Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Research is nothing but pursuit of truth and vision and creativity and honesty are at the core of success of any research endeavor. Research followed by development is supposed to lead to innovations of practical significance. While basic research establishes new principles and theoretic foundations, applied research is the route to commercial development and industrial technologies. In India R & D activities are more or less confined to 8400 universities and a dozen GOI Departments. There are hundreds of universities spanning the country but very few have sufficient reputation to stand tall in the world of science while a large number of them are suffering from low quality infrastructure, manpower and grossly inadequate resources.GOI funded R & D in CSIR Labs, DBT institutions, BARC, ISRO, ICAR group, ICMR group, DRDO group and others are specific task oriented with links to end users. Private sector research is largely profit oriented ending up in the patent office for protection under intellectual property rights.

Since public funds for R & D are provided in GOI budgetary plans, the agencies, organizations, institutions and projects receiving financial support have to conform to the hierarchical and bureaucratic procedures being followed by GOI ministries with minor changes. The characteristic features of GOI working method are based on rigid bureaucracy and tight hierarchy amongst the administrative personnel. Each cog in the GOI wheel has definite designations, power and responsibility. Time is not the essence of working in GOI establishments. Unfortunately by adopting such a system by research agencies, most of them claiming to be autonomous (on paper?), creativity and innovation potential amongst scientists are severely curbed as governance is invariably based on the surmise that "every body is dishonest unless proved otherwise". Proving to be honest is like the proverbial chastity belt and to prevent misuse of government funds, elaborate rules and regulations have been put in place with a heavy administrative machinery vested with overseeing the spending by the scientists. As time is not as important to the administrative personnel as much as the procedure to be followed, stifling of the enthusiasm and initiatives amongst the scientific community lead to mediocre research of little significance.

Hear what Mr Ratan J Tata, the senior member of Tata family which founded the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) at Bangalore 100 years ago and the living Titan in the industrial landscape of the country, has to say about the crisis in India vis-a-vis scientific research, spoken at the centenary celebrations of this premier scientific and training organization. According to him "the IISc must seek to cover new grounds instead of building a fortress around us. IISc has to change and the hierarchy has to be demolished. Money, quality life, opportunities and facilities including the freedom to work are the primary reasons for the brain drain. We need to equip our institutions in a way where all the facilities are available". Well said but is there any body in Delhi taking seriously what Mr Tata had to say? Unlikely!

The archaic procedures, cumbersome purchase mechanisms, delays in releasing funds for required expenditure, compelling scientists to bow before administrative and accounts staff, hierarchical power structure that gives very little power of spending to working scientists and exploitation of credits due to the less powerful working scientists by more powerful 'bosses' up in the hierarchy have made the S&T sector almost moribund during the last 2-3 decades. Paying high salaries to scientists without providing them with the tools and motivation to perform cannot be expected to enrich our scientific temper by any stretch of imagination.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even making the names of the labs and their existing technologies well known among the vast population itself will go a long way in improving the scientific research in those estblishments. Even today, the potential entrepreneur comes to know about them through by accident and hearsay.