Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Prof. C.N.R. Rao's Valentine's Day Message


National research professor and renowned scientist C.N.R. Rao on Sunday expressed concern over lack of innovation in Indian science and said rapid commercialisation and particularly, the information technology industry, contributed to this decline.

“IT has destroyed Indian science as much as it has contributed to its economy,” he told presspersons on the sidelines of a ... conference ... at the National Institute of Technology-Karnataka, Surathkal. The IT sector might have contributed to the country’s GDP, but it had done little for its development, he said.

He said that there was a growing trend of “internal brain drain” in the country, where students succumbed to temptations and took up jobs that had nothing to do with scientific innovation. “Why does one need to study engineering if the ultimate aim is to do an MBA and sell soap?”

Here's the source.

26 Comments:

  1. Anonymous said...

    Here we go again. I will wager he will end up getting smeared all over the blogosphere by shining Indians, just like last time. A scientist of his stature should not engage stupid IT companies (and the stupid and greedy Indian middle class). It's like inviting a pig to mud wrestling---the pig will love it and CNRR will be smeared with mud. Just wait for free market apologists to deconstruct his claims and mumble the usual bromide about pro-market development.

  2. Yeti said...

    Anon@1,
    Even before the pro/free-mkt apologists raise the banner, there is a logical flaw in CNRR's opening argument. How are people who have left Indian science responsible for its lack of innovation ? And why make IT the scapegoat ? Shouldn't Indian Science first look inwards before trying to find external culprits ? Or has all that has to be done internally been exhausted and hence we need external scapegoats ?

  3. Anonymous said...

    I agree with anon #2. Has Indian scientists ever looked inwards. The blog of another scientist,

    http://giridharmadras.blogspot.com/2010/02/publish-or-perish.html

    mentions how interview calls are based on the point system of a babu who does not know the difference between a nature paper and some other paper.

  4. Anonymous said...

    @Anon3: I see. You first demand a healthy scientific ecosystem in a desperately poor, clueless and corrupt country, with highly qualified, competent administrators, before the folks fleeting to IT will grace the system and head back to scientific jobs. Dream on, lover boy!

    @Yeti: Duh. Virtually any Indian who can fog a mirror today works in IT or is abroad, not doing Indian science and leaving it to often less driven people. You mean, to credibly hurt Indian science, the IT coolies in Hyd/Blr need to actually go around smashing lab apparatus? Walking away from it in droves is not enough? What do you smoke?

  5. Anonymous said...

    After a Ph.D in science, one will earn less than a call center employee. And you want to blame IT for this mess? Why don't you blame the pathetic teaching and research both in IITs and science colleges? Let us face it. People who do research in science and engineering belong to the group who would not even survive in a competetive environment like the IT industry.

  6. pradeepkumar pi said...

    Abi, it would be a good idea to prevent anonymous posts. If they are afraid to speak out the truth by revealing their identity, why they should be allowed to write a lot of nonsense? Are they having identity crisis?

  7. Anonymous said...

    @Anon5: "would not even survive in a competetive (sic.) environment" --- Yeah, keep basking in that glory until the fake dollar printing presses grind to a halt and you get fired. Then cry mommy and come applying to IIX. (Happening in real life.)

    @Pi: Look, you need your armor when thrashing catatonic morons who have no understanding of the world but (thereby) are in the majority. You expect an IIX prof to shout "democracy is bullshit in a largely stupid population" publicly? Next thing you know Anon5 gets fired and applies to my IIX, then raises a stink that I was responsible for not hiring her/him/it. Anonymity is bliss.

  8. Anonymous said...

    Nice title.

    And I like the pig imagery, though my image is the opposite of what anon1 intended.

  9. Vishu Guttal said...

    Is there any hard evidence that IT has taken away talent from science, or more generally research?

  10. Anonymous said...

    Anon 5,

    do you know what it takes to become a faculty. how can the routine work in IT with no shreds of innovation be ever be compared with the Faculty job (in IIX or abroad).
    I have seen both faces of it. I worked for 3 years in IT (and successfully) before going for my MS+PhD because I felt I cannot breathe in that polluted environment in the IT sector. After PhD while as a faculty in US, I feel charged everyday and enjoy my work. I worked for 12-13 hrs per day while at IT and felt everyday that my stamina has been drained (through useless work). However in academia as a faculty I work for more than 15 hrs/day and never feel tired. Every journal paper I publish is a result of lot of brainstorming and hard work. But that work is stimulating. In IT whatever project I did (finance, manufacturing etc) felt so boring and tiresome.
    Forget money. No one comes to academia for money. It is because of the outlet it provides you for creative venting.

    Prof. SB

  11. Rahul (A PhD student) said...

    Agree with anon@10 and anon@1:

    Those who pursue science and innovation do it predominantly for its academic appeal. Unfortunately, it is easy to get swayed by the mediocrity and easy money offered by IT. If research labs in basic sciences were as glamorous as the ones in computer science, for example Google/M$/IBM/Yahoo, one could still expect an alignment of academic and financial incentives.

  12. Anonymous said...

    Rahul, good luck with your job search. It's probably not in the "Indian Science" sector now, is it? ;-)

  13. Rahul said...

    anon@12: No it is not, as I don't have the brains to excel in pure sciences :)

  14. Prithwiraj said...

    National Research Professor?

  15. Anonymous said...

    How is Faculty job

    USA:

    The hiring process for a faculty job is US is long (8-12 months). We typically get 200-300 applications per position advertised. All these applications are from highly qualified individuals with very promising PhD/Post Doc research. We sort them and eliminate many and narrow them down to 10 applications for phone interview. Based on the phone interview, we invite 4-5 applicants for 2 day campus visit and presentation. In the end, search committee based on inputs from faculties recommend an individual for the position to the department chair. The department chair on approval from the Dean, now negotiates salaries, startup funds and other goodies with the candidate concerned. Offer letter with job description and salary along with a letter describing the startup commitments are issued to the candidate. Startup funds widely varies depending on nature of work (theoretical versus experimental) and so does the lab space. Salary is always for 9 months.

    Normally a new Assistant Professor gets two PhD students funded by the department along with some summer salary for two years with light teaching load. But the honeymoon period after securing the job is shortlived. For any research active University, the tenure requirements mandates about 1 million dollar of funding from grants, 10-12 publications in top journals, good teaching evaluations and good service record. Currently in US external funding agencies like NSF, DOE, DoD etc have hit rates of 8-10 %. So a new Assistant Professor has to work relentlessly to secure money from these agencies. For every 10 new ideas, he might get 1 funded if he is lucky. People in IT can trust me that writing each proposal takes enormous amount of time and effort. Not only you have to propose something transformatory but also back your idea with some preliminary data and calculations. This means even before submitting a proposal one has to do some significant research to test certain key ideas. On the top of that alignment of one’s research with his/her advisor or teaming up with advisor or extending PhD work is not good and not encouraged. In addition, to survive this hostile environment one needs to team up with other colleagues in the university to secure funding and probably publish.
    Research publications on your own is difficult initially and requires lots of effort. Furthermore publishing in top journals require even more sweating. So general rule of thumb is that beyond startup period, an Assistant Professor needs to bring in on an average $ 300-400 K per year to support 3-4 graduate students, summer salary and research expenses. This will go on for ages even beyond tenure. Moment one relaxes and stops writing proposals, he/she will fall into a spiraling vortex and become irrelevant in the field after sometime. The loop is simple, money is needed for student support and without it there cannot be any paper.

    In essence, in US a Professor is a researcher, manager, entrepreneur and teacher all rolled into one. The job requires hard work and continuous thinking.

    Dr. Saptarshi Basu

  16. Anonymous said...

    The IT-wallas don't disagree that Indians in the Promised Land are supermen and superwomen. They are just saying that Indian scientists left rotting in India are a bunch of sore losers, incapable of high-stress, super-achiever jobs, and also pissed off at potential students and colleagues who are working and playing hard in IT companies, making great impact, and generally having a ball while still in India.

  17. Anonymous said...

    @anon 16:
    What proof do you have to say Indian scientists are rotting? Do you have any idea of an academic job?
    IT making an impact???? IT that came from IIXs made impact on Indian society. We are not analyzing a washing machine being built in Georgia. Definitely not a call center or a MTech from IIX doing mesh generation for an pseudo IT company... I pity your jobs... go knock your head with the ball and may be it comes out of its routine...

    K from IIX

  18. Anonymous said...

    Anon17/K_from_IIX, please learn to recognize sarcasm (Anon16) when you see it.

  19. Anonymous said...

    The salary we get in IT is not much as compared to what our white counterparts make in US and Europe. We work under pressure to meet our deadlines and deliver the product with decent quality. Our top management earns more but they also share more responsibilities. We earn our salary and not a parasite on tax payers’ money. On the other hand, we consider our own R&D unit as a liability for us, a parasite. You give them any problem; they will come up with too many arguments, too many explanations, may write up a huge report on that but cannot solve the problem, particularly in a time bound manner. No real product or new technology we ever got from our R&D unit. You can ask our big boss why are we sharing our hard earned money with those parasites; you will only get a nice smile from him. In reality, company gets many benefits just by keeping the R&D unit. Probably it does not matter to them if they give any output or not. The common idea among IT people is: if you can not do anything in real life, you will get a PhD and become a scientist and publish papers. Probably no one reads those papers expect you.
    If scientists want better pay, they have to earn it. Show real productivity, not some fancy research papers which is of no use to us who pays for your work. My tax money must not be wasted for such unproductive work. I personally believe the pay they get is much more than they deserve.

  20. Anonymous said...

    People like Anon # 19 are the reasons why CNR Rao makes these comments. If this is the knowledge of Anon # 19 about research then he/she is probably too ignorant.

    TA

  21. Anonymous said...

    "Probably it does not matter to them if they give any output or not. The common idea among IT people is: if you can not do anything in real life, you will get a PhD and become a scientist and publish papers."

    Anon 19: This shows your profound ignorance. Do you think that IBM, Microsoft etc research centers are useless. Do you think earning PhD is cakewalk. Just take the trouble and join a PhD program. You will have a flavor of what it takes for PhD. and what do you mean by useless papers. Publish one yourself first.
    I had a computer science Phd who was working in goldman sachs as analyst on some very tough problem while people from Infy etc were working as frontdesk application developers in the same company. While my friend did core technical problems which REQUIRES that the person involved is proficient and has a PhD while Infy's work required nothing more than a high school diploma and some programming skills.
    Do you see the difference now.

  22. Anonymous said...

    Dear Anon # 21: There is no use explaining it to Anon # 19. He/she is just ignorant and living in denial.

    TA

  23. Anonymous said...

    Anon #19, you had previously posted the same here

    http://network.nature.com/groups/natureindia/forum/topics/5236?page=2

    There most of them agreed with you. Here no one agrees with you. Just different audiences, accusing each other of living in denial.

  24. Anonymous said...

    Anon19 in the PhD market? I should go on an infinite sabbatical...

  25. Anonymous said...

    The probation period is IIX is 1 year. Is this period extended sometimes. I mean legally is there a provision for the same.

  26. Yeti said...

    Anon@4,
    IT and its high-pay & low-value wrk, attendant commercialization in society is giving a tough competition to the academia in hiring motivated people for doing Science and thereby killing innovation ? Even if we grant CNRR this argument then the people left doing Science are the really driven ones. Agreed that you could have weaned away many more if Science was more "glamarous", "rewarding" vis-a-vis IT. But inculcating that value system lies in the school, univs i.e. academia and to an extent the family