Indian science needs a revamp, says report

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File photo   | Photo Credit: PTI

Heads of India’s top scientific, administrative bodies have jointly conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that science in India needs a major revamp.

They have proposed an over-arching science and technology body that marries research and industry, and will report directly to the Prime Minister.

“The stature of Indian science is a shadow of what it used to be … because of decades of misguided interventions. We have lost self-confidence and ambition and the ability to recognise excellence amongst our own. In a false sense of egalitarianism, we often chose the mediocre at every level,” said the report, which was vetted by all the secretaries of India’s scientific departments and seen by The Hindu.

‘Harness goodwill’

However scientists and science in India command global “goodwill” as well as those of fellow Indians, and this was a “positive” and “a huge support system” that ought to be harnessed, the report added.

A major challenge in the funding of science by the government was that though scientific departments were headed by scientists, they were frequently not independent to take key decisions, such as filling vacancies and deciding how budgets to various projects within a Ministry ought to be allotted.

“…While Financial Advisers report to Secretaries of Departments, in practice a structure of dual authority has effectively emerged, despite all good intentions…many very important decisions are in suspended animation and a simple solution would be to put a timeline on decision-making,” the report emphasised in a section called ‘Ease of Doing Science.’ Financial Advisers are officers deputed from the Union Finance Ministry.

To realise India’s scientific ambitions, the science-heads proposed a new authority reporting to the Prime Minister. SPARK (Sustainable Progress through Application of Research and Knowledge), as it is tentatively called, will be a “nimble, empowered board and a quality staff.” The proposal was part of the report jointly prepared by the heads of all of India’s scientific departments including Atomic Energy, Space, Earth Sciences, Science and Technology and Biotechnology. While they submitted this to the Prime Minister in January, the details of it haven’t yet been made public. The report laid out a broad map on how India ought to prepare itself to be among the top three countries in science and technology by 2030 and ensure that 10% of the top 100 leaders in scientific fields are Indians.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 10:45:51 PM |

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