Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What Ails Indian Science

A strongly worded article by Mathai Joseph and Andrew Robinson in Nature points the finger at the bureaucratic stranglehold over Indian research institutes.

Some snippets...

The basic problem is that Indian science has for too long been hamstrung by a bureaucratic mentality that values administrative power over scientific achievement. And, to preserve local control, research is still done mostly by small teams working in isolation rather than through collaboration — a key generator of impact.

..Nearly 60% of India's science budget2 is now spent on the CSIR, scientific departments and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) — an enormous and impenetrable empire set up in 1958. None of these national institutions has stimulated scientific excellence..

..The problems at the national level are mirrored in institutions. First, scientists are promoted on the basis of years of service, rather than achievement, and once at the top they stay until retirement age; long after, in some cases.

.. limited foreign travel and no travel support for research students, ruling out regular participation in leading conferences and research gatherings.

..the movement of researchers from one institution to another is discouraged, because administrators prefer senior positions to be filled by internal promotion rather than lateral hiring.

and 4 steps for change-

a) empowered funding agency
b) rotation of institutional role and responsibility
c) trans-institute groups (collaboration)
d) more money for State Universities that produce most of the country's PhD's.

..also worth reading is an older  article by Gautam Desiraju which takes a more detailed look on the current state of Indian science education and research.

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