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Updated: March 31, 2010 00:37 IST

India needs more "role models"

Hasan Suroor
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Nobel laureate Venkataraman Ramakrishnan.
AP Nobel laureate Venkataraman Ramakrishnan.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan takes a dim view of foreign varsities' entry

Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan on Tuesday called for India to develop a culture that would produce more cutting-edge research in science thus providing “role models'' for young scientists.

He said the reason why Indian scientists did so well when they went abroad was because they “see lots of role models''. They came across scientists who were doing more “specific'' work and were engaged in frontline research. However, Professor Ramakrishnan hastened to clarify that he did not mean to criticise the Indian system of which he himself had been a product.

“There are some very good scientists in India who are doing work that is world-class and internationally recognised. What India needs is more role models,'' he said adding that now that India had resources and could invest in long-term research it was a matter of time before Indian universities caught up with the best in the world.

Professor Ramakrishnan took a dim view of the rush among foreign universities to set up campuses in India saying it was motivated purely for business reasons.

“Whenever these outstation universities set up campuses, be it in Singapore or other places, they have not been able to reproduce the culture of the original place,” he said.

It was for this reason that major universities like Cambridge had decided “not to go'' and the trend was confined to “less tier'' institutions.

“I'm not very optimistic but it doesn't do any harm, '' he added.

Speaking to Indian journalists as he prepared to leave for India to receive Padma Vibhushan, he said he was touched by the Indian Government's gesture.

“I'm very much looking forward to receiving the Padma Vibhushan... I am touched and honoured by the Government of India's decision to confer the second highest honour on me,” he said.

Asked whether India was trying to bask in reflected glory of his Nobel status, Professor Ramakrishnan said it was “too negative'' a way to interpret the gesture. The fact remained, he said, that it was his early years in India that prepared him for what he did later.

Professor Ramakrishnan, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2009 sharing it with other scientists, said it came as a “big surprise'' to him.

“It took time to sink in. But it certainly has not changed my life style,” he said.

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