September 27, 2008
The state of Indian Science …
The history of Indian science, sometimes found in the web, is often based on the purview of a general impression that all the world level scientists of the kind that have iconic fame in the annals of history of science are non existent in India. And the kind that have special family tags are existent and real scientists. Therefore the prime effort of the Indian scientific community must yield towards a irreverence of any scientist that is otherwise Indian and a reverence towards one that is famed in the history of science.
If this is not how it should or can be described here then at-least there is a plain ignorance of the Indian scientific person by none other than the native community, even if it has a strictly iconic significance, this is how it is.
Changing my gear from the description of the behavior of the Indian scientist, I would take you to my perceptions of the state of the Indian science and where it should lead as per my view compared to where it is leading. Please consider these my views rather than dismissing them as immaterial views.
Before that here is a self-discovered 4-sigma definition of who is an Indian scientist. An Indian scientist is one, who, upon gaining enough monetary support for the purposes of science and enough travel privileges spends 70 % of his efforts towards the typical question of “An Indian scientist must or must not eat beef? Were our forefathers beef eaters or not? ”
Even if the question can be discussed on dinner tables it doesn’t warrant a communist like adherence to only one side of the view. And in my view it should be discussed only on dinner tables, or just write your own blogs. Don’t assume that everyone must buy your views. Because when these beefs are grilled, it smells, political leanings and ideological and caste based prejudices more than the smell of the beef itself.
Then a 20% of his resources is spent towards which is a better political party and who will win and how dynastic political families have been the torch bearers of Indian science. And this current also flows to how many scientists your families have produced and so on. Then there is 5 % that’s spent on shitting and another 5 % on pissing.
Let me also mention another “sensitive” view before I forget. In an Indian scenario of scientific affairs, some would argue that a Nobel Prize is not a measure of the usefulness of someone’s scientific merit. But I view this as the highest standard and sure there are exceptions. Won’t we accept ANOTHER prize won by an Indian scientist if we had been believing his work really merits this and he has never worked outside the country?
I think it would be a brilliant case of the genius of Indian scientists. In any case Indians haven’t won a single Nobel in Physics in its 60 years of independent history. Both the Nobel winners had done their work in the 1930s or before and they both belonged to just one family. I personally view this as a degradation of quality of Indian science.
The quantity of science has increased. The links and connections with the scientifically advanced nations has increased, but not the quality. The huge amount of funding has gone to the bears, gorilla and who not, but the real deserving scientist. nepotism, clandestine political activities and even coups, denial of support and recognition and what not.
A large chunk of the talent has become the so called Non-Resident Indians and its a clear cut boundary from the Resident Indians. Once you have gone out of the boundaries and supposing you have better credibility, you must follow the protocols.
And the protocols are, you must not vent your experience, bickering or your ideas and suggestions because the residents may have thought you had disappeared for ever and they have better chance of becoming successful and mind you this consists of a huge chunk of people who have returned from the shores after spending time abroad.
This has given them a credibility not to be categorized as mediocre or unprofessional but I think if these have come back out of a fear psychosis their talents and experience is not going to change much of the scenario in Indian science. And I have particular instances of nepotism to my knowledge and given my understanding of the culture of my own country, I know its real scale. Let me stop here and change gear before this will sound caustic.
Another piece of activity in Indian science where I would like to shed some light of my views is the so called Chandrayana, the mission to the moon. Do this but please do put some Bollywood dance and music clips in the Rocket. May be you will find an alien right there in moon.
Indian moon mission in 2008 is like a honeymoon after 3 decades of marriage. The only good it will do is political glorification. Its a wastage of good money for bad science. If instead ten times more money can be spent for any state of the science experiment which the international community will receive with competitive fear or hearty welcome it would be the inauguration of the Indian century in science.
Such international experiments and scientific ventures could be founded in geographic India. Truly concerted programs can be initiated that has international results, significance, interest and ramification. The way to attract Indian and non Indian genius would be to open programs of scholarship and faculty of the international standard right here in India. Science goes where there is funding, not lobbying.
The status of the Indian scientific community at the international level is not in par with the formers inherent genius. This community is definitely fragmented, as there is no concerted effort at the Indian national level, to recognize the tremendous impetuous this community can bring to the Indian science for the first time in India’s modern history.
The few glorious moments are sporadic. In 50 years of its modern nation building the country has never thought as a single nation for the development of science. Its a grossly unrecognized fact that political efforts are merely political and these have never brought and not going to bring any worthwhile momentum to the internationalization of Indian science.
The political community always had a vested interest in the affairs of science and will continue to benefit this way as long as international standards of science-politics relationship and funding ideals are not practiced.
The few world wide experiments where Indian contribution is high lighted is not of much significance as far as the healthy growth of Indian science is concerned. The base of my worry is that no effort has been really “consorted” with a long term benefit for science envisioned. Success is truly few in number. The resident, non resident divide has a hold more significant in policy making rather than the concerted collaboration between the two.
If meritocracy can be the criteria and not the geographic or Alma-mater connection this gap will subside. If instead lobbyists will be given a free hand at the manipulation of new and upcoming academic and research institutions this will create a bleak future for the same. Its easy to recognize who is of any value to the quality of an institution, a group of lobbyists from famed institutions or a bunch of outstanding and performing researchers, academicians and scientists.