Glimpses from 2017

Anumeha Verma
Published: March 2018

A Boost for the Research Community

Annual Research Retreat 2017 charts a course for constructive dialogues

More than 300 doctoral students, 60 doctoral guides and experts from different parts of the globe became a part of the two-day Annual Research Retreat 2017 held at Jain University (JU). This year’s erudite gathering witnessed a number of sessions designed to bring forth the ideas and solutions to challenges faced by researchers belonging to different disciplines.

The inaugural session was graced by Dr. Chenraj Roychand, President, JU, Dr. C.G. Krishnadas Nair, Chancellor, JU and Dr. N. Sundararajan, Vice Chancellor, JU. The inauguration was followed by plenary and concurrent sessions addressing a range of issues. The three plenary sessions explored long standing issues and current topics pertaining to research, education and Indian democracy.

Of late, a question which is ricocheting in the public sphere is if India has become an illiberal democracy. Is the curbing of free speech and expression by happenstance or design? Dr. Ashutosh Varshney, Professor of Social Sciences at Brown University, U.S. dwelled on the topic. “The battle for Indian democracy is only half won. While there is no doubt that India is an electoral democracy, there are other areas in which it is yet to succeed.” Dr. Varshney pointed out that democracy is a sum total of electoral independence, national integrity, social justice and poverty elimination. The score-card of India stands low on many of these benchmarks. In a fight between individual expressions and group sentiments, the freedom of expression is becoming a casualty, preventing India from reaching its optimum potential as a democratic country.

Dr. P. Balaram, former director, Indian Institute of Science (IISc.), Bengaluru, threw light on research and teaching, calling them two sides of the same coin in the second plenary session. He cited the earliest and the latest examples of institutions within and outside the country, where research and teaching have thrived hand in hand. “The Association for Cultivation of Science established by Mahendra Lal Sarkar was one of the first institutions that combined higher education and research. It paved the way for the establishment of institutions such as IISc and IITs.” He coined clarity and transparency in the field of higher education to be a pre-requisite for the ideal scenario where research and teaching, both play their respective roles in developing the society.

The third plenary session was on the prospects and perspectives of higher education in India. The speaker for the session was Mr. S.V. Ranganath, Vice Chairman, Karnataka State Higher Education Council. Higher education is on the constant hot seat. With debates and discussions, revolving around a range of topics from teaching pedagogies used in classrooms to finding remedies for skill gaps, it can be a daunting task to understand the challenges involved. Mr. Rangnath focused on the fundamental issues such as lack of human resources in the field of education and the state of dire neglect where interdisciplinary studies are concerned.

On the first day of the Retreat, the academic sessions gave way to enthralling cultural performances by the research scholars from Department of Dance and Music.

Apart from the plenary sessions by guest experts, the event also featured sessions by eminent academicians from prestigious educational and research institutions. These included a session on nanotechnology by Dr. S.A. Shivashankar, Professor, IISc.; on public institutions by Dr. Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Professor, Azim Premji University; on applied research by Dr. Gopal Naik, Professor, IIM, Bengaluru and a session exploring the links between R&D, society and customers by Mr. V.K. Arora, Director, TCS.

Both days of the Retreat also featured 25 concurrent subject specific sessions where the doctoral students presented their work in progress which was then reviewed by a panel of experts.

The event proved to be a valuable platform for scholars to gain a different perspective on their work in progress. “The Retreat was very educative and informative. The plenary and break-out sessions were really thought provoking,” said Ms. Kothadia Sarita Nalin, a doctoral scholar in Jain Studies.

The annual retreat concluded with a valedictory session addressed by Dr. Baldev Raj, Director, NIAS, Bengaluru who commended Jain University for its endeavours in promoting interdisciplinary research.

 - Anumeha Verma is at present working with Jain University and believes that strategic communication plays a major role in solving development issues.