Home > Education > Riding on the guru’s coattails

Riding on the guru’s coattails

Just read an interesting and passionate post by Pratiksha Baxi on the practice of Indian academia to hire from a closed coterie of students and sycophants. It is indeed fairly common, in fact the practice is not restricted to universities as she seems to suggest. Every appointment I have known at the science research institutes in Calcutta (probably in India, because it’s done by the same lot, but I don’t know most of the inside stories) has been to please someone. The new faculty may have been a PhD student or a post-doc of a member of the selection committee, or a student or post-doc of some bigshot that the institute’s Director wishes to please, but never is a hire made purely on the basis of the quality of work produced by the candidate.

That is not to say that the new hires are necessarily of poor quality — in fact in some cases they are quite good. Sometimes they do well after being hired — the early boost in career can encourage people — but rarely does one see a young scientist striking out and forging new paths. Or even seriously trying to improve the administrative and scholastic environment of the institutes where they are. Which is what is to be expected when a scientist is hired, not on the promise of the future, but on the record of past collaborations.

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