The government of India has introduced the Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar to recognise scientists in four categories — Vigyan Ratna, Vigyan Shri, Vigyan Yuva-Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, and Vigyan Team.
This was announced by Union Minister for Science and Technology Dr Jitendra Singh on Monday.
The release of the final list of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar awardees, which was delayed for a year, has recently taken place. This prestigious award remains the highest honour for young scientists and retains its original name.
The Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar will include four categories of recognition.
Vigyan Ratna will acknowledge the lifetime achievements of scientists, Vigyan Shri will honour distinguished contributions to a specific field, Vigyan Yuva Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar will encourage exceptional young scientists, and Vigyan Team will recognise teams of three or more. These awards will be implemented starting from 2024.
The Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar will be awarded in 13 domains, including Physics, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science, Earth Science, Medicine, Engineering Sciences, Agricultural Science, Environmental Science, Technology and Innovation, Atomic Energy, and Space Science and Technology.
The annual Vigyan Ratna awards will be limited to three categories: 25 Vigyan Shri, 25 Vigyan Yuva, and 3 Vigyan Team. Only the Vigyan Yuva category will have an age limit of 45 years.
Nominations for these awards will be accepted every year from 14 January to 28 February, coinciding with National Science Day. The winners will be announced on 11 May, National Technology Day.
The award ceremony, however, will take place on 23 August, the newly designated National Space Day, to commemorate India's Chandrayaan-3 landing on the Moon.
The selection of awardees will be carried out by a committee chaired by the principal scientific adviser.
The Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar Committee will consist of all secretaries from the six science departments, four presidents selected from science and engineering academies, and six distinguished scientists and technologists from various scientific fields.
Each year, a committee will be formed to oversee the awards, with committee members being ineligible to receive the award during their term.
Initially, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will handle the awards processes for the first two years, after which it will be taken over by the newly established National Research Foundation.
Dr Singh emphasised that the intention was not to discontinue awards, but rather to rationalise them. By reducing the number of awards, the aim is to enhance their prestige and value.
As part of this effort to enhance the significance of the awards, the practice of endowments, where families financed awards in honour of deceased scientists, has been discontinued. This decision was made to ensure that awards are bestowed based on merit and accomplishment.
In the past, various departments awarded a multitude of honours. The Department of Science and Technology alone presented a total of 207 awards, with only four bearing national importance.
Additionally, there were 97 private endowments and 56 internal awards. Other departments, such as the Department of Biotechnology, Department of Atomic Energy, ISRO, CSIR, and the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, each had their respective award programmes, contributing to a complex landscape of scientific recognition in India.
The Rashtriya Vigyan Puraskar is a bold step towards simplifying and elevating the recognition of excellence in the field of science and technology in India, bringing a unified and prestigious approach to celebrating the nation's scientific achievements.
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