Achievements or no achievements seminars and conferences in India are occasions to shower accolades on performers as well as non-performers. The performance in the field of scientific development depends upon the research and development (R & D) work done in the country.
With industries not taking much interest in the field contributing only 15% of the total R & D expenditure in the country the responsibility squarely falls on the shoulders of the centers of learning and education—universities and colleges. That has been true of developed countries where the universities in industrial or specialized agricultural regions take a cue from the industrial units or advance farmers about their needs.
The scientists work on themes either suggested by them or innovated by themselves. The infrastructure required to assist the R & D is generously provided for by three sources—the government, the industry and the university itself.
Many a time the research scientists in the teaching community take up assignments in an industry for looking at the things at first hand-later to shift to the university again. That is how the research and development work in the universities assist the industries in invigorating their projects or in having new pastures to work on.
In India Science Congress has been an occasion for the scientists for introspection and interaction of ideas. Ironically it is also an occasion for the scientists to listen to the advice of a non-scientist, the Prime Minister. The advice is generally in pursuance with the projects of economic and social built up as envisaged by the Prime Minister and his colleagues.
The Prime Minister inaugurating the 81st Science Congress at Jaipur “Called for a rigger research and development input into exports to compete with other countries in the more liberalized trade environment after the recent conclusion of talks on General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT).”
The work in the field and the integrity of scientists has always been taken for granted. It has always been stressed that India has a very wide base of scientists. But the things are not as bright as they are deemed to be. A large number of research projects in the universities are worked on to procure a doctorate. They have nothing to do with the needs of the nation.
According to Prof. P.N. Srivastava, President of the 81st Congress Indian Universities is on a “downward path” due to stress on quantity rather than quality. “The result is India produced many M.Scs and Ph.Ds. And universities multiplied only to become inefficient graduate producing machines.”
The scenario in the scientific world in India is quite gloomy. We should not look to the total number of scientists (that include all Ph.Ds) but the proportionate number according to population. India has 4.5 scientists per 00 while Japan has 111.14, Sweden 262.4 and Canada 184.8. The number of persons involved in research and development in France is 4.44 per thousand, 5.41 in Sweden, 2.10 in Canada and only 0.27 in India. The annual investment for Science and Technology in India has come down to 0.9 per cent of the G.N.P. (Gross National Product).
Prof. Srivastava lamented that “the scientific committee to advise the Prime Minister or the cabinet only paid lip service to the deteriorating situation in science teaching and research in universities, and did not recommend ways to improve it.” He pointed out that Scientists “go on talking” about the countries achievements, similar to the way “we talk about our civilization of about 5,000 years” and never refer to any shortcomings and weaknesses.
If the country has to make progress and compete with other nations the scientists will have to change their pattern of research moving it to channels the country need. They have to be more conscientious. The government and the private sector must build up a comprehensive infrastructure and attract the intelligent scientists who opt for other countries.
To make the whole show catering to the needs of the nation areas of research must be identified at the regional levels. All should then be earmarked for a particular range of work. Seriousness of purpose, of course, should be the key note of all plans and projects in the R and D.