We receive a considerable number of requests for biological material from India, so here is a philosophical and practical note on collaborative research. This is particularly relevant to those projects that involve biological material such as specimens and molecular sequences, and collaborators outside India.

We are a group of biologists who are working towards understanding biodiversity in the Indian context. Our lab is like any other research lab in the west, with similar demands on research funding, academic output and career ambitions. We are eager to work with biologists outside NCBS and even abroad if they are interested in Indian biodiversity. However, the basis for collaboration is mututal respect, sharing of work responsibilities and suitable recognition for our contributions. We are not collectors and we don't simply supply specimens or tissue for your projects. We can be academic parteners, however, and we can help you in various ways. Many outside scientists contact us for specimens for phylogenetic, taxonomic and other biological research. As a policy, we do not send you tissue for DNA extraction or specimens for any work. Our lab spends substantial amount of funds and time in negotiating collecting permits with the state and federal authorities concerned, and then actually doing the field work. Therefore, our policy is that we will provide DNA sequences or other kind of biological information to our collaborators in return for coauthorships. We have a first-class Collections Facility at NCBS where we can store and curate specimens, and a modern wet lab in our lab where we can quickly sequence specimens. So we can rapidly generate and share molecular or other kind of biological information for collaborative projects if you request it, provided we first agree on co-authorships or other suitable academic exchanges.

We should mention that if you want sequences of only one or two species that are of no particular immediate interest to us, then we can send you sequences without expecting a coauthorship. This is to encourage research on Indian biodiversity, which will ultimately help us in the long term. In these cases, you can simply acknowledge our lab for supplying sequences. When we collaborate with other scientists on a project that our lab is leading for which we need specimens from others, we have a similar policy of sharing coauthorships in return for specimens or sequences that we receive from them.

For projects that overlap broadly with scientific goals of our lab, we will expect more involved participation in designing and implementing the project, sometimes applying for international funding before we begin work. With these more involved projects, we would expect to be treated as Co-PIs rather than just foreign academic partners.

There are two main reasons why we don't send specimens outside India and why we want to be academic partners rather than specimen suppliers. First, Indian rules and regulations about export of biological material are very strict, and it is laborious to obtain permits to export specimens. Second, in India we have no modern collections, and the old collections are either  largely inaccessible or they are not well-curated, so their utility is limited. To remedy this situation, we would like to start building resources in India rather than forever go outside India to museums in Europe and the US to do research on Indian biodiversity. We would also like to actively collaborate and participate in research projects so that more and more Indian students get trained in scientific techniques and thinking. This will build a stronger scientific community in India, which will be good for this region in the long term.

We are always happy to find collaborators who sympathize with this philosophy. We look forward to learning more about Indian biodiversity in coming years with help of such collaborators both in and outside India.

Read more about our research collections, or other research facilities.