Restructuring R & D Priorities ─ Challenges in Post COVID era

By NK Prasanna (CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources, New Delhi) and SK Varshney (Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi)

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The Covid-19 outbreak has taught an important lesson to learn, to acknowledge, and to prioritize. A small virus put many so-called developed countries down on their knees. Covid-19 pandemic is offering a huge opportunity to fill up the gaps which are predominant for fighting any such crises in the future. It would turn out to be a juncture for us to restructure R&D and prioritize it; this requires proper planning and implementation. R&D ecosystem provides an immiscible growth, development, and economy for almost every country, they are inseparable.

We are confronting a crisis and waiting for getting things normalized, all we want is a partial recovery by 2021. Covid-19 is not only a nightmare for the health sector rather every sector is in the grip of it. Though our country is leveraging its science and technology but this outbreak had leaded us to re-think our policies, preparedness, and investments in much-needed sectors. It’s high time for us to reshape our R & D to address this crisis that would reflect our planning in post covid-19 era. What made us so weak and helpless in this pandemic? The answer could depend upon multi-factors. The need of the hour is to upscale R&D in India. Our country is rich in grass root and jugaad innovations, this is the actual moment to bring such innovation into the limelight and to leave behind our dependence on imports especially from foreign countries. Start-ups should be appreciated and encouraged highly as well as special consideration should be given to make these innovations prepared for the global level and meet global standards. The local seed of research should be nourished so that it can grow and developed into a big useful tree.

Post Covid-19, the re-emphasis should be given to self-reliant India more genuinely and practically, Vocal for local should not just remain into slogans, but implemented properly. An entrepreneurial flexible ecosystem should be made for young and innovative researchers so that it makes us to be sufficient to fight with such a crisis and also increase the number of full-time researchers in our country which are considerably less than other developed countries. As we know, R&D is a boon for socio-economic development and it should be harnessed for the betterment of the country. Many reasons come to consideration while we talk about the loopholes in less investment in the R&D sector from private firms. Collaborations with multinational firms or companies should be promoted. One of the main reasons behind facing such a situation is also the negligence towards the sectors which should be on the priority list but they aren’t considered. Do not repeat the mistake that has passed but should learn that investment in health and infrastructure should be on the priority list as well as healthcare staff should be paid enough for their jobs so that they do not go abroad for medical practices. Man force in such sectors should be increased and lack of laboratories or testing inventories should be addressed. A whole health system should be supported that would help us cope up with the pandemic and act as a pillar for a speedy recovery. Development of indigenous technology within the country should be highly promoted.

The pace of recovery would be slow since no other option is left behind but we should not waste this time to just get pass and wait for the challenges that will come across in the post covid-19. The things we are putting on priority can also create an obstacle for implementation since things in the newer normal are different from pre covid-19 era. Research and Development of our country should be cautious & prepared at:

  1. Supporting the entire health system: This pandemic has shaken up the foundation of the healthcare system, it showed us a mirror that how much capable we are in terms of public health, infrastructure, and research in healthcare, etc. The major challenge for R&D in the area would possibly be taking care of the human resources that are bringing more manpower to the health sector and taking care of best in class well-equipped laboratories as well as spending an extra expenditure in this sector should be done.
  2. Providing a shield to affected people: Small sections of our country were most affected by the pandemic so far and some of them have lost their jobs too. More opportunities should be created, Small start-ups must be promoted and vocal for local should be harnessed.
  3. Coping-up with the financial stress: Economic crisis is one of the major challenges for every affected country. All the things were on hold for many days this directly put those sectors on loss who contributes a large part to the economy. Bringing it back to the normal level requires a lot of effort with a good amount of participation from local people and local small scale businesses.
  4. Higher GDP for Scientific Research: Despite being the best in class facilities in our country, why we are dependent on other developed countries for the vaccine? Why the pace of our development is so slow? One major reason is the GDP investment in science and technology. How the quality would match to other countries if there is less funding on this area. Promotion and investment in scientific research will also increase the number of patents which is already a boon for Nations economy and development. Harnessing investment from the private sector in R&D would be a way forward towards new normal.

Proper planning will protect research and development from being affected by any such outbreaks in the future. This pandemic has given us a chance to restructure our country’s research and development sections and also by not repeating the past mistakes we should prioritize things accordingly.

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