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Achieving academic excellence

Academic excellence, Highest standards, Quality research

‘Academic excellence’ is a buzzword of modern academics. However, achieving this in real sense is a tough task. Throughout the globe few institutes (viz. NASA in US, Max Planck institute in Germany, Pasteur Institute in France, IITs in India, etc) have earned the reputation of benchmark in ‘science & technology’. Not all institutes can do it. It will be interesting to investigate, what makes it possible for an institute to earn academic excellence. Excellence in science education and research is a multifaceted process. Follows short comments on major factors which contribute to academic standing of any organization.

• Intrinsic talent: This refers to intellectual capacity of the personnel recruited by the institute. Higher their level of motivation, commitment and knowledge, better is the probability of the institute achieving excellence.
• Hard work: Scientific research by its very nature is labour-intensive. It demands long hours of physical as well as mental involvement in the laboratory. Readiness of the employees to work beyond normal working hours is a prerequisite to academic excellence, as suggested by Vikram Sarabhai- “Stretch your working hours”.
• Discipline: Chaos at the workplace is a major hurdle to be overcome. Efficient administration and smooth working is possible only if discipline is at the heart of all concerned. Discipline is not only about coming on time and proper documentation, it is also about thoughtful use of laboratory resources, and doing work in a planned manner.
• Training and guidance: In science, all information is not available in books. Many of the ‘tricks of the trade’ need to be passed from seniors to the novice. Operating sophisticated instruments is quite a task. If required, institute must arrange training for its staff in other advanced laboratories.
• Facilities for work: Forming a good idea/proposal is the first step, but to materialize the idea, or to test a hypothesis, sufficient lab facilities are must. Institutes must aim at replacement of obsolete equipments with those of modern type.
• Encouragement: Experiments in science tend to run long. A young researcher may need appropriate dosage of encouragement from his colleagues or mentor at regular intervals, especially when his/her experiments are failing. After all, failing of experiments is a frequent phenomenon in science labs.
• Examples set by others: If somebody else in past has yielded quality research from the same lab facility, those working currently in the very lab can take his example as a moral-booster. Good examples set by the laboratory head himself with respect to austerity, discipline, proficiency, hard work, punctuality, etc. are likely to make the environment more conducive for quality research.
• Interaction with senior scientists of proven worth: All reputed institutes keep on regularly inviting stalwarts of their field, so that their staff can interact with the greats and possibly learn few useful tricks.
• An atmosphere where the pursuit of knowledge is given the utmost importance: At any place distractions are not less in number. An atmosphere has to be created so as not to allow the distractions/distracters to exert their effect. All other activities which may be amusing or entertaining but not helping achieving excellence have to be avoided in interest of ‘pursuit of knowledge’. Once habituated to such a positive atmosphere, a person will automatically learn how to avoid/overcome the lures of various distractions.
• An environment where the highest standards are maintained: When excellence is to be achieved, just being good is not enough, it requires to be at the best. Being one of the bests is only possible when highest standards with respect to ‘good scientific practice’, honesty, discipline, punctuality, etc. are maintained. Maintaining high standards may sometime demand tough decisions, indifference to popularity, and removing wrong people who may be spoiling institutes atmosphere, etc., this demand has to be met. In words of JRD Tata- “Productivity and efficiency can be achieved only step by step with sustained hard work, relentless attention to details and insistence on the highest standards of quality and performance.”
Published: 2009-10-03
Author: vijay kothari

About the author or the publisher
I am a microbiologist, acting as an Assistant Professor in Science with Nirma University. My current research is focused on natural products.

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