Saturday, October 07, 2006

Manmohan Singh on the state of R&D in India


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a speech yesterday at the Platinum Jubilee (75th anniversary) of the National Academy of Sciences (one of India's three -- three! -- science academies).

The Hindu reports [Thanks to Vishnu for helping me fix the broken link]:

"How can we achieve our development goal if we do not perform well in the field of basic sciences," Dr. Singh asked, pointing at the standard of research in the universities and even in the IITs.

What worried the Prime Minister more was the "divorce" between research and teaching, which was hampering the growth of the spirit of inquisitiveness and enquiry among students. The universities were unable to mobilise adequate financial and intellectual resources to support creative research and development efforts unlike in the past when they were at the centre of advanced research and attracted great talent.

Some quick data from this ToI report:

He then went on to outline the UPA government's plans to increase the allocation on science and technology from less than 1% of the GDP to 2% in the next five years. The 10th five-year plan has allotted Rs 25,243 crore to promoting research in institutions under scientific departments.

National investment in R&D hovers around 0.6-0.7% of GDP. Singh's statement would mean a quantum jump in funds available to academic institutions: two per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) would translate into a figure in the region of Rs 64,000 crore.

6 Comments:

  1. Kumar Appaiah said...

    Hopefully, we should see somethings tangible soon. This is an area which needs tremendous acceleration!

  2. Sunil said...

    question for you.....why does India, with its handful of scientists, have THREE national science academies, while most countries (including the US, with its many thousands of scientists) have one?

  3. Vishnu said...

    1. The Hindu link is broken. You perhaps wanted

    http://www.hindu.com/2006/10/07/stories/2006100706341200.htm

    2. I am being picky here, but the "unable to mobilise adequate financial and intellectual resources to support creative research and development" in the article is directly lifted off from Singh's speech (full text available at his website) without quotes!

    3. I agree with Manmohan's concerns. One of my friends visited IISc this summer for a possible job opportunity. He told me that they did not care if someone was a bad teacher; they wanted a good researcher. Similar story at IITB. The school of Mathematics at TIFR says that "teaching is voluntary." Where are good researchers going to come from, if there are no good teachers?

  4. gaddeswarup said...

    My impressions are similar to Vishnu's remark 3) above. School teachers need training and a degree in teaching and there seems to be nothing similar for university teachers. In USA, teaching assistantships and evaluations from that stage help. I do not think that there is a similar system in India. I myself found that without any training it took me several years and a lot of trial and error before I felt comfortable teaching (Even simple things like turning to the students instead of board while talking took time). Perhaps a crash course in teaching at the beginning of the career and appraisals and advice during the first year or so may help.

  5. gaddeswarup said...

    I just got this article from a friend:
    http://www.cell.com/content/article/fulltext?uid=PIIS009286740601213X
    I have not read it completely but it may be of interest to others.

  6. Abi said...

    Kumar: Yes, science -- particularly academic science -- needs more attention and money. Lots of it, and at the earliest!

    Sunil: Check out 'Current Science' from the early nineties, for the reasons why we have three science academies.

    Vishnu: Thanks for that link. Yes, the Hindu's report is not all that well written.

    Vishnu, Swarup: I agree that teaching is heavily discounted in our elite institutions. While the IITs place a great deal of value on it, teaching will not get you a place in any of our top institutions. Our funding structure is such that research is seen as far more important even if it is at the expense of teaching.

    Swarup: Thanks for that link to the article in Cell.