Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Article - S.B. Agnihotri

Policy research – the approach of the Centre for Policy Studies, IIT Bombay

S.B. Agnihotri
Head, Centre for Policy Studies, IIT Bombay
IIT Bombay recently set up its Centre for Policy Studies as an independent Academic Unit of the Institute.  This is the culmination of an almost decade-long debate on how to do it, not on whether to do it. The Centre proposes to start a Doctoral programme from July 2017 and a Masters programme from the next academic year, i.e., 2018. In the meantime, it has initiated a monthly “Development discourse series” on topics of current policy interest. It is also proposing to hold an Annual Policy Dialogue every year as a conversation between the technologists and social scientists in the presence of policy practitioners. The theme this year is “Coping with COP 21 – Life after Paris”. The dialogue hopes to bring together different viewpoints together and a publication thereof.

A dialogue between technical and social science disciplines on policy issues is the need of the hour especially when policy issues are increasingly required to appreciate technological dimension of different issues. IIT Bombay has the ability to combine these two strands drawing upon the expertise within the Institute, as well as in collaboration with other Institutions. This approach will inform the research agenda of the Centre in the years to come.

We therefore would like to stay away from a competitive think tank mode and will prefer to work in a collaborative mode. There are areas where more than one institution could combine their individual strengths and create a synergy thereby. Such a hub-and-spoke model, where the Centre is sometimes a hub and sometimes a spoke, will be useful to all stakeholders.

The Centre would like to accord priority to areas where the Institute Faculty has interest and strength. A number of faculty members have opined that they would like to carry out their policy-related research under the aegis of the Centre and not in the individual technical department/Centre. However, to decide inter se priorities in the short and medium terms, the Centre will be guided by the advice of a Committee headed by Dr Kakodkar. Within the Institute too, we propose to follow a hub-and-spoke model with a lean Policy faculty which will collaborate with the faculty in individual domain(s), supported by Post-Doctoral Fellows.

Policy research today requires a credible publication platform. However, it will be a tall order for an individual entity to carry out this exercise. We intend to explore the possibility of an inter-institution effort for a Policy Quarterly, where a given Institute can be the host for one issue. Such collaborative approach is not quite our tradition; we prefer to work in a “Rajput warrior mode,” but the effort is worth a try and can be of help to the emerging Policy discipline. A lead taken by IIT Bombay for such a purpose may probably be accepted by most stakeholders.

These are early days, but we hope this approach will stand all of us in good stead. In the post-truth world, where short cuts may become the flavour of the day, projecting enduring truth through serious research becomes the duty of all of us.

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