Scientific research promotes intellectual growth and furthers the repertoire of knowledge for future generations – Parth Sarathi Roy

Parth Sarathi Roy
ICRISAT, NASI Senior Scientist

Parth Sarathi Roy is a NASI Senior Scientist at ICRISAT, Hyderabad. He is passionate about Research and has been doing research from last 40 years. He was a former Dean of IIRS and had worked in ISRO for more than 35 years. Here he shares his journey, experience, vision and research with us.

Q 1. Please share your inspirational journey?

My primary education is from rudimentary schools in rural India and college education from normal university system. During university education I wanted to be a scientist in a reputed institution. I was always a dreamer with a thirst for knowledge and strong sense of returning to the society with significant contribution.

The passion gave me a purpose – to be a scientist, a researcher and a teacher at a reputed institution so that I am truly able to cascade this privilege to generations to come. Academic research was a quintessential part of this journey that I had embarked on and by early 70’s, I focused to research on contemporary environmental issues. The unconventional and ahead of its time subject opened a sea of opportunities for me. I visited institutes of excellence in Europe pursuing this research and got a comprehensive exposure in the field of biology and forest mensuration. These visits enlarged my vision and exposed me to the new technologies like satellite remote sensing, catapulting me to be a part of a new, yet state-of-the-art organization in India dealing with earth observation. In years to come, this did prove to be the platform that gave me opportunities for pioneering initiatives that helped the society, and lead innovative and meaningful research.

My humbling journey taught me that dreams are never too big or too small. Dreams are meant to be realised with sincerity and hard work.   

Q 2. What did attract you towards Research and which one is your favorite topic for Research?

Scientific research promotes intellectual growth and furthers the repertoire of knowledge for future generations.  What pulls me to it is the systematic study of behaviour of the natural world through observation and experiment. Complete immersion in the subject to find something new. Something more than what is known!

My favourite topic is earth observation using satellite systems enabling research on natural resources, its dynamism and in turn provide integrated environmental management solutions.  

Q 3. What kind of problems have you faced in Research in your more than 40 years of career and how did you remove it?

Satellite remote sensing needs to be integrated with ground data and provide solutions to the specific problems. Hence, the need to be application oriented is pronounced. In addition, research in this field has been very dynamic with evolving technologies. One needs to be agile to adapt and learn newer developments and analytical techniques, constantly. One needs to be goal oriented to avoid being deterred by hurdles and challenges during the research journey. As you rise up the ranks, encouraging and grooming younger talent is key.

Q 4. How do you rate India in the Development of Agricultural Research as a NASI Senior Scientist at ICRISAT?

Agriculture sector is passing through a very challenging phase due to the increasing demand, maintaining soil productivity, sustainable water management and supply chain issues. The climate change vulnerability due to extreme events has compounded miseries for the farming community. Providing timely scientific inputs, forecasting the risk exposure and development of resilient agriculture has been my major task. Integration of new technologies, data analytics and digital (two-way) communication are the main research agenda at ICRISAT.

Q 5. What is the meaning of success in your terms?

Making best efforts towards achieving goal and self-satisfaction are measure of success for me. 

Q 6. You worked in India’s Best Organization ISRO for more than 35 years. How do you see the evolution of ISRO in terms of Technology and Projects?

I have grown with the organization as a scientist, educationist, researcher and institution builder. ISRO provides the best opportunities and freedom to work in contemporary areas like Earth Observation.

Q 7. Who is your source of motivation?

There are many leading scientists who have motivated me during my journey. I am impressed the most by Prof Satish Dhawan, the then Chairman ISRO, during my early phase of my professional career.

The other is my wife – true motivator who has contributed to my personal and professional growth and achievements.

Q 8. You were a Dean in IIRS for a long time. How do you see the education pattern in India for students regarding jobs and practical knowledge?

Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) is one of the leading educational institutions in the field of Earth Observation, Geoinformation science and its application. I have literally grown in that great institution starting out as a faculty followed by Dean and eventually superannuated as Director of IIRS. When I look back at the golden days I spent there, I am humbled and at the same time, filled with pride to have contributed in building, grooming and shifting gears for the institution. Today, the institute is known for the contemporary curriculum, quality education and contemporary research. It has an M. Tech program, which is recognised by the Andhra University. It also has collaborations with many international organisations and university education systems. A great one is the joint M.Sc. (20 months in India and 4 months in ITC, University of Twente, The Netherlands) and postgraduate diploma level courses in Environmental Analysis & Disaster Management and Geoinformatics.

I owe to my research students in the journey of my academic pursuits. I am happy to see that most of them are doing very well in their endeavors.

India needs to invest more in education and research. The university education needs to be more serious, intensive, research orientation and quality sensitive. The education in Geoinformation science has also grown in many institutions but most of them lack practical orientation. Boyer’s (1988) statement sums it well –   “The ecology of a university depends on a deep and abiding understanding that inquiry, investigation and discovery are at the heart of the enterprise, whether in funded research projects or in undergraduate classrooms or graduate apprenticeships. Everyone at a university should be a discoverer, a learner.”

Q 9. Which one thing do you want to change in yourself and why?

Probably I should have given more time to my children. I miss them now, when both of them have set off to realise their dreams!