July 22, 2006

Science needs oxygen urgently: CNR Rao

Bureaucracy Is Unbearable, Research At An All-Time Low
By Seethalakshmi S & Mathang Seshagiri/TNN
Bangalore: Science in India is on its deathbed. Sounding this red alert is none less than Prime Minister’s scientific adviser C N R Rao.
An angry Rao has shot off a letter to PM Manmohan Singh highlighting the threat faced by the fragile structure of science in the country. Indian science will be finished in the next five years. Our universities have dried up. There are only a handful of scientists left. Even the smaller countries such as Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea have overtaken us. India's position as a potential leader will soon be in question if the present situation continues, Rao told The Times of India.
At the last meeting of the Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (SAC-PM), the 30-member group apprised Manmohan Singh on the grim situation. I am really worried. I am saddened that the best of us in government and public affairs may only consider science as a budget item, possibly as a non-productive expenditure. I am writing this, as a warning..., Rao has said in his five-page note to the PM, copy of which is available with TOI.
Stating that India's performance in basic sciences has come down markedly both in terms of percentage of continuation to world science and percentage of high quality research papers, he said: While China contributes 12% to world science, India lags behind with a mere 3%. The decreasing number of high impact papers from India, which is less than 1% is of serious concern. Terming the bureaucracy as unbearable, Rao said: We cannot have the department of personnel in Delhi deciding on who is a good scientist or who is able to head an institution. Why not set up a separate parallel mechanism for scientific and higher educational institutions?
The scene, he said, is grim on the research front too. The research contribution from universities is hitting an all-time low. Universities are unable to perform and compete. What specially causes concern is that even our top institiutions are not performing well in terms of research papers and the number of research students they train.
He said: Science in India is only a lip-sympathy. Our investments in science are pathetic. Today we spend only .85% of the GDP on science.
Summing up Rao has said: The suggestions made here (in the letter) are to be taken seriously, if India has to be a leader in Science. They may be ignored only at the cost of becoming a mediocre or a marginal performer.
The alarm bell
Singapore invests more in science than IndiaScience is only a lip-sympathy and another budget item for bureaucracyUniversities are drying up as research has hit an all-time low.
The pill
Make science as a career more attractive to the young.Increase investment in science significantly. Hike funding for research and funding courses.Lift restrictions on recruitment of scientists and teachers. Increase retirement age for good scientists and engineers up to 65.Set up autonomous research foundation.

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