In an op-ed in the The Hindu, Narlikar, one of the finest popular science writers in India, describes recent experiments by Indian scientists from TIFR, CCMB, NCCS and ISRO, with very interesting the (sci-fi like) implications in astrobiology.
Astrobiology not the only topic that animates Narlikar's article, however; here's how he sees the impact of this work on Indian science:
This inter-institutional accomplishment illustrates the indigenous capability in successfully fabricating experimental set-ups of entirely new types. This trend for originality and creativity augurs well for Indian science. With fresh wind blowing in bringing global competitiveness and collaboration, attitudes to scientific research will change from that of a routine job to an adventure in creativity.
While that's a pretty positive outlook, there are concerns:
Perhaps the greatest hindrance to planning exciting experiments and achieving important results is the bureaucratic framework of our research institutes. The hierarchical structure, especially pay scales of our research institutes mimic the government’s administrative structure. However, the creativity and efficiency of a scientist vis-À-vis the administrator evolve differently, with the scientist bringing differential skill and qualification requirements to the table. Besides, a young scientist is in the prime of his creative life and an administrator, on the other hand, gains maturity with age. To base the promotion criteria of a scientist on the same pattern as for an administrator is to ignore this fundamental difference. This more often than not leads to frustration among the younger generation of scientists as they see their bright new ideas getting ignored or going unappreciated.
Narlikar's views reminded me of a perceptive analysis of science administration in India in a presentation by T. Jayaraman (ppt). Since our government funds scientific research, it treats science as a 'government department', with pretty serious consequences in the way it impacts the scientists' ability to get on with their work:
Scientific research is incidental to smooth functioning of the institution.
Individual research work (as opposed to `projects’) [is] simply a route to acquiring `personal benefits’ for the individual researcher.
Increasingly, even routine requirements (like adequate funding to invite and host visiting scientists program) have to be bundled as `projects'.
Financial and administrative accountability is central while scientific accountability is pushed to the background.
Mobility for research work [is] seriously affected.
Human resource management practices [are] hooked to that of government.
Here's an earlier post about Jayaraman's talk.
This is a good place to link (yet again) to Jayaraman's stinging critique (from 2005!) of the way our science policies are made and our science institutions are run.