Scientists say that they are in the dark about the move. “Since the rationale for reducing the number of existing awards so drastically isn’t publicly known, it is unclear what problem this was supposed to address,” says biophysicist Gautam Menon at Ashoka University near Delhi.
“We need to understand the rationale behind the scrapping of awards, as well as knowing the proposed vision on how the granting and awarding system will be reformed,” says Vishwesha Guttal, a mathematical ecologist at the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore in Bengaluru.
A former senior science secretary said that the government had decided to review its science awards more than four years ago. But there seems to have been little, if any, follow-up of the initial discussion, which explains scientists’ surprise over the move. Nature contacted several science-department heads about the rationale for scrapping the awards, but none had responded in time for publication.
Adding to scientists’ concerns is the absence of any announcement about the country’s highest science honour, the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar prize — which is awarded by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and usually given on 26 September by the prime minister.