This refers to the article “Securing India’s science future” (Nov. 13). One reason basic science and R&D have deteriorated in our country is that parents do not allow talented youngsters with an aptitude for research and innovation to follow their dreams. They want to see their children becoming doctors, engineers, or computer professionals — not a researcher or professor. For them, a career in research is not attractive in terms of pay, prestige, and respectability. It is, therefore, important for us to educate the parents on the importance of letting their children choose their careers. We also have to make a career in research attractive for youngsters through proper recognition, rewards, freedom to innovate, and by publicising the work of accomplished researchers and scientists.
As a career, scientific research is not an option parents can suggest to their children. Talk to those doing research in science, you will find most of them telling you dejectedly not to select it as a career. The tendency in our country is to see researchers as people alienated from society and family. If we compare government funding of research in different countries, it will be clear that we lag far, far behind. It is just not possible to carry on quality research without money.
N.R. Narayana Murthy rightly points to the fact that India has, in the recent past, lagged behind in the quality and spread of science, and argues for a strong foundation for research. But the foundation for higher education should be laid at the primary level. Studies indicate that a majority of students do not go beyond class 10. They also say most of our graduates are unemployable. With such dismal levels of scholastic achievement at lower levels, how can we hope for quality science research at higher levels? Unfortunately, our policymakers talk only of IITs and IIMs. Let us take care of the paise before we talk about securing rupees.
B.V. Parameswara Rao,
If a nation wants to compete in the highly globalised and knowledge-economy world, it should have a strong scientific quest. It is true that the progress of a nation depends on the progress of science.
The younger generation pursues education to land a good job. No one wants to study for intellectual curiosity or a greater cause. Today’s youth is trapped in consumerism. Research needs patience, perseverance, a diehard attitude and confidence. I think we need strong and creative classrooms, and students should be motivated during their high school and pre-university days. Those who opt for the teaching profession do so by accident, not willingly and parents are to blame for this. Only some parents motivate their children to pursue research in basic sciences because it does not promise fat pay packages.
Mr. Murthy has rightly pointed to the importance of motivation, incentives and funding in fostering scientific talent. A major disincentive for our scientists is that they are often rendered ineffective while taking crucial decisions of national importance. An editorial in the latest issue of our foremost medical journal says: “In summary, the major factor that led to India’s failure with polio elimination is ... the lack of technical leadership at the highest levels of policy-making.”