Why do the majority of Indians seek to do a PhD?
The answer is a better-secured career, money, social status and so on, it’s unfortunate that research enthusiasm and the love for science has somewhere lost on the way.
As a biologist, it’s disheartening to speak that the Indian education system has become an industry whose sole purpose is to manufacture PhDs. This has dramatically affected the law of supply and demand, which in turn has left hundreds of PhD scholars jobless. PhD in India has become more of a social flaunting rather than their own interest in research. This has collectively led to the decline of the research standards and research output.
The entrance to the PhD program is no more than a joke
Our education system has always put us before a test and encourages those minds who can immaculately memorize the maximum number of jokes and pen down before missing out on any.
Biology, which should have been an experimentally learnt subject has turned into teaching Austin and Shakespeare.
How can a knowledge-based exam like CSIR-NET, GATE and UGC-NET etc. decide the research intellect a student possess? In the pursuit of clearing these entrances, students have helped to directly open another big industry in the likes of coaching institutes which prepares them to win the rat race. Running this rat race has put research into a borehole.
I have come across those students who have cleared the so-called exams but certainly miss the scientific temper and methods. Students cannot be blamed for this, but our inadequate research regulatory authorities are sure to be.
“India has an examination system, but not an education system,” said Professor CNR Rao in a letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Garnishing the same dish differently
Either it is copy-paste research or modifying the little bits to make a new research paper out of already existing. Mostly, our university research revolves around blue sky research which has nothing to deal with problems of the real world. I am not against blue sky research, but yes, there should be a balance between blue sky and research which has practical applications.
Moreover, the ground realities of the prestigious institutes like IITs and NITs, which assume that they are the saviour of the research, but they are no different. They are in a state of delusion that they are at the top of the food chain. It’s like they are the best amongst the worse.
It’s harsh but true that most of the researchers are working on research problems just to mint research papers with no aim to deal with the issues. Moreover, we try to pick research problems from the western countries on which they have been already working and possess far better technologies. Indeed, we will be always behind them, so the cleverness is to choose a new research problem, make your own path and then begin.
It’s hard to win a race which others have already begun but easy when you have no competitors
Publish or perish
We have created an organizational setup of awards and rewards, so people in the research community expect you to publish soon or perish. It should be understood that original research takes time to work on, but in the feeling of going unnoticed and left behind researchers either do unoriginal research or avoid taking risks and choose safe, ordinary projects. Ethical, as well as intellectual integrity, is being compromised in doing so.
Well, it is undoubtedly harsh on the students to develop eureka moments overnight who have been spoon-fed until their postgraduates. Lately, researchers have been publishing in high impact factor journals, but it should not be misinterpreted as work of great significance.
Promotion rules are a disaster
Currently, quantity not the quality of PhDs handled by a supervisor determine his or her promotion to become a professor or director of the institute.
Similarly, the number of papers one publishes or the number of national or international conferences organized helps in earning points which allows them to reach a step closer to promotion. Is this a research institute set up or a management organization? Where one has to earn points to reach up the ladder.
This institutional setup has corrupted the researchers to publish based on quantity, which has directly affected the quality of research. Supervisors are in a hurry for promotion, students are in a hurry to get a degree before their scholarship duration runs out and in the meantime, research is being limited to just Re-SEARCH.
According to QS world university rankings 2021, we have only 8 institutes in the top 500 list with IIT Bombay at 172nd and Indian Institute of Science at 185th. It is a shame that out of 459 state and central universities not a single could make into these rankings.
Low research standards are certainly to be blamed for this, and the University grant commission should look into the issue and make necessary amendments in the research norms and guidelines which are outdated.
It is also essential for the young folks to have a thorough insight and passion for the work they will be pursuing. Otherwise, on the research front, we as a nation could never achieve what others have.
From my personal experience, I would say…
PhD is like one of those places where from outside everybody wants to get in and from the inside, many want to get out. So, choose wisely before you wish for one