The State of Science in India: A Researcher’s Outlook

Posted on February 29, 2012 in Sci-Tech

By Dr. Ranjeet Kumar:

Prelude: As India celebrates the National Science Day on 28th February 2012, a wave of optimism touches the Indian researchers throughout the globe; that the nation will, one day, raise the call to rehabilitate the ignited minds who can contribute significantly in realizing the dream of scientific society.

The pain of pursuing a career in science can be visualized from the faces of those, who, in spite of good doctoral training at various laboratories of repute within the country, seek for the destination abroad. This can be witnessed in the long queues waiting outside at the embassy offices of US, UK and Europe in Delhi. To some, getting an international exposure would add to their career opportunities when they return home, for others it’s an odyssey for exploring greener pastures that would satiate their hunger for knowledge. In both the cases, the nation’s talent pool gets depleted. With fewer attempts to create a proper trajectory for rehabilitating them and severe lacunae at the policy level, the dream of creating a scientific society lays paralyzed.

Talking of a career in Science in India seems near impossible, as it’s easy to get in to post-doctoral fellowships abroad than getting a position within. Of the people I have known since I started my doctoral studies way back in 2005 only may be one out of ten where able to relocate back and get commensurate employment. You may think “Why this?” once again. From my naïve perspective, I can only say that beyond peer review publishing lies the real challenges and opportunities to be addressed. Be it education, food, energy, health, safe drinking water, emerging infectious diseases and managing waste to holistic sustainable living each area requires dynamic scientific pool and galaxy of innovative ideas. The question of where we are going to find scientific minds to tackle these issues is a question that needs to be thought carefully.

The year opened with the Scientific Carnival at the 99th Indian Science Congress in Orissa, where the message by the PM seemed much like a political manifesto garnished in scientific parlance. This is the height of disappointment and frustration for people abroad who are genuinely seeking initiative to become part of mainstream. Indigenous problems need minds that have a local understanding and global outreach so that they can Think Global and Act Local. There is no attempt to build back a national database for all the doctoral people and commensurately place them in congenial research or academic environment, which is the actual need of the hour.  We are here to celebrate the National Science Day on February 28th 2012, so I humbly want to bring this massage that irrespective of the announcement of increase in total R&D expenditure to 2% of the GDP as against 0.9% in the Twelfth Plan, which certainly does look promising; but it’s also important to channelize the existing talent pool by creating opportunities.

This article has been written by Dr. Ranjeet Kumar, a researcher at the Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology in Uppsala University, Sweden.