Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Indian Universities - Rankings

Just like the status of India in the world of football (SOCCER, yet to fly their flag @FIFA); the Indian universities are yet to make any mark in the academic world. Why.. why.. why is it that none of the Indian academic institutes have made it to appear in world's top 200 rankings; consistently in the past 3-years. The idea of this post is to bring out the bare facts and also to offer my own personal views for this pathetic show in the academic arena. Arena???, is it a good word, are we saying that the academicians need to be in a race; while many people shrug aside this topic calling it to be a meager "rat race". No, its a measure of where does the institution stands in imparting education and performing research, in a way it reflects on the worthiness of everything; YES, it is indeed to make one realize whether the students one trains, after all have to enter the ARENA and hence the correct word.

Ranking: Weightage Factors
Credit : TIMES higher education rankings
As we wind up the year 2013 (today being the last day); we learned 2-reports, first, the Indian Universities faring badly among the BRICS countries; next, a miserable performance among the World Rankings. Lets analyze the first work done by the TIMES higher education UK group in gauging the academic institutions among the FIVE (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) major emerging national economies. The assessment seems to have been based on four major issues (complete details):  While 1. teaching (30%), 2. research (30%), 3. citations (30%) carry a large chunk, the remaining 10% is calculated upon the industry income and international outlook. In addition, there were 13-carefully calibrated performance indicators; trusted by students, academicians and industry and governments. There is a minimum bar of around 200-published papers an year starting from 2007 and the institutions must teach undergraduate programs; with few exceptions permitted.

Coming back to what Indian universities have done among BRICS: while China grabbed 4-slots among the top-10 (including 1st, 2nd); Punjab University was placed at rank-13 (we are NOT averse to this number!!). The other institute to represent India is IIT-Khargapur standing long long away at 30. There are 6-more institutes (so, 8-among 50) within the 50-bracket; the notable one being Jadavpur university at 47 and Aligarh at 50.

What can we say about this performance:
Lets get some opinion from Phil Batey, editor, Times Education Higher Rankings, UK; as per his interview appearing in the Hindu, he attributes the no.1 slot for Peiking university is primarily due to research impact and industry income along with an excellent teaching credentials. As per Batey, the Chinese government made a significant effort starting from 1990 and pushed for a few number of highly specialized universities into world class level by pouring a significant amount of grants in developing infrastructure and research facilities (Is anybody listening ???). The decision, a political, but very aggressively followed in attracting the reverse brain drain by offering a variety of incentives to the students, faculty coming back to their motherland. While the Punjab university seems to have done exceptionally well due to their research program; which is "globally potential". Commenting on the poor performance of IITs, Batey says IITs lag on research front. He also mentions very categorically that the funds flow towards education is poor in India and hence a poor set of infrastructure in all the educational institutes. Some other good universities were not appearing in the list as they had not participated in their ranking procedures (e.g. Delhi University).

My views:
The simple logic of "what you sow is what you reap" is applicable. As Mr. Batey pointed out, the other developing countries who have made it big are the ones who have spent an enormous amount. It is interesting to come up with the actual numbers spend based on GDP among the BRICS. Though the recruitment procedures are very fair at the central universities and at the IITs in attracting bright researchers from abroad and within the country; what has been noticed is that of terrible deterioration in the research performance of these young faculty after joining. It is absolutely clear that the major reason behind this phenomenon is due to poor infrastructure on pursuing research mixed with many other non-academic reasons which will kill the remaining enthusiasm. While, the lack of funding is playing a detrimental role in the fall of quality research in India, the drying up of faculty strength is another crucial factor in the dwindling scenario of university output. There is a huge uncertainty in the governments to last their 5-year terms; and hence very few long term plans are envisaged in setting up of a esteemed places of higher education.

Can we not identify universities of excellence which can offer world class teaching along with cutting edge research, the ISERS is a good move in this direction. Let us reinforce IITs on their research front; let there be few faculty who are taking less burden of teaching, but performing research alone (assessed by an independent body). No point in spending a fortune on attracting one type of fellowship (calling noble laureates); instead we can call many without the tag. Let there not be an aversion on PRIVATE universities (they are the ones who sent the first probe into the space), if they are bringing competitiveness let us have them into the foray; after all the new entrants need to be wary; not the other way round.

On the occasion of 60th formation day of UGC, Prof. C. Raj Kumar, vice chancellor of  O.P. Jindal Global university has come with a good discussion (the Hindu) on "Building better Universities". While very first table showcases a pathetic show of Indian universities NOT appearing in the top-200 ranks all along the the years 2011, 2012 and 2013; at the same time China, Japan and South Korea taking 4-5 slots on an average among the lists of various bench markings. Raj Kumar has gone in greater depth of the working model of UGC; his comment " The current framework that require universities to be constantly regulated by laws, rules, regulations, guidelines and policies set by the government and the regulatory bodies have not produced the best results".  He emphasized on the issues of quality and accountability which need to be ensured by the regulating body (read UGC). As per this article; India in the pursuit of enhancing the education base (Gross Enrollment Ratio) has some how lost in spending on the research and scholarships.

Bottom line,   Issues to be debated: 
  • How can we enhance investment in Higher education
  • Better ways and means to attract the reverse brain drain
  • Opening the gates for the foreign players (less averse to Private parties)
  • With the given situation; how to improve the standards (lessons from Punjab Univ.)
  • Where should the buck be stopping?? ... Student - Faculty - VC- UGC...........
  • Lack of Industry participation in research
  • ----------
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N.B.: Here is the: Indian Universities World Rankings 

Another blow to the Indian Educational system; Sept-2014
Here is another news appearing just now : LINK, that the findings of QS-World University Ranking system finds IIT-Bombay holding the best representation from India.... at 222; while few universities (Delhi Univ., Calcutta Univ.) managing to be in the 420-440 range.

Times Ranking-2015... India improves; Dec-2014
India does well... on the expected lines; their top research institute, IISc (Indian Institute of Science) grabs 25th rank into the BRICS league... here are the other Indian institutes....

Credit : Times of India

QS Rankings -2015 by subject:
Indian universities stood up in the subject-wise rankings brought out by the same agency (reference: QS Rankings) where Indian institutions failed miserably as a whole.

Listed here are the 9-institutions from India, which grabbed under-100 rankings subject wise..

1. IIT Bombay:  Art & design, computer science, & information systems, engineering-chemical, civin & structural, electrical & electronic, mechanical, aeronautical & manufacturing, materials science, statistcs & operational research  

2. IIT Delhi:  Computer science & information systems, engineering-chemical, civil stuctural, electrical & electronic, mechanical, aeronautical & manufacturing  

3. IIT Kharagpur:  Engineering-civil & structural, mechanical, aeronautical & manufacturing, material science

4. IIT Madras:  Engineering-civil &structural, electrical & electronic, mechanical, aeronautical & manufacturing  

5. Indian Institute of Science:  Electrical & electronic, materials science  

6. IIT Kanpur:  Statistics & operational research  

7. Jawaharlal Nehru University:  Sociology  

8.Shanmugha Arts Science Technology:  Art & design 

9. University of Delhi:  Development studies

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Heavy Metals (??) on Moon by CHACE (Chandrayaan-I)

Have we found heavy metals on Moon ??

With an introduction to the present post, lets start with LADEE, then we will move over to the topic of identification of heavy metals (?) on the moon; the observations made by CHACE CHandra's Altitudinal Composition Explorer, a quadrupole spectrometer) during the Moon Impact Probe Mission  (MIP) of Chandrayaan-I (Ch-I). The sole purpose of this blog is to highlight a recent note published in Current Science; on the observation of two prominent amu (atomic mass unit) peaks at 80 and 94.

The CHACE observations were made during the very first phase of actions taken having got the Chandrayaan-I (Ch-I into 100 X 100 km polar orbit on 14th November, 2008. In a way, these were the very first set of experiments performed during the Ch-I project; while all the other payloads (instruments) were kept in hibernation. The Moon Impact Probe (MIP got separated from the mother space craft, Ch-I near the northern pole of the moon and had a 22-minute descend journey before having an impact near the south pole at Shackleton crater. The CHACE, a most ambitious and carefully planned scientific instrument worked exactly, may be a less justified word, and collected around 300-mass spectra covering 1-100 amu (atomic mass unit). The peak at amu-18 (water), standing tall like the Statue of Liberty in front of NY city was mark of jubilation to the CHACE team on 14th Nov.-2008. The present post is to bring in some light on the fag end of 60-100 amu CHACE observations in view of LADEE being sent to the Moon by NASA.

As NASA calls it Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, LADEE, pronounced like "laddie"  (taken from NASA site). LADEE was launched on 6th September, 2013; a robotic mission to study the lunar atmosphere; and/or environmental influence on the lunar dust. Strange, but true; the dream of a group of scientists (the author was one among them) at ISRO was also  the same while the Moon Impact Probe mission was getting conceptualized (2003); to sample the lunar "environment" during the descend mission of MIP in Ch-I. The three instruments of LADEE are: 1. UV/Visible Light Spectrometer, 2. Neutral Mass Spectrometer and 3. Lunar Dust Experiment, the LADEE hopes to study the density, composition of lunar environment. A 100-day science mission is anticipated in an orbit ranging between 20-60 kms. 

As mentioned in the introduction;  CHACE had acquired 1-100 amu range spectra sampling the lunar ambiance during the 22-minutes of MIP descend till it had an impact near the lunar southern pole. We succeeded in our first publication on discovery of water with a laborious period of convincing the international scientific community for ONE year and 4-months (March-2010); the second paper describing a large chunk of data appeared in August-2010. 

We have just got a paper published in Indian journal Current Science on the heavy species observed by CHACE in 60-100 amu. The CHACE spectra also had shown some striking features on appearance of high mass peaks at 77, 78, 79; however the species at amu=80 and 94 were very pronounced. A sample spectrum at an altitude of 100 km in the 60-100 amu range is shown here.

CHACE Spectra; 60-100 amu
(Credit: Current Science, 1470, 105, 2013)

Unlike earth, any particle in the lunar ambiance is known to have the surface boundary exosphere (SBE); meaning that the particles may not be having any collisions and each species is characterized by its own SBE. So, in a way, any identification of sampled species during the descent journey of MIP reflects the elemental presence of those species on the ground.

What are amu nos. 80, 94 ??
Since these are FIRST of its kind measurements; it is very interesting to get an answer for this question. THESE COULD BE ELEMENTS OR COMPLEX MOLECULES. Elemental because the path traversed by MIP was over the KREEP region and hence could be of rare earth category. However, we all look forward to LADEE picking up these and many more species upto 150 amu.  

I like to draw your attention to my blog on the Indian instrument, CHACE, which has observed for the FIRST TIME EVER the lunar daytime composition