Kumar, Avinash |India

Avinash Kumar

Avinash Kumar, currently a doctoral candidate in Development Studies at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India, obtained Master of Arts degree in Development Studies from IIT Guwahati for the MA dissertation titled, “Industrialisation of Rice Production: A Study in Selected Scientific Institutions in Bihar”. This empirical study carried out in Bihar attempted to elicit the responses of scientists from selected scientific institutions coming under the aegis of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the State Agricultural University (SAU) of the Government of India. From the sociology of science and technology perspective, this study captured the production of knowledge in rice and its application in an economically backward state like Bihar. By focusing on a single crop (rice), the study reflected on the diverse ways in which scientific research and technology development in Bihar are influenced by a variety of social, economic, political and institutional contexts. Further, this study also investigated the nature of scientific collaboration operating among scientists, the state and the market in the field of rice research in Bihar.

Kumar has worked as intern in International Wheat and Maize Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Mexico, conducting a project on “Livelihood Impacts of Maize Cropping System and Marketing in Bihar” at New Delhi, under the collaborative project conducted by ILRI, IFPRI, CIMMYT and IRRI entitled “Cereal System Initiative for South Asia”.

Kumar is a recipient of merit scholarship from Ministry of Human and Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India for conducting research at IIT Guwahati. His research interests are at the intersection of philosophy, history and sociology of science and technology, with specific reference to changed and changing structures and practices in/of science in India – particularly the scope and ambit of scientific collaboration. The categorical imperative to study such dynamics has significant implications for research in the cognitive and political dimensions of agricultural biotechnology.

Project at IAS-STS: Institutions, Structures and Organizations: Scientific Collaboration in Agriculture Biotechnology

With the appearance over the last decade of a new set of agricultural biotechnology tools, changes in scientific practices have emerged across the globe. It has profound implications on both scientific community (laboratory-based) and farming community (field-based). This new set of scientific practices constitutes of new relationships by fostering significant changes in the nature of expertise on the relations of science and society between government, academia and private R&D institutions. The proprietary nature of agriculture and changes in the governance of science and technology, especially as a consequence of intellectual property right (IPR) protocols assumes greater significance. It has brought about changes in scientific knowledge and product level innovations vis-à-vis the emergence of new collaborative practices (e.g. public-private collaboration). It necessitates the need for new skills, institutions and organizational arrangements to carry out agricultural research in laboratory as well as field. This new set of technologies is more diffused, hybrid and collaborative in nature. It is formed through multi-disciplinary and networked teams, making use of different instruments, methods and scientific approaches.

My work at the IAS-STS Graz, is part of my doctoral thesis, which attempts to examine scientific collaboration practiced in agricultural biotechnology in India. From the sociology of science and technology perspective, this study captures the production of knowledge in agriculture biotechnology and its application in developing countries such as India. Focusing on three food crops (rice, wheat, and maize), the present study pays attention to the diverse ways in which biotechnology research and development are organized in India. What are new forms of practices and what are new institutional and organizational arrangements that have historically emerged biotechnology research in India. This study also analyzes different patterns of scientific collaboration with specific reference to university-industry-government collaboration (triple helix model) practiced in biotechnology research in India. It is significant to understand various motivational factors, impediments and risks associated with in the trajectory of forging collaboration.

During my stay in Graz, effort will be made in this study to examine how agricultural biotechnology is organized in European context in general and Austrian context in particular. It is important to understand the differing institutional frameworks, structures and organizations against the backdrop of which an agricultural research is practised. This study will capture how various socioeconomic and politico-cultural factors influence the production of knowledge and its application in agricultural biotechnology research in India vis-à-vis Austria. What are differences and similarities shared by both countries in the context of agricultural research? By comparing two societies those are different in various parameters viz. economy, geography, culture and polity, etc. this study will shed light on cultures and practices of science and technology since these have major implications for both, how science and technology are perceived in policy terms and their ability to aim at concrete deliverables.

Selected Publications 
Kumar, A. and Mallick, S. 2015. Plant biotechnology representation and resistance: a study of plant breeding community in Bihar, India, Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, 14 (5): 544-66.