The head of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Committee, C.N.R Rao, on Monday sought to clarify his remarks on funding for science, saying: “I meant that investment in science is idiotic... It wasn’t said about anyone in particular.”

At a press conference on Sunday, a day after he was named for the Bharat Ratna, Prof. Rao criticised the government for “marginal” and “subcritical” investment in science. His comment was “misunderstood,” he said. “It wasn’t said in anger.” After all, he pointed out, the word had even been used in the British Parliament to describe the Prime Minister.

Talking to reporters after his inaugural address at the silver jubilee celebrations of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research here, he reiterated that investments should be “proportionate to requirements” of research. India stood 66th in innovation among 140 countries and had no rank at all for science publications, he said in his lecture on ‘Celebration of Science.’ It was time India caught up with the world, for its “self-preservation.”

India should try to retain “contemporariness” in science and ensure that “what we do is read by others.” Two contemporary problems India faced — like most of Asia and Africa — were water and energy. “The time has come for us to worry about water... We have no drinking water even in times of floods. And 60 per cent of deaths from illness come from water-borne disease.”

Women in science

The place of women in science was something that “worries” him, Prof. Rao said. The professional life of Nobel Laureate Marie Curie was an example of the “monumental lengths that men would go” to undermine women. “Obnoxious, unprintable stories were written about her,” and a smear campaign prevented her from entering the French Academy of Science in 1911.

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