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`Research, delivery more important'

By G. Venkataramani

CHENNAI, JUNE 19. "Research and delivery are most important today than in the past. The intermediate link, the development part, has been a weakness in the Indian Science and Technology system [with some outstanding exceptions], and we are taking some initiatives to strengthen the link," said Dr. R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.

Talking to mediapersons at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) here on Friday, Dr. Chidambaram said his office had taken initiatives recently to improve the Science and Technology (S&T) environment. They focussed mainly on enhancing academia-industry interaction and technology delivery for rural development. The major issues relate to attracting young people to careers in science and providing them an invigorating and challenging academic environment; to use the strong scientific and technological (also industrial) platform created since Independence for national development and national security; and to making technology choices in a national perspective (technology foresight), according to him.

There are many dimensions to S&T in the country — basic research, industry-oriented research, applied research and technology development by mission-oriented agencies, and application of S&T for rural development. Projects have been initiated to develop "measures of progress" in some of these areas, and one of them relating to measuring the impact of science and technology on agriculture and rural development has been taken up by MSSRF, according to Dr. Chidambaram. "India should take up globally competitive basic research, without too much concern about impact on Indian technology, and focus on research and development that feeds Indian technology — for the needs of industry and critical technologies and societal requirements," he said.

"When we decide to develop any technology — whether it is nuclear or rural development-related- we must clearly understand its purpose. In my opinion, the reasons for developing any technology are one or another of the following, or a combination of them: creating national wealth; improving quality of life of people, particularly those living in rural areas; and enhancing national security. National security must be interpreted broadly to include not only military security, but also food and nutritional security, health security and energy security. Making technology choices requires technology foresight and this has to be done in a national perspective," he said.

Describing a new initiative "RuTAGs" (Rural Technology Action Groups), he said that it had been conceptualised to establish synergy among various efforts at technology delivery for rural development, which were often fragmented and needlessly duplicated.

It was a mechanism to provide higher level of S&T intervention and support than hitherto achieved, and it had been initiated in Uttaranchal and Tamil Nadu. Prof. M. S. Swaminathan is the adviser for RuTAG in Tamil Nadu, he said.

Prof. Swaminathan, Chairman, MSSRF, highlighted the need for developing methods for assessing the impact of S&T on agriculture and public goods research, and said the workshop to develop a methodology would come out with meaningful conclusions.

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