Dr. Ajay Bhatish is Deputy Director at Thapar University, Patiala. He believes knowledge creation should be one of the top priority at the University level. He has shared his views on research and how he perceives it at University level.
Question: Tell us about your research interest or any project you have done in the past about which you are proud of?
After I took this administrative position for the last four years, I am not involved in my research on day to day basis, but my students are in. However, I look to research from an institutional perspective nowadays. So, we all have understood if you are a university, knowledge creation should be one of top priority, knowledge creation, and knowledge distribution are some of the key activities which every University should be doing, and we understood this around 15 years ago. Before that, although we were designated University but the cultural change took some time, and we seriously took research around 2005 onwards. If I go back to institutional data of how our research profile improved majorly in terms of sponsored projects, funding or in terms of the number of publications or patents that we have. I regularly review the data based on Scopus although, we have been publishing the last few years. If you look at data every year, we are doing better than last year and at this time in 2018 we published 1100+ research articles in Scopus now, for faculty strength of 420 something this more than 2.5 per faculty which is good by any standard and the other measure on research we have is no of citations. Our citation is also doing well. We have close to 48000 citations and our citation per an article in the last few years are around 8 per article. This is my opinion very good output from the kind of research we are doing as far as our research funding is concerned. We have close to 140 sponsored research project. Some of them are small primarily coming from government bodies, in fact, almost 45 % come from DST which are projects our faculty have won by merit right, they had bid for that project then they had defended their proposal and to be awarded this project. I think at the university level we could be proud of the fact we have that many projects, for faculty strength of 400+ but some of them are not Ph.D., so they are not eligible for sponsored funding so for people who are eligible actually write a proposal (around 300) getting 140 projects this is clearly not a bad result. In fact, this is actually a very good performance. We get close to 8-9 crores of funding every year if you compare with top institutions like they are getting a lot more, but we also have private working space and obviously getting government grant is not easy. Now what we have started to do is although we continue to get ten – Fifteen crores a year from government bodies we have also decided from now we will put a lot of money from our resources to in doing in our research. At this point in time, we have taken a conscious decision to set up six centers for excellence for research. This center for research in collaboration with the top University of the world some university in top 100 in the world, these are in the area of animation and gaming, smart city, big data , frontier materials, food security, advanced manufacturing. We also identified some partner for examples with Trinity College Dublin, similarly for animation and gaming with Trinity college Dublin again, food security with Tel Aviv University Israel they are huge in that area, frontier materials with Virginia tech university USA. Big data and advanced manufacturing are two areas where we are looking for a top industry partners. The model we have developed will be based in Patiala and will be lead by star professor based on partner choice and our choice. In some cases, the star professor would be a chair established by us in those institutions then at both institutions at Thapar University and the partner institution we will have selected number of Ph.D. students in post-docs who will lead research effort in these areas plus the faculty. The broad proposal is each center will have 20 students in post-docs and ten faculty, so a group of 30 -40 people will be doing consistent work in, and this is what we are doing in this research area. We are trying to do and promote research, so I think we have done well in publications and done well in citation and we have done reasonably well in sponsored project, and with this 6 center for excellence coming in where we will put a lot of money from our own resources too, I feel research will be under major upgrade . The focus is completely moving toward research because if you want to be in the top 500 institutions, you need to be well in research areas. Currently, we are at 800 and 1000 in the world ranking nothing to feel very great about it, but relatively there are only 40 Institutions in top 1000 from India, and we are in top 20 of them . If you looked NIRF ranking in 2018, I don’t know in 2019, but in 2018 we were 14th in the India based on research output and some my gut feeling is we will be same because as our university ranking is improved from last year 33 to 27th Rank. I feel research is taking complete leap year after year. One big change happens in last ten year , we have hiring the only faculty which have a Ph.D. and focus in most engineering programs is to hire people with proven research record with Ph.D. from Hawkins Institutions, many of them hired from IIT. We have conducting placement session in IIT for people who have nearing completion their Ph.D. and their research are matching our interest. We directly hire them across IITs. We have hired close to 250 new people in the last five years, and all those 250 make a significant contribution to our research area because they come with their research background and are already exposed to it. They have done some good work and have publication record to match so that why a constant jump has taken place.
Question: Research is a very lonely journey so, how do you relate your research with any of your hobby or any day to day activity
Research, in my opinion, is not a lonesome journey. The best research is those when you work in a group so you have to collaborate with your colleagues like my colleagues who work in different areas and also note this can take place only with graduate and faculty, so if you look like any group, there are three-four students and two -three faculty. So a group of 10 people. It is not that alone, but they are some specific areas individual will be working so, in my opinion, all research activities are not that alone, but they are a group activity.