Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dear Infosys Science Foundation ...

Update 2 (29 October 2010): Just noticed this afternoon that the website now has a new page featuring a citation, biographical sketch and "scope and impact of work" for each Prize winner.

Update (27 October 2010; 7:30 p.m.): The presentation (pdf) at the Prize announcement is available; it has a brief citation from the jury for each Prize. This page (contrast it with this page from 2009) is yet to be updated with links to further info for each Prize winner -- citation, bio, etc. (like in this page from 2009).

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Dear Infosys Science Foundation,

It's great to see that "Science" is your middle name. Please do it justice by doing the right things for your Prize.

You see, the Prize announcement was not accompanied by a well-written citation describing the scientific accomplishments of each of the Prize winners -- Laureates, as you prefer to call them. It has been almost 24 hours since you made the announcement, and the citations are still missing on your website.

Perhaps I need to spell out the implications of the missing citation.

When the citation is missing, the "young Indians" that you wish to "inspire" through your Prizes get to see only the money, but not the science.

When the citation is missing, the scientific accomplishments of your Laureates take a back seat to the fact that they just became richer by 50 lakhs. What did they do -- win a lottery?

When the citation is missing, you are not "[endeavouring] to elevate the prestige of scientific research in India", you are just using the Prize to flaunt the wealth of your founders.

Finally, when the citation is missing, your Prize is not an Indian version of the Nobel, it's just a private sector version of those CSIR awards[*].

Bottomline: If you want your Prize to have the right sort of reputation and impact, you have to not just do it, but do it right.

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[*]: See my rant -- at the end of that post from 2006 -- about the S.S.Bhatnagar Prizes being announced without the Prize citations.

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Thanks to Pratik Ray who also noticed the lack of citations in the announcement.


  1. gaddeswarup said...

    I think that this is a good initiative and that more people will voice their concern.

  2. Ajay Harish said...

    Definitely true. There needs to be some citation with regard to what "ground breaking" work has been done by these "Prize winners". That's the bare minimum necessary to let everyone know why they deserve the prize and provide some credibility to the decision process in itself. Especially as an Engineer out of Caltech - I would like to know what's the "engineering" award given for at least!?!

    Especially if we look at the Press release of Nobel Committee:(Quoting directly from 2010 prizes)
    Chemistry: "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis"
    Physics: "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene"

    Even the citations for year 2009 from Infosys committee seems a bit vague compared to ones from Nobel committee. May be because the rules say: "The Prize can be given for an outstanding invention or discovery or for a cumulative body of work". Cumulative body of work is good but if I have a 1000 papers with no effective product that I can name (in a line) out of it - then is such a work worth the award?

    Another point of concern is: How are they selecting the people who nominate?

  3. Wavefunction said...

    Spot on. The Nobel Prize website has citations and press releases even if they don't have photos initially. Seems to be the opposite case here. On a different note, did you see this post that partially mentions you?

  4. gaddeswarup said...

    I hope that they also give links to selected works of the winners as well as more detailed descriptions if their work and impact. I am particularly interested in the prize in social sciences. Many of the winners do not have wiki pages. This is not surprise since many excellent scientists and others from South Asia do not seem to appear there. Perhaps some attempts can be made to remedy this.