Their opinion piece in this week's Nature -- Free Indian Science -- lays out (some of) the problems that hold Indian science back. The entire article is worth reading, so go read it now. I'll use this post to highlight some of the interesting points made by the authors.
Let me come right off and say that this is a great line:
Indian science needs public funding, but not government control.
Many people -- including some clueless journalists -- fail to realize that in terms of funding, academic institutions in India are the bit players; the biggies are the government labs, and it is good to see that Joseph and Robinson hammer this point home:
Nearly 60% of India's science budget2 is now spent on the CSIR, scientific departments and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) — an enormous and impenetrable empire set up in 1958. None of these national institutions has stimulated scientific excellence [...]
Joseph and Robinson also nail a key problem in the grants made by funding agencies to faculty members in academic institutions:
... [Although] research in the leading institutions is well funded, [...] the funding is subject to unsuitable restrictions applicable to the entire government bureaucracy. These include limited foreign travel and no travel support for research students, ruling out regular participation in leading conferences and research gatherings.
Their analysis of the problems that plague Indian science leads to a four-part solution. The first part is about insulating the funding agencies from government control:
The first step towards reinvigorating Indian science must be to create an empowered funding agency, staffed by working scientists, some of whom could be non-resident Indians. A possible model is the European Research Council, which deals with a complex of national governments no less formidable than India's 29 state governments, yet manages to focus on supporting research excellence. The crucial requirement is obviously that an Indian scientific research council be permitted to set its own criteria for the evaluation of research proposals, independent of direct government control, and disburse government funds accordingly.
There's a lot more in there -- go read the whole thing.
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Thanks to Prof. S. Ranganathan for the e-mail pointer.