Sunday, April 03, 2011

Prof. P. Balaram's "calm confidence"

"What product has come out of IISc?" This is the only question that ToI reporter G.N. Prashant keeps asking in so many different ways.

Looks like Prof. Balaram didn't blow up on the monomaniacal reporter, who compliments him by saying, "[He] fields questions with calm confidence."


  1. Vikram said...

    I appreciate Prof. Balaram's honesty but could more light be shed on this comment,

    "With regard to IISc, the first 50 years we worked on getting our freedom. The next 20 years, we started building institutions but we didn't have enough money. The '70s and '80s were financially dry and close to bankruptcy just around the late '80s. It was around the '90s and the new millenium that liberalisation happened and some money began to trickle in."

    I believed that institutes like the IISc are autonomous and get priority for research funding.

  2. Pranav Dandekar said...

    The question(s) the reporter did not ask, but was begging to be asked (given the flow of that interview) is: what great research and/or researchers has IISc produced? How many Nobel prizes, Turing awards, National Academy of Science/Engg members, etc. has IISc produced? How many best paper awards have faculty/students won in the last year? 10 years? 25 years? How many PhD graduates from IISc went on to productive (or spectacular) careers in research and academia?

    And once he got an answer to that question, the inevitable follow up: Is that good enough? What is good enough?

  3. Anonymous said...

    @Pranav: You said it!

    @Abi: A reminder. IISc didn't give me admission in the naughties (i.e. post-liberalization etc. times), despite clearing written tests in two+ different departments, and with the admission committee-members explicitly mentioning: (i) IISc's reservation against a student wishing to file for patents, and (ii) their inclinations against a student bringing to the table his own research proposal---the same one on which I eventually did my PhD at COEP, UoP, without any fellowship, and footing all the expenses on my own (and to examine which, not a single IISc professor came forward).

    Yeah, you can celebrate 101 years... Did you have the PM and the President visit your campus for those "we had CV Raman here" type of celebrations? One would guess so.

    Yeah, IISc. Neither trust nor---which is even worse---be willing to verify!!


    Best luck (and I am sure IISc needs it),


  4. Anonymous said...

    The reporter was no doubt an idiot, and Mr. Balaram was lucky about that. With the disproportionate amount of funding that IISc and similar places get, at the cost of India's university system, here is what should have been asked:
    1. How many citations are got from researchers working at or having graduated from IISc?
    2. How many seminal papers in their respective fields are from IISc?
    3.How many people in IISc are synonymous with the fields they work in? Please do not quote CV Raman or GNR: none of them did their defining work at IISc
    4. Any nature/science/cell etc editors?

  5. MP said...

    Actually, there are at least two people who have done noted work at IISC. One is U Shrinivasa, whose work on biodiesel paved the way for the Jatropha revolution in India and elsewhere (though he started off with Pongamia oil). Now planes are being flown using Jatropha oil, and Mercedes is one of the promoters of the shift to biodiesel.

    The other person is Raghavendra Gadagkar, who is a leader in behavioral biology, and two of his books are published by Harvard.

    I consider them both worth of Padmasree.

    I am disappointed that Dr. Balaram did not highlight their work. I am sure there are other people whose work has had equal impact. As the director, he should have had those names and achievements at his fingertips, and should throw those at pesky reporters. Instead of dismissing them with broad generalisations and statements to the effect that everyone is as bad as us.

  6. MP said...

    "A Young Oxfam poster in the early 70s did capture the spirit of those times. The poster showed a Concorde (supersonic) plane flying over a parched Indian village. The slogan below was:

    Somewhere there are engineers Helping others to fly faster than sound. Where are the engineers helping those Who must live on the ground."

  7. Ungrateful Alive said...

    If one has to be mercenary (and as Seinfeld says, not that there's anything wrong with it), one should measure honors (or citations, as an approximation) per dollar (or gram of gold, if you are disillusioned with money management worldwide). If you compare IISc's "lavish" budget with a small college in USA, you will realize that IISc does quite fine by that yardstick.