Thursday, December 28, 2006

Decline of Science in India I

Science is on the decline in India. There are not many scientists in the making. It is not pursued as a career. It is not pursued by the government and its agencies. It is not pursued by the multinationals and private companies of India.

According to C N R Rao, the scientific adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "Science in India is dying. Unless India changes the scientific policies and practices that it has been following for the last five decades, its science could be dead in the next five years." In a recent speech, he said: "The contribution from universities is hitting an all-time low. Even the top institutions are not performing well in terms of research papers and the number of research students they train."

According to Current Science, 25 July 2002, India has declined in its contribution to scientific output. In 1973, Indian scientists were responsible to close to half of the Thrird World’s publication output and ranked 8th largest publishing nation in the world. In 2000, India’s rank slid to 15th. While China accounts for 12% of the world’s research output, India contributes less than 3%. In the last two decades, the number of research papers has arisen by a factor of 23 in China, by a factor of 68 in South Korea, and by a factor of 4.3 in Brazil, but it has decreased in India. The author, Subbiah Arunachalam, asks, “Are we not investing enough on science in India? Are not our scientists productive? Is there something that holds us back?”

According to a Financial Times, 2005, South Korea, which was way behind India in 1980, published more research papers (27,397) last year, while Brazil and Taiwan have also beaten India. "For all its knowledge industry claims, India was not among the top 30 countries in terms of the number of patents applied for," the report said. "Countries like Brazil, South Africa and Israel are far ahead of a retreating India."

According to Sci-Bytes, 15 November 2004, Thomson Scientific collected data on papers published between 1999 and 2003. This study notes that the relative impact of published research from India registered below the world average in most of the fields listed (physics, computer science, materials science, engineering, mathematics, etc). India's overall percent share in all fields is mere 2.32%.

According to a survey conducted by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), a minuscule 3.6% of talented students opt for science after school as other disciplines offer more in terms of material gains. According to Sikka (2006), who is Scientific Secretary at the office of Principal Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister, only 157 out of every million people in India opt for becoming scientists as compared to 545 in China, 5,095 in Japan, 2,319 in South Korea, 2,666 in Britain and 4,095 in the US.

According to Bruce Nussbaum, BusinessWeek Online, 14 March 2006, “When it comes to innovation, China wins big over India. China is spending 1.5% of its gross domestic product on R&D investment- twice that of India. The US spends 2.7%. China plans to boost R&D spending by 20% in 2006 to get its total figure up to 2% of GDP by 2010.” However the author conceded, “But measures of R&D spending are not measures of innovation.”

According to THE HINDU, in a recent article, while India produces approximately 500,000 graduates per year, it produce only 800 PhDs. India has a turnout ratio of 1 in 62 while US has a turnout ratio of 1 in 9.

According to J. V. Narlikar, renowned astrophysicist from India (Times of India, 6 May 1999),

‘today a student... goes by default to engineering, medicine or... commerce’ in contrast to the scenario that existed in the fifties and sixties when many of our science laboratories, departments and universities were getting established. He says that the present trend of a sharp decline in numbers and standards of students opting for science at the undergraduate level will have its impact in about ten years from now, as is being felt to some extent already; science personnel of high calibre and experience to man our projects will be in short supply. ‘Methodology of science teaching that encourages rote, ill-equipped teachers and labs, lack of inspirational and committed teachers, poorly written text-books, peer pressure to join lucrative courses’ are some of the causes that Narlikar has identified as the causes for the current sickness that has afflicted the science scenario: the glamour of science and a proper and correct image is just not getting projected by our institutions or the universities.

1 comment:

  1. How do you define science? The very fact that the sources you have quoted have separated engg from science should indicate the cause of the problem. Science is not a subject, it is a state of mind. It is the innate curiosity of an individual. Just because a person has not called himself a "Scientist - a,b,c,d,e,f grade" does not mean he does not understand or pursue science. Yes the lack of patents/papers is a bad sign. It means that people are either not coming up with new ideas or are not willing to publish them. If you look at the other countries you are talking about, you will find the papers and patents are from "scientists", it could be from enggs, doctors, essentially anyone who has a new innovative concept.


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