All of a sudden, the craze for high salaried jobs is driving youngsters to B. Tech and MBA course. And who is not after high for it assures better quality of life and status in society? Even think on those lines.
And there are graduates from IITs and even colleges who find greater satisfaction in the Civil Services.’ growing feeling that scientific research or science is one of the casualties of the trends that take away the best brains looking for past promise higher monetary awards. Let us hope that this could be passing phase and that this could be only a passing phase and that science education and scientific research will get back its dormant glory sooner than later.
Even before CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) came into being, India had given birth to such brilliant minds as Srinivas Ramanujan, C.V. Raman, J.C. Bose, S.N. Bose, Meghnad Saha, Birbal Sahni and others. Great scientists of Indian origin like Dr. Subramaniam Chandrashekar and Dr. Hargobind Khorana have shown that, if given opportunities, Indians can excel others.
We have indeed a sound base in scientific research in CSIR set up even before Independence. The late Dr. Ramaswami Mudaliar piloted a resolution in the Legislative Assembly in 1941 to launch the CSIR on its career and it was given to the great Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar to take care of this infant organisation.
From a mere two laboratories in 1947, the CSIR has today 38 laboratories and 47 regional centers pursuing research and development in a range of diverse fields, biological science and technology, chemical science and technology, aerospace science and technology, earth science and technology, engineering science and technology, food science and technology, health care science and technology and housing construction and technology.
The CSIR family is 22, 000 strong including 5,300 scientists, 60 percent of who hold PhD, or M.Tech degrees. There are other scientific bodies like the ICMR, ICAR, Department of Atomic Energy, ISRO, DRDO and others. We have to strengthen these bases and expand our R&D activities of world class excellence. Recently the University Grants Commission set up a task force for the Basic Scientific Research in Universities, which presented a set of recommendations for popularizing research in areas of basic sciences, life sciences, mathematical sciences and chemical sciences.
Some of the major recommendations of the Task Force for Basic Scientific Research in Universities include: creation of 1,000 positions of research scientists equivalent to that of lecturer, reader and professor; establishing 10 networking centers in basic sciences in leading departments of universities and national institutions including CSIR laboratories, upgrading infrastructural facilities and setting up modern laboratories; increasing the number of PhDs five fold in ten years; earmarking a grant of Rs. 600 crore annually for implementing scientific research in universities; introducing five-year integrated MSc programmes for Plus Two students and Integrated PhD programmes for graduates in select universities; mandatory inclusion of research component in all postgraduate science and technology courses and; introducing 50 fellowships in all universities for pursuing doctoral research in basic sciences.
The Western world, more particularly, the US and the UK, has already recognized the Indian scientific talent. During his visit to India in September 2005 the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair proposed his country would collaborate with India on what he called “world research”. The UK-India Education and Research Initiative, backed the British Government funding, will link centres of academic excellence India and the UK through 70 new research projects over the next five years.
“Backed by a 12 million pound of Government money, and nearly 5 million pound in cash or kind from private sector partners, the initiative will allow split PhDs and research fellowships, and increased academic exchanges,” said Mr. Blair. Recently, Mr. Chris Patten; Chancellor Oxford University, visited India to tap the booming education m the: There is concern that American universities are overtaking British counterparts in attracting Indian students. There are nearly 80,000 Indian in students on American campuses compared to 17,000 in Brit
Don’t we want to retain the preeminent position we enjoy in science and scientific research? At the 2005 Indian Science Congress, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had observed: “I am concerned by fact that our best minds are not turning to science, and those who dc not remain in science.”
Many of our boys and girls win medals International Science Olympiads, and there it ends, and most of them fail to pursue science as a career. The only silver lining is that there few who go abroad and come back with their substantial experience enrich our development efforts or support Indian science and technology from their countries of residence.
How can we promote purposeful science education after the 1 stage? Dr. R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser to Government of India, says: “We could begin by getting universities; India to provide high quality science education structured around year integrated MSc programmes that seem to attract better students than the BSc. courses.
In India, most universities do not have in house undergraduate training which is done through affiliated colleges quality of teaching would show marked improvement if undergraduate science education was embedded in a postgraduate environment course, there are universities, like the Banaras Hindu University, which have both undergraduate and postgraduates courses. We should id a few of them with integrated MSc courses and give those subs grants to improve their facilities and faculties.”
It would be desirable to have a close interaction between universities and R&D institutions in order to popularize scientific research and induce good scientists from the national laboratories to teach part universities or colleges and help students have access to ongoing scientific research work in top institutions.
India produces 1.6 million science graduates every year. It is high time the government, universities and the industry thought as to how best they can provide higher education and training within the country in order that we get the best of services from our budding scientists. If we want to mould the best brains from our graduates, we have to pay attractive salary to our teachers as well.
According to Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, Director-General, CSIR, and President, Indian National Science Academy today Asia-Pacific region (45 percent) is leading in the area of scientific research followed by the European Union (32 percent) arid the US (20 percent).
Both India and China are leading the race in becoming global R&D hubs. A recent report by Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council of India (TIFAC) shows that India has emerged as a global R&D hub. According to TIFAC study (1998-2003), several ma ‘or international firms have set up R&D centers in India with investment. It worth $1.13 billion (Rs. 5,027.6 crore) and planned investment of $4 J billion (Rs. 20,036 crore). In the top 100 R&D centers, around 23,000 Indians have been employed. So far as good.
If we want to consolidate our gains in science and technology, nay, steal a march over the rest of the world, we have to go along the steps as outlined by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. There is already a state of panic in the US as the Asia-Pacific region is surging ahead in scientific research. The US President, Mr. Geroge W. Bush in his January-end State of the Union Address, unveiled $136 billion (Rs. 6,05,336 crore) American Competitiveness Initiative, including an extra $50 billion (Rs. 2,22,550 crore) for spending on scientific research and a recruitment drive for 70,000 extra science teachers over the next five years.
In 1998, we foresaw India emerging as a Knowledge Superpower and at the dawn of the New Millennium as a BPO Superpower and now we can hope to sustain the momentum as R&D hub by giving a great fillip to science education, thereby creating a world-class scientific pool in the country.