ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Social Science Research

Harsh Sethi’s article (‘Social Science Research: Dark Days Ahead’, September 30) raises important questions on the role of our research institutions. Although his article is primarily concerned with ICSSR institutes, the same issues confront non-ICSSR institutes. As he points out, it is clear enough today that these institutions cannot continue to function in an autonomous sphere with guaranteed funding from the government and claiming a high degree of respect. The money will have to be acquired, the respect will have to be earned. In other words, we have to re-convince our constituencies that such research is, indeed, needed and the institutions deserve support. Where is the catch? One might be a duality of objectives. The financial situation is such that it is accepted as an unpalatable truth that sponsors are needed, and hence that the research must be of relevance to someone.

Just to illustrate the point, consider the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). The ratio of government to non-government funding in the 1960s and 1970s was roughly 60:40. In the period 1980-81 to 1989-90, this ratio had altered to become 39:61. Of the 61 per cent coming from non-government sources, 37 per cent came from domestic industry, and 25 per cent from international donors. In the period 1990-91 to 1993-94, the contribution of government fell to a little under 30 per cent, and that of industry to 17 per cent while international agencies now provided 53 per cent (NCAER Annual Report 1993-94, p 1). Taking the period 1990-91 to 1998-99, the ratio now stands at 32:68. Of the 32 per cent from government, 6 per cent came from the public sector. Of the non-government funding, 8 per cent represented domestic private sector, and the balance 60 per cent was from international organisations. The result of this change in sources of funding is that today the assured funds that NCAER receives from the government and returns on an endowment fund together constitute less than 10 per cent of annual expenses (NCAER Annual Report 1998-99, p 9).

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