“I am delighted to participate in the Golden Jubilee Programme of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). Completion of 50 years for any organization is a major landmark, particularly so for ICSSR, which is dealing with complex issues like social, economic and human development.
Established on 12th May, 1969 to encourage, promote and fund social science research in the country, ICSSR has emerged as a premier organization and is contributing actively towards the development of the country and the society through social science research. My compliments to the organization, social scientists and other key functionaries associated with it.
I am aware that with the aim of broad-basing social science research, ICSSR has established six regional centres and funds 24 research Institutes and five recognized research institutes located in different parts of the country.
Dear sisters and brothers, as you all are aware, rapid changes are taking place all over the world and in India on technological and other fronts. The process of economic liberalization and globalization of economies which began in early 1990s has completely changed the international scenario of bilateral and multi-lateral relations among countries. In order to find out acceptable solutions to issues of prime importance to the society and economy of the country, there is well-appreciated need to see them through the perspective of social science.
I am told that till the end of sixth five-year plan (the mid 1980s), a large number of projects sanctioned by the Council were of an empirical nature evaluating Government programmes and policies that were being implemented at local and regional levels. Policy research of relevance cannot merely focus on the evaluation of Government programmes in the regional or local dimensions. With the change in socio-economic and socio-political environment worldwide, I am glad that ICSSR has attuned its programmes and activities to sharply focus on contemporary issues.
I am glad to note that ICSSR has sanctioned about 6250 projects and 471 research programmes during last 50 years. It has the distinction of awarding 6015 Doctoral fellowships, 2081 Post-doctoral fellowships and other fellowships to various categories of scholars engaged in social science research.
I am also informed that one of the prime concerns of ICSSR has been to promote young researchers and university teachers by awarding doctoral fellowships and post-doctoral fellowships.
As you all are aware, international collaborations have proved to be a major determinant of quality of research and such collaborative efforts enhance the impact of research and lead to joint projects, high quality joint publications, more citations and exchange of scholars.
I am told that the Indo-Dutch Programme on Alternatives of Development (IDPAD) has been one of the best examples of such initiatives taken by ICSSR, under which a number of publications were also brought out. I am told that during last 50 years there have been exchanges of 985 scholars under the programme.
I am glad to know that ICSSR has entered into bilateral memoranda with the reputed research councils in different countries.
With research institutions like the ICSSR providing valuable research inputs to policymakers, it is important for social science researchers to focus on societal problems and find solutions so that the entire society stands to benefit from such endeavors.
Development and its aims are now to achieve inclusivity. Reaching the unreached, funding the unfunded are the new norms across the globe. Achieving sustainable developmental goals, taking care of the health of the population, alleviating poverty, mitigating the urban rural divide and the challenges faced by the agriculture and those depend on it require a fresh, practical approach. Researchers should come up with out of box and innovative solutions to address the pressing problems confronting the world at large.
A large number of problems, initiatives and trends need the attention of researchers. Some of these may include trends in Indian federalism, India’s position at the global stage, foreign policy and the policy with neighbors, urban transformation, rural transformation, smart city initiative, sustainability of resources, greening cities, the process and implications of migration, security issues, cyber security, our intellectual tradition, skills and employment, technology for development and transformation, governance and e-governance, inclusiveness of development, make in India, public-private partnership in a society like India, food security, agrarian problems, environmental problems, clean India, health care and its delivery, access, equity and quality in education, knowledge and innovation ecosystem and improvement in the quality of all possible institutions.
Critical research in these areas would certainly provide new insights to the policy makers and the government.
Albert Einstein had said: “The significant problems we face today, cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at, when we created them”.
The challenges of today and the emerging challenges of tomorrow need creativity, design-thinking and a solution-seeking mind set and competence.
The solutions should lead to a more inclusive, sustainable world.
As I mentioned earlier, the world is changing at a very fast pace since the process of globalization began in 1980s and 1990s. The degree of mutual dependence is also growing and no country can today think of living in an isolated manner. In this mutually dependant world, everyone realizes the importance of learning from each other’s experience and adopting global best practices. This is all the more important in research. Any research that is subjected to international rigor, methodology and evidence is bound to be better in quality and impact.
I must compliment ICSSR for its efforts in having one of the best collaborative arrangements in the country as the institution entered into MoUs with the most renowned institutions of the world. Such collaborations gave exposure to Indian social scientists and also provided tremendous visibility to the social science researchers with potentials.
As Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar had said, “An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise, both will wither and die”. I am therefore glad that the Institute is nurturing talent and fostering excellence with a clear focus on social equity and gender sensitivity.
Dear sisters and brothers, unlike in the past, tight boundaries between various disciplines have almost disappeared. Today’s researchers cannot confine themselves to compartmentalized silos and must have a basic understanding of other related disciplines. The issues are also no longer discipline-specific and cut across several disciplines. A holistic research approach needs to be adopted in an inter-disciplinary manner.
For example, health, education and environment are of immense concern to all and cannot be confined to particular disciplines.
The canvas of new research both in science and social science is vast and will definitely help young researchers to get a wider perspective on various phenomena. The emerging areas in bio-technology, genetic engineering, biodiversity, new materials, micro-machines, bio-medical simulations and equipment, new dominions in space research and technology including permanent human habitat in space, and similar new frontiers in oceans, are some of the examples.
It is against this background that the role of social scientists needs to come out clearly. No one can enter knowledge society successfully without being armed with the knowledge of social science. If natural science is compared to a computer, the software is the social science.
The social science research should strengthen the data base or information base of policy makers and should provide them with evidence-based inputs for policy improvement and implementation. The interface with the policy makers is expected to enrich both the researchers and policy makers to understand the intricacies of issues and provide realistic solutions.
I am glad that ICSSR has been undertaking national level studies on the topics like women empowerment, national integration, educational status of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and status of minorities etc. The launch of IMPRESS (Impactful Policy Research in Social Science) by MHRD in October 2018 is certainly a great milestone for ICSSR which has been assigned its implementation as there would be about 1500 research projects.
This scheme is set to attract the best talent in social sciences for high quality research output on crucial contemporary social science issues having policy significance.
I think the time has come for social scientists to consolidate on the gains, critically evaluate the work done so far and move forward. We need to think of new areas of research which are of crucial concern to us as a nation while keeping in mind our collective concern for rest of the world. Can we open new frontiers of research?
On the completion of 50 years of ICSSR, the above issues need to be addressed in the Indian perspective and accelerate the momentum created by ICSSR for promotion of social science research for the larger benefit of society and nation as a whole.