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Research and Morality

"You may not be able to do a great research, but you can always become a nice person."

The life of a researcher is a privileged one. Not only a researcher earns a decent salary, he/she does so by developing deeper understanding of existing things and discovering new things. However, with a privileged life, comes a big responsibility. First of all, let us acknowledge the fact that mere desire to do research is not enough to be able to conduct a world class research. A researcher requires a lot of facilities, which requires huge investment. Can a researcher arrange such facilities on his/her own? Certainly not!
IITG is run by tax payers' money. It is the people of India who are paying the cost of every facility in IITG. Be it salary of all the teaching and non teaching staffs or the teaching assistantship of the students or the cost of infrastructure, every cost is paid by the money of tax payers. Most of these tax payers have even never visited any of the IITs, forget whether anyone from their families have ever got direct benefit from any of the IITs.
How would we feel if we support an orphan to get education? How many of us are actually supporting others to get education? Are we really conscious of the fact that we at IIT Guwahati are supported by the people of India? They hope that with their support we not only would do good to ourselves but we would also contribute a lot to the society. Do we think about this while conducting our research? Do we think about this fact when we search for a job? Unfortunately majority of us do not think. When we see the acknowledgments in a Master thesis or a PhD thesis, many people (Advisor, friend and family members) are acknowledged but I have not seen a student acknowledging the common men of India without their support this Institute would not have ever existed.
If one sponsors the education of a poor student who is otherwise unable to get education, the least expectation would be that the student becomes a nice person. Else the sponsor would feel cheated. The same is true for us as well. We would be no position to do research if it was not the generous support from the people of India. Being a nice person is the least expectation from the entire people associated with this Institute. I will not try to define the qualities of a nice person; I believe that we all share more or less same common notion about it. However, as a nice person what should we do in this Institution and afterwards? I will present a few thoughts in this regard.

  1. It is a legitimate desire to expect more and more from the Institution. We should get better salary, better stipend, better lab faculties, and better cooperation from the authorities etc. However, apart from our high expectations we must also ask the question: what are we contributing? In our so many years of stay at IITG, have we made any contribution that we can be proud of? Irrespective of whether one is a teaching/non teaching staff or a student, there is always so much scope for positive contribution. 15 Research & Spirituality We must give our best if an opportunity is present in front of us. In this regard, I admire the research scholars forum volunteers. Their activities have already started to make a difference.
  2. The responsibilities do not end with passing out from the Institute. While searching for a job, one should not only look for a job which has better salary and better individual career growth but also whether the job provides enough opportunity to contribute to the society.
  3. It is not enough not to indulge in corruption. We should also oppose corrupt practices whenever we notice. It is specially expected from the students to strongly oppose corruption wherever they observe. Young people should be more idealists. It is not difficult to observe the wastage of resources. The public money should be spent as if it is our own hard earned money.
  4. We need to work together to evolve a better system which is transparent and friendly. There should be a lot more automation. We should use the technology more and more to save our time. There should be a lot more check and balances in the system so that the corrupt people do not find their ways. For example, there should be more student representation in most of the committees. The proper selection criteria for the member selection for the committees should be made so that there is more participation of honest and capable people. The present nomination based system creates nepotism and non transparency

Dr. Brijesh Kumar Rai
Assistant Professor, EEE Dept., IIT Guwahati
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