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India losing the edge to China in science: Mashelkar

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YOUNG ACHIEVERS: R.A. Mashelkar, CSIR Director-General, with the winners of Scopus Young India Scientist Awards 2006 in New Delhi on Thursday.
YOUNG ACHIEVERS: R.A. Mashelkar, CSIR Director-General, with the winners of Scopus Young India Scientist Awards 2006 in New Delhi on Thursday.

Staff Reporter

The number of research papers being produced in China has grown exponentially

NEW DELHI: With a number of corporations setting up research and development facilities in India, the country was all set to become a major knowledge production centre, said R.A. Mashelkar, Director-General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, here on Thursday.

He was speaking after honouring nine scientists during the presentation of the Scopus Young India Scientist Awards, 2006.

Dr. Mashelkar used the opportunity to highlight India's losing competitiveness in the field of science, particularly to China.

"China is winning hands down the competition with India," he said, noting that in the past 10 years the number of research papers produced in India had increased from 11,000 to 19,000, but in China they had gone up exponentially from 10,000 to 55,000. "I mentioned this to the Prime Minister also, and thereafter the issue evoked a lot of interest and generated a debate, but more needs to be done."

"Celebrating success"

Dr. Mashelkar said the event was all about celebrating success and the very best of Indian science, as also the future of science and India. There had been a "shifting of geography of science," and the focus had now turned to the Asia Pacific. Qualitatively too, papers being written in India now were much better. "We used to say `lets not write papers which nobody will read,' but in the last 10 years there has been a turnaround, and now our papers compare with the best in the world."

On the scientific tools used to evaluate research papers, Dr. Mashelkar said while they were "tremendous," they had to be used rationally. Even in the past, when these tools did not exist, India produced scientists of the highest order.

Intellectual capital

Explaining the rationale behind the scientific community's interest in the country, he said one could get the best intellectual capital per dollar in India. "That is why I tell the politicians to invest more in the field."

On the selection process for the awards, Dr. Mashelkar said there should be an independent evaluation procedure, and applications and recommendations should be discouraged. He called for widening the scope of the awards to spot talent in smaller towns. He expressed happiness that the awards sought to encourage young scientists, saying the old did not need awards. "The funny thing about awards is that once you get one, you get the second, and so on.''

Instituted by Elsevier, the world's largest publisher of science, technology and medicine journals, the awards comprised a crystal trophy and a cash component of Rs. 50,000. Elsevier managing director Frank Vrancken Peters said, "India has contributed so much to the world of science, and the award seeks to honour and propel India's young research minds towards furthering Indian science."

The winners of this year's awards are Dr. Sunil Kumar Manna from the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad, and Dr. Rajesh S. Gokhale from the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, for biological sciences; Dr. Kumar Biradha from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, for chemistry; Dr. Shankar Doraiswamy from the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, for earth sciences; Dr. Giridhar Madras from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for engineering; Dr. Abhay Gopal Bhatt from the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, for mathematics; Dr. Ganeshan Venkatasubramanian from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, for medicine; and Dr. C.P. Safvan from the Inter-University Accelerator Centre, New Delhi, and Dr. Tarun Souradeep from the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, for their work in physics.


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