First Week of 2012: The Great Science Event

It is heartening that both- the Presitden and Prime Minister were associated with this year’s centenary function of India Science Congress, and that shows its importance. I have not heard them full as the digital media do not consider the live coverage necessary for raising its TRPs. However, I went through their speeches on their websites and learnt few things that I shall like share.

“1 Sir Asutosh Mukherjee played an important role in nurturing the Indian Science Congress in the early years.

2. All Nobel Prizes awarded for work from India are somehow linked to the city of Kolkata. Sir Ronald Ross carried out his pioneering research on Malaria in this city for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1902. Sir CV Raman’s remarkable discovery, the Raman Effect, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930, was made here in Kolkata. The legendry Rabindranath Tagore and Mother Teresa were also awarded Noble Prizes for their work carried out in Kolkata.

3. Sir JC Bose is hailed as the first of modern scientists of this country. His original contributions to the invention of radio are well known. The recent discovery of Higgs-boson particle highlights the epoch making contributions of Prof. Satyendra Nath Bose to particle physics.

4. Sir JC Bose, more than a century ago, on 5th March 1885, wrote in his diary “I have been thinking whether the solar energy that is wasted in tropical regions in a new way could be utilized. Of course trees conserve the solar energy. But is there no other way of directly utilizing the radiant energy of the sun?” Even now it is an active area of research pursuit globally. Prof. Satyendra Nath Bose was a powerful communicator and an inspired teacher. He delivered lectures on ‘power’ and ‘nuclear energy’ in a language that lay people could understand.”

Manmohan Singh naturally focused on the performance of his government. However, the target to spend 2% of GDP on R&D first announced in a similar congress in 2003 has been promised again, though with a condition of the participation of the private sector.

“5. We have established five new Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, eight new Indian Institutes of Technology, sixteen new Central Universities, ten new National Institutes of Technology, six new R&D institutions in the field of biotechnology and five institutions in other branches. The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013 released here today, aspires to position India among the top five global scientific powers by the year 2020.

6. An important step in this direction in the Eleventh Plan was the establishment of the National Science and Engineering Research Board as an autonomous funding body. As pointed out in the Twelfth Plan, this institution proposes to invest in researches of proven track record and establish about 200 to 250 centres based on a grant model with performance reward linkages. http://pmindia.nic.in/speech-details.php?nodeid=1267

Some more interesting data came from the other speakers on the inaugural function.

7. India’s investment in R&D in 2010 was 24.8 billion USD, well below the US (398 billion), Japan (148 billion), China (102 billion), Germany (72 billion), Mexico (56 billion), France (43 billion), and South Korea and the UK (both 41 billion), according to a report commissioned by the department of science and technology

8. India ranks only ninth in the sheer volume of publications in reputed peer-reviewed scientific journals, measured under a global parameter known as the SCI index – behind the US, China, Germany, Japan, the UK, France, Italy and Canada.

9. India’s 154,827 fully trained R&D professionals are almost a tenth of the number that the US and China (1.42 million) boast of, and are fewer than countries like Russia (451,213) and Korea (221,928), apart from the developed west and Japan.

10. The proportion of women leading research projects in various academic institutions has increased from 13 per cent to 31 per cent over the past decade. But women scientists form a mere 15 per cent of full-time research and development professionals in India.” A survey of about 600 women with PhD degrees who had quit research, had taken up jobs not commensurate with their qualifications, were teaching in schools or employed by industry.

11. An important step in this direction in the Eleventh Plan was the establishment of the National Science and Engineering Research Board as an autonomous funding body. As pointed out in the Twelfth Plan, this institution proposes to invest in researches of proven track record and establish about 200 to 250 centres based on a grant model with performance reward linkages.

However, for R&D to be the integral part of human resource development. India will need a total change in the mindsets at all levels. All the stakeholders will have to contribute. The private sector really lags behind even after a good incentive from the government. For most of them, its expenditure of R&D is just managed.

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