At present only a few grants permit foreign travel, though they do permit travel within India. The purpose of such travel gets approved by an authority at the Institution- most often the PI themselves, or a Chairperson, or another official, and deemed to be an "official" visit. Then it doesn't matter whether its a collaborative visit or a meeting or a field trip to collect samples or whatever- the funds can be used. For foreign travel, you will have to scout out grants that allow it. You can use the Grants section of the IndiaBioscience website to find appropriate resources.
Grants like DSTs Swarnajayanti Fellowship and Ramanujan Fellowship, and DBTs Ramalingaswami Fellowship as well as most international awards (HFSP, FIRCA, The WellcomeTrust/DBT India Alliance, MPI) allow foreign travel. Some institutions have local funds that permit foreign travel. These can vary widely, ranging from $2000 per year to $2000 every 5 years. At present, our advice is to make sure you have a grant or a collaborative arrangement that will allow you at least one foreign meeting a year. Put in significant amount of energy into this- or come up with creative arrangements that will allow you to visit your post-doc mentor for example. This is particularly crucial in your early years and the ability to travel to foreign meetings correlates well with a successful start to one's career! If you apply early, you can avail of specific travel grants from DBT/DST. There are also other types of fellowships from these agencies that can be used for longer periods of stay abroad, for example for a specific type of training, a workshop etc.
As a PI you will manage to get money to travel, but it's hard for students to go to International meetings each year. There are CSIR/DST fellowships that will cover a student's travel once in their 5 year career. This can be supplemented with your own grants (if you have foreign grants with International travel money) or from the Institute's travel funds—each Institute has its own policy for supporting student travel. What works is to write a DST proposal to fund a 3-month visit to a collaborator's lab, and send the student to learn new techniques, complete a part of a collaboration etc—and arrange the timing so that they get to attend a major International meeting too.
How easy is it to invite top researchers to come and give a talk and interact with students/faculty in India? Are there allowances for travel reimbursement for such scientists? #
Very much possible, but obviously, budgets do not stretch to inviting a foreign researcher to just visit for a day and give a seminar (you can use your own travel funds to invite a visitor, but foreign travel funds are pretty constrained, as has been described in a different section). Usually, overseas scientists are invited as part of a topic-specific meeting organized by an Institution or an across-Institution group of scientists. Often, there may be student-focused training workshops or lecture series associated with the meeting- this component is what granting agencies will provide travel funds for. For example, the IBRO offers funds for workshops in neuroscience for which scientists from Asia-Pacific countries can be invited. The Frontiers of Science meetings (Indo-UK, Indo US) are another series that pay for travel of scientists from the respective countries to India.
Sometimes, PIs do some networking and take advantage of the planned visit of an overseas scientist to one Institution, to plan a local "travel junket" so that seminars can be arranged at a couple of more institutions. We find top researchers who are willing to fly out to India for a meeting are usually willing to go to the trouble of traveling to one or two other places and give seminars there too. What it takes is good networking on part of the Indian PIs- a network we hope to nurture and strengthen among YIs, with efforts such as the YIMs.
The Indian Academy of Sciences, The Indian National Science Academy, and several subject area-specific organizations such as the Indian Society for Developmental Biology, the Indian Association of Neuroscience, the Indian Society for Cell Biology, Society of Biological Chemists- all hold annual or bi-annual meetings. in addition, several institutions organize topic-specific meetings in which leading scientists from all over the world are invited. These are often associated with workshops in a related field, led or taught by some of the visiting scientists. Examples: visit the websites of CCMB, NCBS, NBRC, IISc, IISER Pune, TIFR, to get a flavor of some of the past meetings. These include annual workshops and meetings on different topics of current interest, satellite meetings to other major meetings being held in the Asia-Pacific area etc. In general, there is a 'meeting season' between September-March (good weather) when a number of international meetings are held. There are also some workshop type meetings like the Mahabaleshwar meeting which have been held for >40 years annually and where there are usually a few international lecturers.
Specialized meetings focused on some fields are lacking in India - e.g. there is no meeting that covers plants, or ecology, or evolutionary biology.
Here's a creative example addressing this shortcoming: A group of 5 faculty working in the same sub-area, but in different Institutions got together and started arranging student directed meetings. This got the students in each of their labs talking to each other and the second in the meeting series was a Mahabaleshwar conference which was just awesome for both students and faculty. The meeting happens every year or two and it is a good place to get a few people in your area (build contacts) and more importantly get your students to grow intellectually in the area of your research. The travel portion (local ie within India travel funds, that are available on Indian grants) of your grant will also cover travel, registration and other costs of all your students which is a big plus.