the university level. It should be made more diverse by adding more Indian industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and academics from both Central and State universities.

2) Single Committee-A single committee for strategy formulation and implementation should be created.

3) Funding and Research Development- India’s underfunded research and development sector aims to generate over 70% of its funding from non-government and industry sources through ANRF. R&D budget should be enhanced to 4% of GDP to boost research output and global competitiveness.

Read more- India’s R&D Funding Status

3) Reforms in Operational Requirements for ANRF-

A) Adequate staffing

B) Implementation of a robust grant management system

C) Establishment of an internal standard peer-review system with reviewer incentives

D) Timely disbursal of research grants and student fellowships (less than six months turnaround)

E) Reduction of bureaucratic hurdles at funding and grantee institutions

F) Flexible spending without strict adherence to government’s general financial rules (GFR)

G) Permission for purchases outside the Government e-marketplace (GeM) portal.

H) ANRF needs a total overhaul to avoid becoming another typical government department and to better connect research with teaching in universities.

4) Future CEO-The future CEO of the ANRF should possess experience in both industry and academia. He should be able to secure funding for the ANRF and understand the global innovation ecosystem.

Question for practice

What are the governance challenges facing the Anusandhan National Research Foundation, and how should these be addressed moving forward?

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