Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Government plans single agency for social science research

India may soon replace the multiple agencies that have headed its social science research for four decades with a single overarching body in a desperate government bid to halt a slippery slide in the quality of the country’s humanities research.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is preparing a blueprint to create a new social science research agency that will end the existence of the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) and the Indian Council for Philosophical Research (ICPR).

The single new agency will subsume the three existing bodies that are mandated to head the nation’s social science research, but that were slammed as failures in a first-of-its kind review of their performance by government appointed expert panels, top government sources have told HT.

The ICHR, ICSSR and the ICPR - set up between 1969 and 1977 - are tasked with the responsibility of identifying key areas of humanities research, pinpointing the best researchers in these areas, and then funding research projects. But the panels – appointed by former HRD minister Kapil Sibal - that reviewed the ICHR, ICSSR and the ICPR concluded that the research agencies were severely underfunded, opaque in their selection of research to fund, and wrapped in layers of bureaucracy that make independent scholarly work difficult.

The ICPR review, carried out by widely respected philosophers Mrinal Miri and Rajeev Bhargava, also “strongly” recommended a single research agency for the humanities – instead of multiple bodies that often overlap in their work, and lack an inter-disciplinary approach, as is the case at present.

The government may therefore consider setting up a Council for the Promotion of Research in Humanities which will include philosophy, history, literature and literary studies, linguistics, political thought and anthropology,” Miri and Bhargava wrote in their review. “We are aware that such a step will require much deeper thought than we have been able to afford. But we do recommend very strongly that the government take initiative towards such a step.”

In two years of deliberations of the recommendations of the review panels, the HRD ministry mulled ways to strengthen the current research agencies but eventually picked an overarching social science research body as the answer.

Source: Hindustan Times, May 28, 2013

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