A Fine Week in India: 10 – 17 March 2015

By Peter Burnhill, Director EDINA, the University of Edinburgh


My trip to India was in March, a month after the intense programme of visits reported in the other posts on this blog.

The purpose of my visit was to speak at CALIBER 2015 in Shimla, the capital city of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is famous for being the summer capital of the British Raj, its buildings and weather familiar to anyone from the UK – it has snow in the winter, being 7,864 ft above mean sea level with breath-taking views of the Himalayas.


Shimla is also home to the Institute of Advanced Study in the Humanities. It was their Librarian (Prem Chand) who arranged the invitation to speak at the 10th CALIBER conference. He was one of the organisers together with INFLIBNET, the arms-length library support group of India’s University Grants Committee, and Himachal Pradesh University.

I approached Shimla in the best possible way, in the rail car from Kalka that runs on the narrow track railway that climbs 2,500 feet over 864 bridges and through 100 tunnels. Unlike the Shimla Express we stopped only once, at Borag for a second breakfast of chai and an omelette sandwich.


Traveling with two other invited speakers (Dr Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) and Kate Vasili from Middlesex University, who was to speak on copyright) our destination was the Summer Hill Station.


We were shown wonderful hospitality as we were met and driven to our lodgings at Yarrows.


I had been asked to speak about EDINA and about the role it plays in the University and with Jisc in delivering online services for research and education in the UK and beyond. For my part, I was also keen to speak about two of our activities that address challenges to the integrity of the scholarly record: stewardship of e-journal content and ‘reference rot’ in scholarly statement , the first funded at the University as a Jisc Service at EDINA, the second a project funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

AtPodium copy

The CALIBER organisers have been prompt in making the conference proceedings available online, so my paper, ‘What EDINA Does: Ensuring Ease & Continuity of Access’, can be found at http://ir.inflibnet.ac.in/handle/1944/1838 . My slide deck is available on request and will be deposited along with the paper in the University’s Open Access repository, https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/discover .

The conference began the next day with much ceremony and a delightful cultural event to start the proceedings.


I was impressed by many of the presentations at CALIBER, but with two in particular. One was from Dr Uma Kanjilal (Director, Advanced Centre of Informatics and Innovative Learning, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi). The University, regarded as a world leader in distance education, began with 4,528 students in 1987; today, it has more than 3 million students, with a network of 67 regional centres and 29 overseas partner institutions. The other was from Dr H Anil Kumar (Librarian, IIM Ahmedabad) with an overly large but very informative slidedeck with socio-demographic information on India and the challenges faced by India’s universities, found at: http://www.slideshare.net/Anil67/innovative-librarianship-lib-30-the-need-opportunity-and-trends

Many useful contacts were made during CALIBER 2015 including early discussions with Dr Jagdish Arora, Director of Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET) Centre about establishing an MoU with EDINA.

I had planned three other events as part of my travels. The first was a short talk in Chandigarh, a modern city in the plains below the Himalayas that was built based on plans from Le Corbusier. En route to CALIBER in Shimla, I was given hospitality at the Guest House at Panjab University by Dr Raj Kumar, the University Librarian. Panjab University is rated as the top university in India. I gave a short talk in order to ‘sing for my supper’.

My second presentation was when I returned to New Delhi after the CALIBER conference. I spoke at a seminar at the National Science Library organized by Dr G Mahesh (Head, NSL, CSIR-NISCAIR), with the title ‘Doing Smart Things With A Dumb Number’. The NSL acts as India’s National Centre in the ISSN Network with which I am a long-standing Observer. They are facing serious challenges as the number of ‘fake journals’ increases either in response to the new Gold Open Access opportunity for ‘predatory publishers’ to collect money from unsuspecting authors, or as a reaction from clever academics to India’s UGC requirement that only articles published in journals with ISSN will be counted in their research assessment exercise.

My business in India came to a close with a meeting with Dr Ramesh C Gaur, University Librarian, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). It was with JNU that the University of Edinburgh signed its first Cooperation Agreement in 2011. Dr Gaur had also been at the CALIBER conference where we had renewed acquaintance, having first met when we both delivered talks at the e-thesis (ETD2014) conference in Leicester in July 2014. (I had reported findings of reference rot following analysis of 7,000 ETDs with colleagues in the University’s School of Informatics.) The Librarian was keen to organise a workshop in India on the challenges for universities and research librarians in ensuring continuity of access to the ‘digital back copy’, both e-journal preservation and how to avoid reference rot, and wished me to return, either to coincide with ETD2015, which is being hosted in New Delhi in November, or at some other time between October 2015 and February 2016.

I now have very many fine memories of that week in India, and a few souvenirs such as the splendid woollen Kullu Cap from Himachal Pradesh that we were all given at CALIBER 2015.


India – Inspiring and Fun

By Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, the University of Edinburgh


Following a hectic couple of weeks, I have just found some time to reflect on another exciting trip to India. My visit to the Country allowed me to meet some of our partners in Kolkata and Delhi which were both inspiring and fun. The combination of energy, excitement and high academic purpose was wonderful.

The joint conference I helped open at the University of Calcutta used humanities research to explore important medical, social and cultural issues. I was particularly impressed with the talk given by Vice Chancellor Suranjan Das which combined careful methodology with great insight. It was very good to see Suranjan so soon after his successful visit to Edinburgh for the opening of our India Institute.
Enjoying a lighter moment with Prof Suranjan Das

I then traveled to India’s capital, where I was honoured to open the Innovation Plaza at Delhi University. I was overcome by the volume of high quality student work on display, produced by hundreds of undergraduate students working in groups of up to ten. Identical in intent to our Innovative Learning Week at Edinburgh, but bigger, brighter and with bags of bustle. Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh has led many interesting developments in supporting student learning and I am very pleased that we are a partner in some of them. Dinesh is a towering figure in the world of Higher Education, a prominent mathematician and a close friend. It is fitting that we awarded him an honorary degree last summer in Edinburgh.
At the Inovation Plaza event in Delhi

Signing a Memorandum of Understanding with NUEPA (the National University of Educational Policy and Administration) built on the previous successful engagement with Rowena Arshad, Head of Moray House School of Education. It provided me with the opportunity to debate leadership models in education with a very lively group of NUEPA colleagues.

The last few weeks have seen so many very different and positive engagements between leading Indian institutions and my colleagues from Edinburgh. Amrita, Director of our India Office in Mumbai, and her colleagues are playing a blinder. I really enjoyed my visit, I was delighted with all that my Edinburgh colleagues are doing in India and I am really looking forward to my next visit.

Week 3: How did our ‘pop-up University of Edinburgh in India’ go?

By Professor Roger Jeffery, Dean for India, the University of Edinburgh


I’m now back home, after three weeks in India helping the University to showcase its strengths. Faculty from each of the University’s Colleges have been all over the country, and while I saw only a small part of what took place my impression – and that of others I have talked to, as well as the evidence of this blog site – is that it was a considerable success.

Firstly, the cumulative nature of what we were doing was noticed, and commented on, both in the media and in many conversations with opinion leaders and decision-makers. Ranald Leask, our International Press Officer from Communications and Marketing, and our local publicity agents made sure that press releases went out, and many of us were interviewed and photographed. The resulting articles covered a wide range of our activities and appeared in some of India’s most important media outlets, including The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Business Line, The Pioneer, and The Hindu.

Outside Delhi University with Edinburgh colleagues Amrita Sadarangani, Director of our Mumbai Office; Dr Wilfried Swenden from the School of Social & Political Science; and Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice-Principal

Secondly, most of these events are likely to lead to new initiatives, whether in joint teaching, faculty exchange, joint research proposals or student exchanges. Others cemented existing ties, offering the prospect of deepening links and more solid achievements. We can’t know if these benefits would have flowed anyway, but quite possibly the extra dynamism of the collective presence helped.

Of course, it’s not all over. Next steps include a debriefing session for those who were in India last month, so that we can learn what went well, and to prepare us for next time. But a lot of hard work is still to come, to turn the verbal and written agreements into real benefits for us and for our partners. And some exciting announcements should be forthcoming before too long, so watch this space…

A Message from Mumbai

By Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice-Principal, the University of Edinburgh

Next stop Mumbai – amongst many other things home to the University of Edinburgh India Office, run by the indefatigable Amrita Sadarangani, the mastermind of this fortnight when the University has popped up all over India developing new partnerships and deepening existing ones.

First up here was Gateway House, a small independent think tank focused on international relations. A conversation about what the University is doing to develop its partnerships in India quickly turned to questions about what on earth is happening in Scottish, UK and EU politics. All sorts of parallels suggesting shared concerns emerged – how to accommodate diverse and divergent places together in the same state, and how to re-engage those alienated from conventional politics. We left with an agreement to work up an exchange involving our academics working on UK and EU, but also to create internship opportunities for our students at Gateway House.


We had a truly inspirational meeting with Dilip Khatau, Chairman of the Corbett Foundation, named after the conservationist Jim Corbett. Once a hunting enthusiast Dilip is now delivering programmes, through the Foundation, aimed at securing the future of endangered species in India, foremost the tiger. The method is to change how human presence compromises animal habitats.

Our Vet School is a key partner, working with the Foundation in rural communities to develop livestock management practices which can produce healthier cattle populations. Healthier cows communicate fewer diseases to related species like antelopes, so tigers get their due fill of antelope. But if unhealthy cows communicate diseases that reduce antelope populations, tigers end up coming into villages to eat cows and other livestock, and farmers then kill tigers. Ergo healthy cows mean tigers are both well fed and not hunted.

We signed a Memorandum of Uderstanding (MoU) to underpin the Vet School’s collaboration – but there’s plenty of scope to look for more, perhaps through our local collaboration with Edinburgh Zoo on conservation projects, perhaps by looking for opportunities for staff and students in anthropology, environmental geography and elsewhere to develop work around the Foundation’s projects.

Finally, an animated conversation with an old friend, Sharon Memis, Director of the British Council in Mumbai, and Colin Wells from the British Deputy High Commission there. As with everywhere else we have been there was tremendous enthusiasm from British institutions about the University’s partnership strategy in India. There was particular interest in this conversation in our Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and the potential that such learning methods has for extending the reach of our activities in India. Sharon’s office works across a population of 200,000,000 people. So why not a University of Edinburgh-British Council MOOC – surely an unmissable opportunity to build a community of learners engaged with the University?

Affordable Healthcare, Antimicrobial Resistance and Diagnostics

By Dr Till Bachmann, Deputy Head of Division of Infection and Pathway Medicine, the University of Edinburgh

Full of great impressions, ideas, and new contacts, I’ve just returned to Edinburgh from a busy week travelling in India. I attended two UK-India Workshops. Entitled ‘Affordable medical diagnostics and devices: From ideation to commercialization’ these took place in Chennai, and at the Venture Centre at NCL Innovation Park in Pune, with point of care diagnostics of antimicrobial resistance the topic for discussion.

Pune Workshop 13 Feb 2015_2
Sourav Pal, Director NCL, opening the ‘Affordable medical diagnostics and devices: From ideation to commercialization’ workshop in Pune

The trip was organised by Sheryl Anchan of the Deputy British High Commission and UK Science and Innovation Network and involved six other colleagues from the UK. Affordable healthcare is of great importance to the developing and developed world with issues on accessibility on the one side and surging healthcare costs on the other.
Chennai Workshop 11 Feb 2015
UK Delegates and Mathi Mathivathani of British Deputy High Commission at ‘Affordable medical diagnostics and devices: From ideation to commercialization’ workshop in Chennai

Both workshops, organised with great hospitality and professionalism, presented a fulminant collection of examples on how affordable and accessible healthcare can be realised by innovation in science and technology of medical devices and diagnostics. Academic and policy presentations from across India were completed by dynamic entrepreneurial examples ranging from paper-based microfluidics, colour-changing dipsticks for infectious disease diagnostics, and battery free defibrillators for use in rural India, to advanced business models involving cutting edge technologies such as next generation sequencing. Antimicrobial resistance was a recurring theme of the events, underpinned by the passionate talk on the Longitude Prize by Abdul Ghafur, who is the primary author of the landmark Chennai Declaration.

Our trip was enriched by visits to the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) and the Christian Medical College (CMC) at Vellore. At IITB we spoke to entrepreneurs at their impressive Innovation Centre and a wide range of faculty, including Santosh Noronha who heads the Healthcare Research Consortium. Very warmly welcomed at CMC Vellore by Prof Anna Pulimood, Vice Principal HR and Prof Nihal Thomas, Vice Principal Research, we had excellent opportunities to establish links with our respective counterparts.

CMC Vellore Hospital 10 Feb 2015
Till Bachmann visiting Microbiology Department at CMC Vellore Hospital

There is a long-standing relation to the University of Edinburgh and Scotland including visits by Sir Alexander Fleming and Edinburgh microbiologists as well as the joint CMC Vellore – Edinburgh MSc in Family Medicine that started in September 2014. Strong burden of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance as well as high patient numbers combined with outstanding excellence in clinical microbiology at CMC Vellore make ideal conditions for closer collaboration.
CMC Vellore Fleming
Sir Alexander Fleming at CMC Vellore

Having established plenty of new links and opportunities, I am sure to come back soon and extend our collaboration in research and teaching on infectious diseases, diagnostics and antimicrobial resistance with partners and the many new friends in India. See you soon back in bustling India!

Pune Workshop 13 Feb 2015
Delegates at the ‘Affordable medical diagnostics and devices: From ideation to commercialisation’ workshop in Pune

Chennai – where Malaria treatment has a long history…

By Professor David Arnot, School of Biological Sciences, the University of Edinburgh

The past few days have been spent in Chennai, participating in a joint seminar on new perspectives on Biotechnology between ourselves and Anna University. The Edinburgh team consisted of myself, talking on Malaria vaccines and Indian Malaria, Prof Pankaj Pankaj, from the School of Engineering who talked about his work on bio-mechanical modelling of bone, and Dr Louise Horsfall, a colleague from the School of Biological Sciences, who led a discussion on synthetic biology and nano-particle based bio-remediation strategies.

I felt it was a very good interactive seminar, with strong input from our Indian colleagues on their biotechnology interests in many fields, from recombinant-based synthesis of bulk chemical precursors and enzyme purification from large sale food wastes, to the bioinformatics of Tuberculosis and algal biofuel production.

Dave Arnot pic

The Chennai seminar followed four action-packed days in Kolkata where, as a Malariologist, I had to visit the site in a downtown city hospital, where Ronald Ross put the finishing touches to to his work proving that biting mosquitoes were the agents of transmission of malaria.

This is regarded as India’s intellectual capital, and I enjoyed sitting down with several Bengalis for what turned out to be some lively discussions! From the Medical Humanities and the future of the built and lived-in city, to how Kolkata and Scotland are sisters under the skin, and the early days of Indian foreign policy. All in all, a truly diverse mix.

Edinburgh’s programme of activity in India continues apace …

By Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice-Principal, the University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh & CMC Vellore sign MoU

This morning we marked the launch of a unique joint programme – the new Master of Family Medicine (MFM) – run by the University of Edinburgh with the Christian Medical College, Vellore and the Indian Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA). The MFM aims to increase capacities in primary health care in developing countries through additional training for family doctors, especially those working in rural areas where access to good health care is often highly limited.

There are mounds of evidence telling us that better early intervention by family doctors has tremendous benefits for health outcomes and all that goes with those better outcomes. The MFM is a blended learning programme, building on Edinburgh expertise in on-line medical education, the Christian Medical College’s status as one of the leading medical schools in India, and ICMDA members’ hospitals, which will offer internships to students. Today we were celebrating the first MFM cohort of 28 students from 15 different countries – and very quickly began in a workshop discussion on family medicine to think about the scope for extending the programme to more students in more countries…

I took time out from the family medicine workshop to give a lecture on the upcoming UK election in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Madras, one of India’s longest established universities (many thanks to the British High Commission in India for helping to arrange the lecture). The Head of Department, Professor Ramu Manivannan hosted, and I was welcomed with a presentation (some of their slides are below) on last year’s Scottish independence referendum by a group of his Master’s students (along with a massive garland of red roses – a first for me!).




The level of interest in UK politics was high and the quality of insight in the students’ questions very good. We ought to be looking to build similar interest and expertise in Indian politics at Edinburgh…One thing we discussed afterwards with Professor Manivannan was whether we could work with the University of Madras to put on summer schools in Indian politics, ideally credit-bearing so they would formally count to Edinburgh degrees. Something for our Centre for South Asian Studies to think about?

Family Medicine – India’s new approach

By Ranald Leask, International Press Officer, the University of Edinburgh


Chennai is the focus for Edinburgh today, as the challenge of tackling disease and illness, with an emphasis on some of India’s poorest communities, is discussed.

Health experts from Edinburgh are working with partners from Christian Medical College (CMC) Vellore to examine how Family Medicine, practised by doctors living and working in local communities, can be best employed to improve the health of millions of people.

Edinburgh and CMC Vellore are already working in partnership to teach a highly innovative online Master’s degree in Family Medicine. It builds on a successful diploma programme which has been run by CMC for several tears. Today I met several local family medicine students, who’d traveled to meet their fellow students face-to-face.

The course employs ‘blended learning’, mixing online teaching with in-person interactions and it’s clear that this approach has a number of advantages. It overcomes issues of geography, so that even in remote areas people can learn; it enables medical practitioners to remain in their communities and continue to treat their patients while they add to their knowledge; and it is a less costly way to learn, when compared to on-campus learning.

One student explained that, in her words, there are too many ‘quack’ doctors in India, particularly in rural areas. Standards of diagnoses are sometimes not good; too many drugs are dispensed by those who don’t know the patient and who don’t bother to investigate the ailment thoroughly; and there is a tendency to treat each problem in isolation, instead of taking into account the patient’s health overall – a so-called holistic approach.

She said that by undertaking distance learning in family medicine, she has been able to both learn and discuss with a wide range of people, debating the best way to work with fellow students and with her tutors.

The course has, since being established six months ago, attracted learners from 15 countries and applications for the next intake are at a very healthy level.

In the short video below, Dr Liz Grant and Professor David Weller, along with one of their students, explain why they believe this Master’s in Family Medicine is the correct approach.

Week two of this year’s celebration of the Edinburgh India Partnership

By Professor Roger Jeffery, Dean for India, the University of Edinburgh


I’m now back in Delhi, after three nights in Kolkata – where everyone I met chided me for spending too much time in the nation’s political capital and too little in its intellectual capital…or so say the Bengalis, at least.

Last week was probably the most crowded with events of the three that I’m here for: too many cities, too many disciplines, too many Universities being involved for me to keep up. Fortunately the India Office has done wonders in ensuring that very little goes wrong, and we arrive on time (mostly) and at the right place.

There’s been a good mix of academic discussions along with formal and informal networking events. I helped to renew contacts with the British Council, with the Delhi office of Research Councils UK, with the local office of the Department for International Development and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, in between attending sessions with the vets at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The ICAR-Edinburgh collaboration seems to have moved a good step forward, with a set of practical proposals for future joint working on mutually interesting topics that provide synergies.


Then off to Kolkata, where we established contact with the Institute for Development Studies, through an Edinburgh alumna who is now an Assistant Professor there. We were able to discuss student placements for our own MSc programmes in International Development Studies. With the University of Calcutta, where we have strong links to the Vice-Chancellor, we hope to be able to set up exchange programmes for faculty at its Institute for Foreign Policy Studies, as well as some joint publications. We also renewed links with the local British Council office, as well as holding a very successful get-together with some of our alumni, recent and from the 1990s.

My final week in India on this trip will be different again – but that’s a matter for my next blog.