Top minds from science and research institutes across Bangalore met here on Friday to brainstorm on and discuss the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013, which was released by the Prime Minister earlier this year.

Scientists from fields ranging from life sciences to theoretical physics spoke about the new policy, flagging issues and sectors that they thought deserved more attention in the policy document. They called for increased focus on science education, innovation that can improve the quality of life of the vast Indian population and reforms to improve the quality of research. The workshop is a first in the series of workshops being organised by the Department of Science and Technology and the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Getting it together

Taking a sharp look at the state of science institutes, and the research culture therein, K. VijayRaghavan, Director of the National Centre for Biological Studies, said that the problem ahead was not that of inadequate policy articulation, but that of “getting everyone together to implement” what is laid down.

The “vortex of limiting resources, processes and regulation” all present a pessimistic picture, he noted. In a sharp criticism of the “fragility” of science institutions, he said that while “the agencies of modern science are far from India, Indian science continues to suffers from a “frog-in-the-well” syndrome.

“Our international connectivity is rather poor; we are lazy and seem to be reluctant to either identify large problems that need to be solved or engage in real problem solving. Our science is insulated, but the world is changing; so can we take advantage of the opportunities presented in this changing world?” Indian science needs to get out of its well, he said, emphasising on the need to evolve an institutional mechanism to reward collaboration in research.

Roddam Narasimha, chairman of Engineering Mechanics Unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, said that the policy failed to mention venture capital, a crucial component in promoting innovation.

“In the early 20th Century, the growth of science was largely funded by private wealth — princes, zamindars and industrialists. This changed drastically in the latter half,” he said.

D. Balasubramanian, director of research at the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, said that the policy must live up to its stated purpose of promoting science that is accessible and affordable. “Innovation, unlike invention, focuses on existing knowledges, tweaks it and coalesces to create a product that can be accessed by the masses. That is the kind of innovation we need,” he said. He emphasised on the need for innovative solutions in health and sanitation. K.N. Ganesh, director of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, emphasised on the need for reforms in the PHD and post-doctoral programmes.

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