What ails science in India?

HLA Lab pipetting DNA IMG_3612

Unlike other countries, India successfully sent a spacecraft (Mangalyaan) to Mars in its first attempt. But the country has failed to produce any path-breaking research or Nobel Laureates for the last several decades. And in all likelihood, India may not produce one in the near future unless some dramatic changes are brought about.

What stares Indian science in the face is the government’s shocking decision to dissolve the scientific advisory council to the Prime Minister, thereby cutting a crucial link that has served science and the scientific community well. Another jolt has been the cut in research budget, which has been static for about a decade at a paltry 0.9 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Compare this with that of China’s — almost 2 per cent; it was about 0.8 per cent in 2000.

Science is the engine of growth of a country and is crucial to revitalise the economy. So any squeeze on research and development funding will be at the country’s own peril.

Nodal agencies like the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have been headless for over a year. The same is the case in several national laboratories and central universities. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) got its secretary only in January this year, eight long months after the earlier incumbent retired.

“Indian science suffers, today more than ever, from government apathy,” writes Raghavendra Gadagkar, Professor of ecology at IISc, Bengaluru in Nature’s special issue published today (May 14). The special issue paints a sorry picture of the state of science in India.

India has only 200,000 full time researchers — four researchers per 10,000 labour force. That is way too low compared with China (18 researchers per 10,000 labour force) and Brazil (seven researchers per 10,000 labour force). With six researchers per 10,000 labour force, even Kenya has a higher proportion than India.

The number of research papers published by researchers based in the country has nearly quadrupled since 2000 but it is way too low compared with China. If there were around 25,000 papers published from India in 2000, it was nearly 90,000 in 2013. In the case of China, the numbers have risen phenomenally from about 50,000 in 2000 to over 310,000 papers in 2013.

Besides the 40 CSIR laboratories, a few premier research institutions like the IISc, Bengaluru, TIFR, Mumbai, 16 IITs and five Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), there are over 600 universities in the country. But hardly any of the international-level research is done in the universities.

“Facilities and teaching at the universities that serve more than 29 million students are alarming. Most are ‘chalk and talk’ classrooms with poor-quality teaching laboratories, let alone research laboratories,” writes Hiriyakkanavar Ila, Professor of chemistry at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru in a Comment piece.

There are several critical issues that need to be immediately addressed for universities to become centres of excellence. The first and foremost change that necessarily has to be undertaken is a complete “overhauling” of the University Grants Commission (UGC). “Archaic ordinances and rules set by the University Grants Commission have stifled the spirit of academic excellence and hampered institutions’ flexibility,” writes Prof. Vinod Singh, Director of IISER, Bhopal.

Though India produces 9,000 PhD graduates a year in science and technology, the number pales in comparison with the country’s population. The U.S. produces four times more number of PhDs despite having one-fourth of India’s population. Number is just one of the indicators. “The variation in quality of Indian PhD graduates and faculty members is a prime concern,” says Prof. Singh. “Quality-control mechanisms must be established for the national accreditation and assessment of Indian PhDs and to improve research and educational training.”

“I have noticed a fundamental difference in the attitude of young U.S. scientists from that of their Indian counterparts: their appetite for big problems. ‘Going for great’ is a skill acquired very early on in the West,” writes Yamuna Krishnan, professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago, Illinois. She was earlier with the Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences before moving over to the U.S.

Unlike in the West where talent is spotted at the graduate level and nurtured, researchers in India are mentored way too late.

“Is there a dearth of talent in India? Certainly not. Is there a dearth of unstoppable achievers and innovators? Yes: because making talent shine takes a culture that is proud of its scientists and a charged intellectual environment that nurtures, mentors and drives them.,” writes Prof. Umesh Varshney of the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, IISc.

Published in The Hindu on May 13, 2015

One thought

  1. TRUE PICTURE OF SCIENCE IN INDIA
    Your comment “But the country has failed to produce any path-breaking research or Nobel Laureates for the last several decades” does not give a true picture of science in India. Frankly speaking India has done Spectacular achievement by doing fundamental physics discoveries as many as nine in 5 subjects of physics: nuclear physics, X-ray physics, atomic spectroscopy and Special theory of relativity The research work done by me was published in 4 research papers in 2010 and 2013.

    Five landmark papers in physics
    SINGLE RESEARCH PAPER claimed Six Fundamental Physics Discoveries in Nuclear Physics, X-ray physics, Atomic spectroscopy:
    I. UV dominant optical emission newly detected from radioisotopes and XRF
    sources, Braz. J. Phy., 40, no 1, 38-46,2010.
    http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0103-97332010000100007

    DETAILS OF THESE SIX FUNDAMENTAL PHYSICS DISCOVERIES IN:
    Discovery, Volume 4, Number 10, April 2013
    http://www.discovery.org.in/discovery/current_issue/v4/n10/A2.pdf

    Citation – Application of the above research in Radiation Biology
    According to Padmanabha Rao [18], when ß-particle or γ-radiation passed through the electrostatic field created in an electronic shell, lose energy as an electromagnetic radiation, the energy which higher than energy of ultraviolet radiation. Usually this energy excites a valence electron which emit it mainly in the ultraviolet range of spectrum (~80% for 90Sr/90Y), but also in a visible and infra-red range (~20%) at a room temperature [18]. Probably, exactly this appearing component at interaction of β-radiation with a matter causes reversible effects looked after in the field of low rate ionizing radiation.

    V. V. Zhirnov, Â, I. N. Iakovenko, V.M. Voitsitskiy, S. V. hyzhnyak
    , О. G. Zubrikova-Chugainova, V.A. Gorobetz, Zeta potential response of human erythrocyte membranes to the modulators of Gardos channel activity under low rate β-radiation. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287996546_Zeta_potential_response_of_human_erythrocyte_membranes_to_the_modulators_of_Gardos_channel_activity_under_low_rate_b-radiation [accessed Jan 29, 2016].

    TWO LATEST SOLAR PHYSICS DISCOVERIES IN 2013
    M.A.Padmanabha Rao’s 7th DISCOVERY: Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission
    II. Discovery of Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission causing Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) and UV dominant optical radiation, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), Volume 3, Issue 2 (Mar. – Apr. 2013), PP 56-60, DOI: 10.9790/4861-0325660
    http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol3-issue2/H0325660.pdf

    M.A.Padmanabha Rao’s 8th DISCOVERY: 235-Uranium fission causing Sunlight.
    III. Discovery of Self-Sustained 235-U Fission Causing Sunlight by Padmanabha Rao Effect, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), Volume 4, Issue 2 (Jul. – Aug. 2013), PP 06-24, DOI: 10.9790/4861-0420624
    http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol4-issue2/B0420624.pdf

    M. A.Padmanabha Rao’s 9th Physics Discovery: SUPERLUMINAL VELOCITIES OF X-RAYS and BHARAT RADIATION
    IV. Discovery of superluminal velocities of X-rays and Bharat Radiation challenging the validity of Einstein’s formula E= mc^2, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), .Volume 4, Issue 4 (Sep. – Oct. 2013), PP 08-14, DOI: 10.9790/4861-0440814, http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol4-issue4/B0440814.pdf?id=3522

    Breakthrough research in atmospheric physics & planetary temperatures
    1. All the Sunlight that Earth Receives is not directly from Sun, International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology, Vol. 4, Issue 11, November 2015, 10.15680/IJIRSET.2015.0411050
    High Impact factor: 5.442 http://www.ijirset.com/upload/2015/november/50_6_All_the.pdf

    2. Discovery of Padmanabha Rao Effect controlling planetary temperatures, International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology, Vol. 4, Issue 12, December 2015, 10.15680/IJIRSET.2015.0412129
    http://www.ijirset.com/upload/2015/december/129_33_Discovery.pdf
    M.A.Padmanabha Rao’s THREE AWARD WINNING PHYSICS DISCOVERIES

    THE FIRST AWARD WINNING PHYSICS DISCOVERY: Bharat radiation emission predicted from radioisotopes and XRF sources was found in solar spectrum. Two references:
    1. UV dominant optical emission newly detected from radioisotopes and XRF sources, Braz. J. Phy., 40, no 1, 38-46, 2010.
    http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0103-97332010000100007

    2. Discovery of Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission causing Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) and UV dominant optical radiation, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), Volume 3, Issue 2 (Mar. – Apr. 2013), PP 56-60, DOI: 10.9790/4861-0325660 http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol3-issue2/H0325660.pdf

    SECOND AWARD WINNING PHYSICS DISCOVERY: 235Uranium fission causing Sunlight.
    Discovery of Self-Sustained 235-U Fission Causing Sunlight by Padmanabha Rao Effect, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), Volume 4, Issue 2 (Jul. – Aug. 2013), PP 06-24, DOI: 10.9790/4861-0420624
    http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol4-issue2/B0420624.pdf

    THIRD AWARD WINNING PHYSICS DISCOVERY: SUPERLUMINAL VELOCITIES OF X-RAYS and BHARAT RADIATION
    Discovery of superluminal velocities of X-rays and Bharat Radiation challenging the validity of Einstein’s formula E= mc^2, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), .Volume 4, Issue 4 (Sep. – Oct. 2013), PP 08-14, DOI: 10.9790/4861-0440814
    http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol4-issue4/B0440814.pdf?id=3522

    M.A.Padmanabha Rao’s NINE FUNDAMENTAL DISCOVERIES in five subjects of physics Nuclear Physics, X-ray physics, Atomic spectroscopy, Solar physics and Special theory of Relativity reported in 4 research papers in 2010 and 2013.
    Discovery 1: UV dominant optical emission from radiochemicals like 131-I
    Discovery 2: UV dominant optical emission from XRF sources present as salts
    Discovery 3: UV dominant optical emission from metallic 57Co & Cu XRF source etc
    Discovery 4: Bharat Radiation (predicted) from radioisotopes and XRF sources
    Discovery 5: Atomic spectra of solid radioisotopes caused by Bharat Radiation
    Discovery 6: Padmanabha Rao Effect in radioisotopes and XRF sources

    In 2013, three more discoveries were reported in solar physics and Special Theory of Relativity.
    Discovery 7: Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission in 12.87 to 31 nm range
    Discovery 8: 235-Uranium fission causing Sunlight
    Discovery 9: Superluminal velocities of X-rays and Bharat Radiation

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