The rationalisation of awards providing equal opportunities to people working in every sphere of science will help identify the best scientific talent
The government of India has decided to rebrand the science awards delivered by various ministries into a single new avatar. As per the new decision, there is a rationalisation of awards. Previously, the Department of Science and Technology presented a total of 207 awards, including four with national significance. Additionally, there were 97 private endowments and 56 internal awards. The Department of Biotechnology granted six fellowships as part of its awards program.
The Department of Atomic Energy distributed 25 performance-based honours and 13 awards in non-core domains. Except for the one internal award given by the Department of Atomic Energy in the name of Homi Jehangir Bhaba, all other internal awards have been stopped.The new avatar ‘Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar ‘ shall be limited to 56 prizes under 4 categories, viz., Vigyan Ratna, Vigyan Shri, Vigyan Yuva–Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, and Vigyan Team. The Vigyan Ratna Award will honour the lifetime accomplishments of scientists, while the Vigyan Shri Award will acknowledge notable contributions to a specific field. The Vigyan Yuva Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award aims to inspire young scientists who have demonstrated outstanding contributions in their respective fields.
The Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar will be conferred across 13 disciplines, encompassing Physics, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science, Earth Science, Medicine, Engineering Sciences, Agricultural Science, Environmental Science, Technology and Innovation, Atomic Energy, Space Science and Technology, among others. The Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar is open to every Indian citizen and also to people of Indian origin working in other countries. However, there is a limit to the number of people of Indian origin to be considered for these awards. Out of the total number of 3 awards in the Vigyan Ratna, a maximum of only 1 can be considered from people of Indian origin, while in Vigyan Sri and Vigyan Yuva–Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar it is 3 out of 25, while the Vigyan Team award is exclusively for people working in India. Similarly except for
Vigyan Yuva–Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (VY-SSB) there is no upper age limit for applying. In VY-SSB the upper age limit is fixed at 45.
In the earlier version of the award that has been followed for many years only people working in government sectors were considered. The Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar is open to all researchers, irrespective of the organization. Even people working outside the gamut of any organization can also apply for these awards. This will help thousands of outstanding researchers working under various NGOs in the country to showcase their scientific talents and come to the limelight.
A panel headed by the Principal Scientific Adviser will be responsible for choosing the recipients. The Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar Committee will comprise secretaries from all six science departments, four presidents chosen from science and engineering academies, and six eminent scientists and technologists representing various realms of science. Each year, nominations for these awards will be open from January 14 to February 28, coinciding with National Science Day. One landmark decision in the new award is the clause for self-nominations, which was not possible in the earlier version. Often the malpractice and unethical practices happening in science are because of this nomination culture. The rationalisation of awards providing equal opportunities to people working in every sphere of science will help identify the best scientific talent from the country.
(The writer is an adjunct faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore; views are personal)