WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A SCHOLAR AT THE CENTRE FOR ECOLOGICAL SCIENCES, IISC?

Updated by CES faculty Feb. 2024

Definition of the term ‘scholar’:  scholar includes IISc-enrolled students at all levels, including UG, MSc, PhD. Scholars also include post-docs and research staff (e.g. JRF, PA).

Goal: This document aims to provide some general guidelines and expectations for all scholars at CES. Although there may be some lab-specific differences, CES has some minimum expectations from all scholars. 

Guiding philosophy

Scholarly work must be shared with the world. The broad goal of CES faculty is to conduct high quality research and teaching, and to offer a supportive lab environment for training and mentoring scholars for their research. Each faculty, their style of functioning and their expectations, is unique. Likewise, each scholar is also unique, with their own set of expectations and style of studying and working. Ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship between faculty and scholars is crucial for the success of both. This requires an understanding of each other’s expectations as well as that of the academic system, which has its own demands of both scholars and faculty. While there are no off-the-shelf toolkits to address unique situations and challenges that each mentor-mentee may face, this document tries to put the broad principles of CES that are beyond the scope of standard academic requirements of IISc. 

FAQs

1)  Do I need to publish papers?

Absolutely. Although publications in peer-reviewed journals are not a formal requirement to graduate from IISc (with a UG / MSc / PhD degree), it is a general expectation of research scholars. As a government-funded Institution, peer-reviewed publication of our research is our obligation to the public and scientific community. Together with your efforts, your research is supported by time and funds invested in you by the institution and your supervisor. Publication represents the culmination of this research and should be seen as a part of your contract with the institute and society. Additionally, funding agencies and IISc consider research publications as important deliverables. 

Scholars are urged to publish their work within a reasonable time frame, as delaying publications hurts the prospects of future funding for the lab and the future career of the scholar. Delaying publication also makes it harder for the PI and the scholar to revisit the data, analyse it and write it up.

High-quality publications are also necessary to pursue your own careers, especially in the field of research. Thus, we strongly encourage you to submit thesis chapters to journals before thesis submission, or at minimum, to write them as manuscripts that can readily be submitted to journals. Even for scholars who are not students at IISc, contributing towards publications is an important expectation.

2) Who owns my data or knowledge produced? 

Data ownership is context, funding and field-dependent – the rights and responsibilities of the scholars and the supervisor need to be discussed on a case-by-case basis. In general, CES operates on the principle that ownership of data, codes and information is shared by the supervisor(s) and scholars who make a substantial contribution to the project. More formally, in terms of IP ownership, the data, codes, etc., usually belong to the Institute. But there could be funding-specific and field-specific conditions as well. You are encouraged to discuss this with your supervisor, if you have any questions. 

Note: The copyright of your thesis (UG, MS, PhD) belongs to you (as per clause 6.3 of IISc IP Policy.) 

3) What is CES’s policy on data accessibility?

CES strongly encourages data to be made open-access upon publication. This is in accordance with most journals which require data to be submitted to open repositories upon acceptance of the manuscript. In addition, many granting agencies and forest departments expect data and research outputs to be deposited with them at the end of the project. 

4) If I do not publish all my thesis chapters before I graduate, what happens to my papers?

If a scholar leaves the institution (or does not complete their PhD within 5/6 years) and has not submitted manuscripts related to their research within a reasonable time stipulated by the supervisor, the supervisor may take the lead in publishing. The window of time (which could be as short as 3 months) depends on various factors, including obligations to granting agencies. This may mean a reordering or addition of authors depending on the work remaining and who takes the lead on manuscript completion. If the scholar contributed substantially to the data collection process and/or analysis, the scholar will retain authorship on that paper. 

5) Do I need to write grants to support my research?

There are some national and international grants that students can apply to, and we encourage all scholars to raise their own funding if possible. If you are a student, you and your supervisor must determine a strategy to fund your research plans. This may include your supervisor submitting larger grants to support broader research plans in the lab, including your own. Often, supervisors and students collaboratively conceive of grant ideas and jointly write grants, but most Indian government grants (DBT, DST, CSIR, etc) will only list faculty as PIs of the grant. Irrespective of who contributed to the grant, from the point of view of the funding agency, both rights and responsibilities of the grant eventually rests with the person(s) who are formally listed as the PI(s). 

Raising research funds is one of the most important skills for a scientist. Hence, all students are encouraged to participate in conceptualizing and writing grant proposals with their supervisors. Scholars can list their role in grant writing on their CVs. Additionally, the PI usually acknowledges the scholar’s contribution in recommendation letters.

7) Who gets the research funds if the grant is successful?

If the grant money is routed through IISc, as is the case with most grants, the responsibility of executing the grant goes to the PI. If the scholar makes a significant contribution to the grant proposal, they are typically involved in executing the project. Grants that are submitted with the scholar as the PI belong to the scholar for exclusive use for the research activities listed within, as per the funding agency norms; however, many grants or IISc may require that the faculty adviser also act as the financial supervisor of the grant. 

8) Do I need to teach classes?

IISc has a mandatory Teaching Assistantship for PhD students that needs to be completed before the colloquium. You will need to discuss the schedule with your supervisor. In addition, you can assist with additional courses to gain more teaching experience. If you are any other type of scholar (UG/MSc student, post-doc, research staff), then opportunities to teach depends on whether your supervisor or another faculty has a TA position that is available.   

9) Do I have to mentor other scholars in the lab?

In general, you will be expected to mentor other scholars, including interns and Masters students. This will help you develop your mentorship skills and may also contribute data or analyses for your own work. As mentors, you will be expected to be professional, collegial and courteous to be wards. Be the kind of mentor that you want to have. 

10) What other activities do I need to engage in while at CES? 

You will be expected to share responsibilities and administrative work related to the management and upkeep of the lab. You are also expected to participate in the activities of the department. CES has an active community which organises seminars, events and other activities.