Science, Finance and Innovation

When progressive policy and quality research come together

6 min


Avnish Gaur

This blog is part of a series organised in conjunction with the 19th global development conference.

High-quality research is a sine qua non in India’s journey towards accomplishing its sustainable development goals. This column – an entry in GDN’s 2019 international youth blog competition – highlights the contributions of work recognized under the Indian Parliament’s Speaker’s Research Initiative.

The year 2015 was a landmark for India’s sustainable development campaign for multiple reasons. India submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed the 2030 Agenda Declaration comprising the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and attended the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) where the parties negotiated the Paris Agreement.

But there was another major government initiative in 2015 that did not receive much attention then. This was when the Parliament of India inaugurated the Speaker’s Research Initiative (SRI) to generate high-quality research inputs and make available SDG-related insights and expertise to Members of Parliament (MPs). In retrospect, the contribution of SRI is a sine qua non in India’s journey towards accomplishing its sustainable development goals.

Mechanics of SRI

SRI connects policy-makers with scientists and researchers, providing them with a platform to gain information on issues of national importance, such as climate change, agriculture, and clean water management.

It is a major step towards evidence-based policy-making. The researchers give presentations to MPs on issues of national importance. Enabled with scientific evidence, latest data points, and facts, it allows legislators to take informed and well-thought-out decisions.

SRI conducts its day-to-day work within the Parliament premises. There is a separate body called SRI Cell, which has been created to look after the work pertaining to SRI. It is their responsibility to organize and arrange the workshops, coordinate with the subject experts, and publish the research work conducted under SRI. The members of the SRI Cell are usually senior officers of the civil service.

SRI has its own fellowship and internship program through which it selects research fellows and interns every year. These researchers are selected through a rigorous process and work on the topics decided by the SRI Cell. The cell also helps them in presenting their work to MPs and publishing it for future purposes. But it is worth noting that most of the subject experts who have presented their work were not employed by SRI.

The impact of SRI

Since its inception, SRI has conducted multiple workshops, presentation of research papers and published background notes by subject experts for the MPs. It has resulted in remarkable direct and indirect impact on policy-making. The table below contains a brief estimate of direct quantifiable contributions made by SRI.




Papers presented


Workshops conducted


Background notes published


Scientists/subject experts who participated


Research fellowships

25 per year

Internship opportunities



Apart from the contributions mentioned above, SRI has also published two detailed documents on India’s status with regard to the SDGs and the challenges of implementing them.

Some of the experts who have participated under SRI include Dr Ajay Mathur (Director General of the Energy and Resources Institute), Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala (Chairman, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, NABARD), Madhav Gadgil (Founder, Centre of Ecological Sciences), and Mohandas Pai (Padma Shri Awardee). All of them are renowned in their respective fields for the rigor of their academic training, depth of experience, and subject matter expertise.

Through the workshops that are conducted and papers that are presented to MPs, the researchers draw attention to the key reasons behind major issues and give recommendations for resolving them. This provides the legislators with a better understanding of an important issue rather than a generic idea, so they can work on much more efficient and rapidly implementable solutions.

For example, a paper on Environmental Concerns in India by Dr Ajay Mathur listed key reasons for deteriorating air quality in India and recommended implementing a National Clean Air Program. This was accepted and the program launched within a year of presentation.

Similarly, in a workshop on Challenges and Possibilities in Agriculture, Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala highlighted the core issues plaguing Indian agriculture and recommended increasing credit flow to agriculture. The government brought these changes in the form of the NABARD Amendment Bill and raised the capital of NABARD by a factor of six.

In yet another example, TC James highlighted the opportunity to leverage desalination potential and made a case for investing in R&D for clean water in his paper on Clean Water Management. The next year, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation witnessed its highest budget allocation ever with an increase of 49% over the previous year. Recently, India started work on a new desalination plant in the city that was explored as an option in his research work.

These are just a few examples among numerous cases of change being brought due to the research work highlighted under the aegis of SRI.

Researchers have presented many influential papers on topics related to the SDGs. Although most of the research work presented so far has focused on SDGs 1,2,3,14, and 16, they have had a measurable impact on nearly all the goals since all the SDGs are interlinked. In fact, over the years, four workshops have been conducted solely dedicated to SDGs, including the very first SRI workshop.

Since the establishment of SRI in 2015, India has become much more responsive to climate change and active in its pursuit of the SDGs. This has resulted in significant impact on the ground.

In 2016, India decided to shift directly from BS-IV to BS-VI Emission norms. In 2017, the Transport Minister of India announced an ambitious plan to produce only electric cars from 2030 to curb pollution. And India is set to achieve the INDC goals before schedule. The role of SRI has been instrumental in bringing such a paradigm shift in the government’s approach towards sustainable development.

SRI has also been responsible for causing significant indirect impact in the process of bringing quality research to policy-making. It is important to acknowledge that when policy-makers appreciate high-quality research work, it also gives other scientists a morale boost and encourages them to pursue their field of work with full confidence.

Another major indirect impact of SRI has been bringing together a young generation of motivated researchers through fellowship and internship schemes. Each year, over 100 scholars become part of this initiative through the internship program, which gives them an opportunity to network with subject experts and the scope for implementing their ideas at a large scale.


Despite the numerous contributions made by SRI, it also faces several challenges that it needs to overcome in coming years. To begin with, SRI in its present form is a ‘toothless tiger’. The recommendations presented are advisory and not liable to be implemented. There is no accountability on MPs to give a response to the recommendations proposed under it.

Furthermore, the themes of the workshops don’t follow a defined structure and they are organized on an ‘as required’ basis. This means that a lot of well-documented research goes unnoticed.

Another major challenge that SRI faces is lack of awareness about its internship/fellowship program among students outside the capital city of Delhi. The implication of this is that a lot of bright emerging researchers miss out on a chance to be involved in the program.

The way forward

SRI is a unique initiative that brings researchers and scientists to the forefront of policy-making, thereby improving the quality of debates and discussions within the premises of Parliament. This enables legislators to become much more responsive to current issues by providing them with updated research inputs and insights.

Based on its success, the provinces of India have started implementing their own local version of SRI. Considering the rise of protectionist policies around the world, there is ample scope for similar programs to be initiated in other countries. This will ensure that legislators now have the responsibility and ability to take research-backed and data-driven decisions in order to create long-term positive impact.


Avnish Gaur
MBA student, XLRI Jamshedpur