Competent authority approval awaited for DST’s announcement of new SATHI centres

| Updated: 27 November, 2023 2:15 pm IST

NEW DELHI: Commenced in 2020, the SATHI (Sophisticated Analytical and Technical Help Institutes) programme sought to establish centres equipped with advanced analytical instruments, promoting collaboration and resource-sharing among institutions. The recent termination of the proposal solicitation under SATHI has generated concerns among educational institutions, particularly in Kerala, regarding the future of their research endeavours.

The recent discontinuation of the SATHI programme within the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has sparked unease among researchers and academics. This decision has prompted worries about its potential repercussions on research funding, especially in light of the forthcoming establishment of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the possible role of the private sector in shaping the research environment.

Within academic circles, there is widespread speculation that the termination of SATHI may foreshadow the implementation of the National Research Foundation (NRF). The recently approved Anusandhan NRF Bill, 2023, envisions a centralised entity for research funding, with a notable dependence on investments from the private sector.

The NRF Bill foresees an allotment of Rs 50,000 crores over the upcoming five years, with approximately Rs 36,000 crores anticipated from the private sector. The significant participation of the private sector in research funding has raised apprehensions regarding potential shifts in research priorities.

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Researchers are apprehensive that heightened involvement from the private sector could result in market forces determining research priorities. There is a mounting concern that this could jeopardise the autonomy of educational institutions, steering their research agendas towards projects with commercial viability rather than emphasising fundamental research.

The discontinuation of the SATHI programme, along with the upcoming introduction of the NRF, has generated uncertainty regarding the future of research funding in the country. Academics are concerned about possible changes in focus and express worries about a diminished emphasis on fundamental research, potentially favouring projects aligned with market interests.

Beyond the immediate concerns surrounding the discontinuation of a specific programme, the academic community’s unease extends to the broader implications for research priorities and the nature of scientific inquiry in the country. The evolving landscape prompts contemplation on how future policies may influence the pursuit of knowledge and innovation.

Amid these uncertainties, the academic community advocates for transparent dialogue and collaborative decision-making to ensure that the direction of research funding aligns with the overarching goal of advancing knowledge for the benefit of society.

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