“When will we learn to upload?”


By Jayant Thatte

In the light of the approaching BTP (B.Tech Project) and DDP (Dual Degree Project) reviews in various departments, Prof. K. Ramamurthy (Dean, Academics) delivered a talk on the same for the benefit of all final year students. The talk was held in MRC (Media Resource Centre) on the afternoon of Friday, October 5, 2012. The talk began with the various aspects of B.Tech, Dual Degree, M.S. and Ph.D. programs including key differences in the program structure for each of them. The latter half of the talk was mostly focused on IIT Madras Library, access to books, journals and related facilities. He also stressed that students need to look at their projects as a learning opportunity rather than as a hurdle that needs to be crossed before placements.

Prof. Ramamurthy pointed out that DD, M.Tech and M.S. projects are expected to be research based, whereas a BTP should put together the knowledge and skills gained over the three years into a capstone project. “For the past few years, BTPs are also turning out to be increasingly research oriented,” he said. Projects can broadly be divided into three categories:

  • student centered projects, where the student comes up with the idea and the mentor provides suggestions.
  • guide directed projects, where the research topic is assigned by the guide based on the guide’s long term research plans,
  • organisation driven projects where the topic is chosen keeping the institute’s or the department’s research in mind.

The Dean stressed that the first step is to be clear about the research objectives, the methodology adopted and limitations of the project and to state each of these explicitly and clearly in the project thesis and during presentations. He said that a project is characterized, with increasing specificity, by discipline, specialization, area , topic and then the specific problem being addressed in the project. The students should be clear about their project in this sense before diving into the actual work. He also stated the importance of a thorough literature survey prior to the commencement of the project in order to understand latest progress on the problem at hand and also to avoid cases of “reinventing the wheel”. He said that every reference in the thesis should be cited at the end. Similarly, every paper cited at the end should be referred to in the project. It is important to report failures in the project thesis. This not only shows that the student has tried multiple approaches, but also cautions aspiring researchers to adopt those methodologies after some thought.

Prof. Ramamurthy raised concerns that in spite of having better facilities and easier access to a wider range of books and journals, the quality of B.Tech and DD projects has been dropping steadily over the last decade. He noted that the quality of the current DDPs is at par with or at times worse than that of BTPs of ten years ago. On the same note, he added “We always download papers from various journals. When will we learn to upload? When will our students start making significant contributions to research through their final year projects?” He also said that M.S. and Ph.D. These continue to be of a high quality and contribute research papers.

The latter half of the talk threw a great deal of light upon institute library and related facilities including books and journals. IITM spends 9 crore INR annually on research journals including several costly journals. He explained that for the past few years all journals are purchased in the form of licenses to view the journal online from anywhere inside the institute using an IP enabled system. This means that any student can access any paper published in these journals from their hostels, departments, library and so on. He also briefly told the audience about INDEST-AICTE (INDEST: Indian National Digital library in Engineering Sciences and Technology; AICTE: All India Council for Technical Education) consortium and its benefits. The INDEST consortium was set-up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The Ministry provides funds required for providing differential access to electronic resources subscribed for the Consortium to the core members through the consortium headquarters located at IIT Delhi. The Consortium has recently been renamed as INDEST-AICTE Consortium to include institutes under AICTE in addition to those in the original INDEST consortium. The technical institutes in the Consortium are divided into three groups:

  • Group I, which includes the old IITs and IISc Bangalore.
  • Group II includes new IITs, NITs.
  • Group III comprises of other government funded colleges and IIITs.

IIMs are included as Group IV. This agreement enables sharing of electronic resources, so that any resource purchased by the Consortium is accessible to the member institutes depending on their group. Group I institutes have access to almost all INDEST journals while the further groups have more limited privileges. Each member institute pays a very small annual fee to be a part of the Consortium.

After this, Prof. Ramamurthy turned the focus of his talk to books. IITM spends about 1.4 crore INR on purchase of new books annually. This is in addition to the books purchased by the departments through research grants. He spoke briefly about International Standard Book Number and Universal Decimal Classification for books. He explained that students may request for the purchase, through department research grant, of books that may be required for their project work. Once the guide approves the request, academic section will buy the book within a couple of months.

In the final part of the talk, the Dean announced that IITM is ranked 312 in QS 2012 university ranking and explained reasons for IITs not featuring in top hundred in international university rankings. He pointed out that IIT is only a technical institute, not a university. IITs do not have medical or law streams nor a very big humanities section. Hence when compared to foreign universities based on size, number of publications etc., IITs do not fare well. Prof. Ramamurthy stressed that low ranking does not therefore mean that IITs are inferior in quality and that the rankings, though important, should be taken with a pinch of salt. On a more optimistic note, he said that several departments have been doing consistently very well in terms of research and international discipline-wise ranking since the bias of size of the university does not have such rankings. Several IITM departments including Electrical, Chemical, Civil and Mechanical are in top 100 in QS subject-wise university rankings. He mentioned that Department of Electrical Engineering, IITM has been showing a very notable, steady progress. He also said that he expects the said department to climb into top fifty in QS rankings really soon.

At the end of the talk, a student suggested the creation and maintenance of a database including student names and their project topics and abstracts. This will help students to identify other students of the current or previous batches who are or have done similar projects and approach them for discussions or clearing doubts. Prof. Ramamurthy appreciated the idea and said that from the next batch students will have to fill in project title and mentor during semester registration itself. This will also facilitate the creation of such a database.

References :

Please refer below for further information related to INDEST-AICTE

1. INDEST Brochure

2. INDEST Home

QS rankings :

1. QS University Rankings 2012

2. QS IIT Madras Profile

3. QS Subject-wise University Rankings

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