Government to reduce fellowships awards; plans to launch Nobel-like prize

Eight science and health departments have been requested by the home ministry to reduce the more than 300 awards they now offer and replace them with honors of “high importance” for “truly deserving candidates”. Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, during his meeting with the Secretaries of the Departments of Science and Health, along with the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government, also proposed to create a Nobel Prize-like award for scientists.

The initiative is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s directives to overhaul the entire award ecosystem to promote credibility and confidence by emphasizing openness and fairness during the selection process.

The home secretary has asked the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to continue with the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards, but tweak the monthly honorarium rules by capping it at 15 years.

The Department of Science and Technology, which offers over 200 awards, has been asked to discontinue all private endowments, lectures/scholarships/fellowships and internal awards. With full justification, a new scheme for scholarship/fellowship with suitable honorarium and detailed guidelines along with internal awards has also been asked to be merged into the new initiative.

In May, the home secretary had asked all ministries to rationalize the awards given by them. The Department of Health was asked to “rationalize” the number of Florence Nightingale Nurse Awards given to 51 nurses each year, and to recreate the three awards given by the National Medical Council, including the BC Roy Award, and establish a new award of “High stature”.

The Home Secretary asked the Department of Health Research to cancel 37 awards including 32 Endowment Awards and convert the Calcutta National Medical College (CNMC) Short Term Studentship (STS) Excellence Award into research grant.

He stated that a review meeting will be held soon in this regard by the Prime Minister’s Office. The Ministry of Earth Sciences, the Department of Space and the Department of Atomic Energy have been asked to establish new awards of “very high stature” after scrapping the existing awards.

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