Interview

Karl Harmsen, Director, CSSTEAP: Science for the end-user : Karl Harmsen, CSSTEAP

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What are the main activity areas of Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP)?
We teach 9-month PG courses in the following subject areas:

  • Remote Sensing and GIS (50%)
  • Satellite Meteorology and Global Climate Change (20%)
  • Satellite Communications and GPS (20%)
  • Space and Atmospheric Science (10%)

The percentages indicate the approximate proportion of students in each of the courses c.q. are an indication of the approximate capacity allocated to these subject areas.In addition, we give short courses in specialised topics related to the above subject areas (see www.cssteap.org).

Which fields of research are mainly emphasised in this institute?
CSSTEAP is an educational and not a research institution. However, students do a 3-month project as part of their 9-month PG diploma course, which may include a (modest) research component. In addition, CSSTEAP has an arrangement with Andhra University (AU) in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, to the effect that AU recognises the 9-month PG diploma course as qualifying for the course-work required for an MTech degree. Hence, those students that meet the educational requirements for an MTech degree at AU, may do a 1-year project, under the joint supervision of CSSTEAP and AU, and may thus obtain an MTech diploma at AU. These 1-year MTech research projects definitely contain a research component and basically all these studies relate to applications of space science and technology in the subject areas mentioned before.

What challenges have you faced in academics in Asia and the Pacific (AP)?
I would not wish to speak for the AP region in general, but in India, I think, one of the greatest challenges is to effectively implement the findings of science and technology. India is producing great services and products in ICT. However, more of this should be used in development of infrastructure, sustainable rural development and poverty alleviation. As an example, some time ago Kiran Karnik, the president of NASSCOM, said in a talk in Bangalore that India produces some 20% of its ICT products and services for the domestic market and 80% for export, whereas in China this is just the reverse, 80% is used domestically and 20% exported. I am not saying that India should blindly follow China, but the information is significant: India uses only a small fraction of its tremendous potential in ICT for domestic development. In academia we see more or less the same, at least as far as Remote Sensing and spatial information science is concerned: scientists do interesting research and develop nice models and software, but not much of this seems to find its way to the end-user. Of course, there are admirable exceptions to this, but the potential does not seem to be fully used. Hence, I think a major challenge for academia in India would be to address real world problems, develop solutions, and work with local authorities, NGO

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