Director's Message (2023-2024)
The tenth edition.
This year started with the trepidations of an uncertain Covid-laden future. Fortunately, with the systems we had put in place last year, systematic and deliberate restrictions on crowding and social interactions in closed rooms, and calibrated loosening of such restrictions as advised by our in-house saliva-based screening strategy, we were able to move to a fully functional campus with little or no restrictions by late July. Now we have returned to a pre-covid state where on-campus meetings and travel for in-person meetings are becoming the norm. The zombie days are over, but I hope we will revert to a more carbon footprint-friendly state with a reasonable mix of online and in-person activities. While it will take us years to get over the trauma imposed by social isolation and repair the fissures in mind and body politic created by the pandemic, it is very important that we engage fully with a wonderful set of new colleagues in the faculty and as Early Career Researchers who joined us last year. Our campus culture is also about building deep social bonds as we pursue our science and help shape the campus.
Here I would like to hail the establishment of the BLiSC Early Career Researcher Council (BLiSC ECRC) and welcome Abrar and Simran as the founding members of this Council, leading over 20 members who now represent every nook where early career researchers may inhabit. Their work has already started making an impact for the better; happy Fridays are back again! They are helping to address issues that will ensure a more inclusive campus by creating a more collegial and involved campus. They also have a space in this annual report to talk about their activities (see page 108). In fact, this issue is dedicated to the life and times of our ECRs on our campus. This report is also the maiden effort of our new Communication officer, Sonal Katyal, with great support from Uma Ramakrishnan, our Head of Communications, Outreach and Development. I heartily welcome Sonal to the campus to create new ways of generating more momentum on our scientific communication channels and public engagement, and I wish her all success.
I would also like to extend a warm welcome to GN Devy (https://news.ncbs.res.in/spotlight/bringing-science-history-social-scien...), the current Obaid Siddiqi Chair in the History and Culture of Science (https://archives.ncbs.res.in/OS), at the Archives@NCBS, and simultaneously bid farewell to MD Madhusudhan our first Chair. Madhu provided a wonderful start as the inaugural Chair, made possible by generous support from TNQ Technologies Pvt Ltd (TNQ). I remain grateful to Mariam Ram (Chairperson, TNQ) for her tremendous support for science and also for believing in keeping the vision of Obaid alive and vital in these trying times. Almost as an endorsement of our faith in the archives and the tireless efforts of the Head Archivist, Venkat Srinivasan, Arcadia Foundation has also generously supported a program on documenting the Contemporary History of Science in India, ensuring the stability of our archives for some time.
Adding to the wide gamut of science that is our bread and butter (see Report of Scientific Research, page 19) over the past year, NCBS has also spearheaded many efforts that reflect our capacity to pivot towards a more translational direction where indicated. NCBS continues as a member of the Biodiversity Collaborative, a collective of like-minded institutions working towards a National Mission on Biodiversity and human wellbeing. Thanks to the effort of Jayashree Ratnam, we now anchor a new consortium dedicated towards Wildlife and Conservation, this consists of Nature Conservation Fund (NCF), Wild Life Conservation Society (WCS) - India as main partners, and the Habitat Trust as well as the Wildlife Conservation Trust as supporters. A renewed alliance with the WCS-New York is also helping us with our Wildlife Biology and Conservation Master’s program, and we are grateful for this support. Our long experience (since 2004) with this program has given us a model for creating future Master's initiatives that we at NCBS can uniquely offer, drawing on our practice of Life science at the frontiers of this discipline. NCBS is a founding member of the Bengaluru Science and Technology (BeST) Cluster, a new initiative of the Principal Scientific Advisor’s office to link all geographically localized S&T centers to enhance their ability to solve societal problems with the application of deep S&T.
I would like to report a series of changes at the Bangalore Life Science Cluster (BLiSC). We are delighted that the Tata Institute of Genetics and Society (TIGS; led by Rakesh Mishra), an initiative of the Tata Trusts, has become the newest member of our cluster. At inStem, the current director Apurva Sarin has superannuated, and we now welcome its new director, Maneesha Inamdar, who is no stranger to our campus and joins us from across the street from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research. I wish her all success. Once again, with the growing attractiveness of this life science ecosystem that strives for excellence in basic and discovery science (NCBS, inStem), creating a translational ecosystem (inStem, TIGS) that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship (CCAMP), there is a lot celebrate for the future.
As India turned 75 this last year and considering the atmosphere of divisiveness that is pervading our country, I feel that we have been able to chart an alternative path in embracing our diversity. Diversity, both in our aims and aspirations of our institutions and in the individuals who work on this campus, characterizes our campus. This will help overcome the significant challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead institutionally, and enable, in a small corner of India, the kind of world in which we wish to live. Finally, this is my tenth and last note in these pages. So, as I bid adieu, I would like to welcome my successor, Professor LS Shashidhara. It has been my privilege to serve as the NCBS Director for all these years, and I hope my successor will also enjoy the extraordinarily strong support that I have relied on and received. May we continue to strive for excellence in science and preserve a culture of creativity and inclusivity that our campus has always symbolized.