The DIPP has announced a new ‘Scheme for Pedagogy & Research in IPRs for Holistic Education and Academia (SPRIHA)’ inviting applications from all universities to host Chairs on IP law. The deadline for applications is March 31, 2018.
This scheme replaces the earlier scheme run by the Ministry of HRD, which was called the Central Scheme of Intellectual Property Education, Research and Public Outreach. The earlier scheme was fairly successful in the field of IP education in the sense that some of these chairs conducted fairly popular distance education programs on IP. However, there was some disquiet regarding the quality of research being generated under the scheme. From what I hear, several of these chairs were also quite dysfunctional in the sense that they had become parking space for some candidates.
The government had constituted a committee of three members to examine the working of the scheme and acting on the recommendations of the committee the DIPP has decided to rework the scheme going forward. The entire scheme can be read here.
To the credit of the DIPP, the new scheme democratizes the entire process by throwing open the process to all universities recognized by the University Grants Commission or the AICTE and institutions affiliated to recognized universities in the area of IPRs. The earlier scheme had instituted chairs only in national law universities or IITs.
The new scheme also dilutes some of the qualification criteria for being appointed as Chair Professors. The earlier criteria made it very difficult for universities to appoint professors. The new qualification criteria basically allows for any academic/scholar of outstanding track record in the designated areas of studies, retired officials from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) or an outstanding professional with established reputation in the field of IPR. The pay for these Chair Professors will be Rs. 1 lakh. Universities also have an option to give the Chair to their existing faculty, as an additional charge but these faculty will be paid only an honorarium of Rs. 25,000. The Scheme also allows for hiring of research assistants and funds for purchasing books, secretarial assistance etc. The budget for organization of workshop conferences, seminar is surprisingly at a paltry Rs. 1 lakh!! How is anybody going to organize a conference in 2018 on a budget of Rs. 1 lakh?
While this new scheme looks better than the previous version, I think we would have been better off, if the DIPP simply launched a research fund for IP research on lines of the scheme being run by the Law Ministry for research into judicial and legal reforms. The Law Ministry scheme basically invites research proposals which are evaluated by an expert panel and then funds are sanctioned for the proposals selected by the panel. Since there is a fixed deliverable in the nature of a report, this scheme has helped generate some research which is made available on the law ministry website. Schemes like this are far easier to administer than the DIPP’s scheme for Chair Professors.
In any event, I do hope this new scheme leads to some good research on Indian IP, that is subsequently made publicly available – a lot of the research from these Chairs isn’t published, which should not be the case with publicly funded research.