Scientific innovations — India has a long way to go

August 08, 2013 03:29 am | Updated 03:29 am IST

The chronology is as follows — Science policy (1956) , Technology Policy (1983) , Science & Technology Policy (2003) and Science,

Technology & Innovation Policy (2013) and a few Policy Resolutions in between. The order seems to be very logical. A sound science base begets applied science which is generally equated with technology.

Armed with such prowess, indigenous technological innovations play the role of real game changers. The obvious conclusion that follows is that a country’s own science base is the sine qua non for her to be proud of the innovations.

The definition of innovation given in the STI-2013 lends full support to the above chain of thoughts –‘it implies an S&T-led solution that is successfully deployed in the economy or society’.

Shameful but true — we still bask under the glory of 1930s Nobel Prize of C.V. Raman. According to National Institute of Science, Technology And Development Studies (NISTADS) publication “India- S&T 2008’, culled from Scopus (the world`s largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature) data base, reports that there has been a whopping growth rate of 85.24 per cent of Indian science publications between 1997 and 2007.

But only 0.32 per cent of Indian output was published in high impact journals (IF10 to 47.4 citations per journal). The statistical figures apart, in an effort to obtain a real-time snapshot of Indian basic science, 166 scientists of repute in India were contacted using various modes of communication. Each was requested to identify in-country basic ‘notable’ research achievements since independence which could elicit international salutation. The word ‘notable’ was amply explained to them. Even with a low rate of response and with a high probability of bias and controversy five such works could be identified. These are i) Creation of child using in-vitro fertilization by Subhas Mukhopadhyay ii) Ramachandran Plot for understanding peptide structure/ Collagen Triple Helical model for collagen structure By G.N. Ramachandra iii) Cholera toxin/determination of precise mechanism how cholera is caused by Sambhunath Dey iv) Pancharatnam/ Geometric Phase for polarized beams passing through crystals by S. Pancharatnam v) String theory by Ashok Sen.

The World Bank Knowledge for Development (K4D -KAM2012) report puts India at 120th position among 145 countries in Knowledge Index (KI) ranking. In the above backdrop of Indian science, it would be extremely difficult for anyone who accepts the definition of innovation as propounded in STI-2013 to be hopeful about the excellence of Indian innovations sans imported science and technology. A vivisection of the recent various award winning innovations and the know-how developed would reveal that at the root of these innovations science or technologies are of foreign origin and mainly from the west. The authors of this article have themselves carried out such an exercise on 570 Indian innovations.

Two points are important in this discussion – i) we failed to pay heed to the advice of some of the doyens of Indian science of yester years of not to declutch research from university system. ii) With the progress of science, it is now extremely expensive to make arrangement to observe any natural phenomenon. After 65 years, the first point is being addressed in a wrong way (by putting the horse behind the cart) as some large government R&D organizations are opening universities of their own. The second point cannot be addressed unless government expenditure on R&D is increased many fold. Notwithstanding these steps, it is well nigh impossible to achieve any perceptible results unless Indian industries take the lead to share at least 80 per cent of total R&D expenditure of the country which moves around 15-25 per cent since independence.

( Dr. GHOSH is former Senior Scientist, and Dr. PATRA is Senior Technical officer at Central Glass & Ceramic Research Institute, Kolkata ).

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