The President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's inaugural speech at a recent Indian Physics Association seminar at Kharagpur appears in today's Hindu as an op-ed. It is about attracting bright and enthusiastic youth to science as the major challenge that we face. Here are some of his suggestions:
An assured career in science is essential for a certain number of high quality committed scientists with aptitude towards research. There should be a minimum annual intake of about 300 M.Sc and 100 Ph.D scientists with proper emoluments and assured career growth in organisations such as ISRO, DRDO, Atomic Energy, CSIR, DST, and universities. Private and government funded universities must be encouraged to appoint M.Sc and Ph.D scientists selected through a nationally coordinated competitive selection process. This will be a great motivator for science students and their parents. It will be an assurance to youth and their parents that the future is secure once they take up a career in science.
Experienced scientists and policy makers must recognise the talent available in their organisations irrespective of their position. They must empower young scientists to create state-of-the art laboratories once they have concrete thoughts and vision. Vikram Sarabhai in the initial stages of ISRO brought in a culture of management, which encouraged and satisfied the vision of young scientists that collectively succeeded in making the mission of the organisation a reality.
Universities and Research & Development institutions must encourage and facilitate young scientists to write quality research papers in frontier areas and in prestigious journals. They should also facilitate youth to present papers in national and international seminars and symposia, which will enable them to assess their standard against international benchmarks. Encouraging youth to be lead authors while publishing joint research would be a very good gesture, which youngsters will cherish for many years.
Based on my experience of interacting with 600,000 students, I feel they are looking for role models to follow after their 10+2 career. Approximately seven million students appear for the plus two examinations every year; and three million of them are from the science stream. To attract them to a career in science, we need many novel ideas.
Youth must be made to understand the beauty of doing science, the pleasure of doing science, and the ultimate bliss when results of science make you understand nature, master it, control it, and finally make things that improve the quality of life of humankind. Every scientist must pledge that he or she will spend at least some time visiting schools to ignite young minds by recounting his or her experiences.