75 Indian diaspora scientists to return to India under new fellowship scheme

Approximately 75 scientists from the Indian diaspora are expected to come back to India within the next three years, engaging in various science and technology initiatives through the government’s recently introduced fellowship program, which has a budget of approximately Rs 80 crore. The first batch of 22 fellows have already been selected and are expected to join the institutes in April this year.

The scheme – Vaishvik Bharatiya Vaigynaik (Vaibhav) – launched by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has concluded its initial call for proposals and is now announcing the second call. This invitation extends to scientists of Indian origin actively involved in research at recognized foreign institutes for at least five years. The aim is to encourage collaboration with esteemed institutions or universities, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), within India.

The participating scientists will need to allocate 1-2 months each year, for a maximum of three years, and will receive an annual grant of Rs 4 lakh ($4,800). Although they can take temporary leave to work in India, a consent letter from their home institute is mandatory. The fellowship includes coverage for their international travel from the home institute to India once a year, as well as fully-furnished local accommodation for two months. Additionally, they will receive Rs 1 lakh per year for research expenses in India and support for domestic travel to various institutes within the country.

“We have received about 302 proposals when we made the first call last year, out of which 22 proposals have been shortlisted, and would be given the award letters soon. Hopefully, we can expect them to join their respective institutes after April,” says Dr Charu Agarwal from the Department of Science & Technology (DST).

The ministry will extend financial assistance of up to Rs 5 lakh per year for three years to the institute overseeing the fellow’s research endeavours. Despite the fellow’s physical presence being limited to two months annually, the institute is responsible for completing the project within three years.

The scientists are selected on the basis of a research proposal to be submitted by the host institute they intend to collaborate with. All the funds would also be released to the institute which will disburse it to the fellow. While the fellowship is open for all areas under Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics as well as Medicine (STEMM), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Data Science have garnered the maximum interest.

“It is a good opportunity for our scientists working abroad to collaborate with their local counterparts on projects which can be of tremendous value to both. The Indian diaspora has access to new innovations and futuristic technology that they can share with the students here, and at the same time, get an opportunity to build their network and collaborate on research publications. It’s like giving back to the country in a way. A win-win situation for all,” says Dr Agarwal from the International Co-operation Division at DST.

Certain areas are being given precedence in alignment with the government’s scientific missions. The government has introduced various scientific missions, such as the National Quantum Mission, National Supercomputing Mission, and Deep Ocean Mission. The objective is to involve the Indian diaspora in projects associated with these missions, ultimately enhancing their impact and cultivating the essential human resources for sustained development.

The government wants to pick around 75 scientists from different countries based on their research ideas, which could also help Indian researchers. In the first round last year, they received 302 proposals, and 22 were chosen for various areas of study. The second round, which started in January, will review applications until March 15th.

Scientists from several countries, including the US, Sweden, Norway, Australia, Singapore, Japan, and the UK, have applied during the first call, according to the officials. However, the maximum applications are from scientists in the US and Canada who are keen to engage with local institutes.

A group of experts from various ministries, covering earth sciences, new and renewable energy, health, electronics, and IT, reviews the proposals. The final selection is then made by a top committee. This fellowship is available to all Non-resident Indians (NRIs), persons of Indian Origin (POIs), and Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) currently working outside the country.


Image source: Getty Images

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