Need to encourage women researchers
Chukka Ramaiah: Need to Encourage Women Researchers, The human mind is capable of making metaphysical connections between apparently disconnected subjects and concepts.
The human mind is capable of making metaphysical connections between apparently disconnected subjects and concepts. My thoughts often go back from many apparently different fields to search their relevance to education and societal progress. So, be it news about the percentage of women given tickets in the coming elections or about the nonchalant comments of ‘men being men’ or ‘boys being boys’ and how such remarks inadvertently make our ‘dark culture statement’ and reveal the persistently strong chauvinistic tendencies, I find a solution to all the ills in proper education .We can have better insights, enjoy a holistic vision instead of our ‘tunnel’ vision, by providing equal opportunities for all in education, empowering ourselves as a nation by availing ourselves of the ‘other perspective’ which the other half of the brain can offer as a complement to all the research and findings being churned out by the ‘male’ side, being used now as if that were all to say and know! In the “Artha Narishwara” ideal or the perfect complementing of the left and right brains, we are all the poorer for having neglected the ‘nari’ half’s positive contribution in governance, education, economy, management and all big fields.
A study conducted by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and the National Institute of Science and Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS), has revealed that of the total indexed research projects, female scientists exclusively contribute a meagre 3.4 per cent research. Woman scientists work in small teams and have very less international collaborative papers. They publish in low impact factor and domestic journals and also are cited less as compared to their male counter parts, according to reliable reports.
True, our national allocation of funds for research and development is a meagre 3.7% as against the healthy figures from the advanced countries, our university research units are given a step-motherly treatment with industrial research grabbing a lion’s share from the total budget allocation, our women face many untold barriers to break the ceiling, our society’s mental makeup as well as the conditions provided at the workplaces are ‘male centric’ and if the dropout rate of girls is high at the secondary school levels, it is higher at the terminal level of R& D.
Some of the university professors with whom I spoke on this issue were of the opinion that evaluation of women’s research activities on the same grounds as that of men is a detrimental factor. Women are often discouraged as their work is compared to the work done by men who are able to take off from family responsibilities. If instead of quantity, quality of the work done is taken into consideration more women may come forward to take up research. Often women give up research as the labs are not considered safe for them to work late hours. If research guides are not sensitive to gender issues and tend to take advantage of their position, women will never be able to take up research.
If women are encouraged to use labs and libraries as per their convenience they will be able to achieve commendable results. Periodic objective assessment by peer groups instead of a single research guide can be encouraging. Unless there is a drastic restructuring of the way academic research is conducted, such as encouraging part-time work, funding smaller labs, encouraging collaborations and lab-sharing, and a fundamental change in attitudes of how researchers are evaluated and rewarded, women may not be able to take up meaningful research. I have some other points to consider, for improving our quality of research in general and for broadening our research objectives so as to bring social transformation. For reaping the fruits of quality research, the seeds of interest and enthusiasm should be sown at the undergraduate level itself by senior professors taking time to address the youth and enlighten them on the latest findings in the respective fields and of the need as well as opportunities for advancing further. This orientation, in fact, it is like sowing the seeds which may sprout later when they are nourished further in the post graduate programmes.
Further, we must acknowledge that research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) area is not the only research which sustains our world. Quality research in Social sciences, journalism, education, communication, human behavior and other related fields is like the mortar which binds the bricks in our social structure. Mere laws cannot and will not change our world. Implementation and effective enforcement of all laws against discrimination is possible only through cultural transformation, through knowledge dissemination, convincing the public on social problems and I affirm that women must be encouraged to do such essential research in its true sense that is capable of creating awareness and an awakening.