WOW prompt this weeks asks how can India make further progress in science and technology? From childhood, I had a mental picture of a scientist created reading novels and watching movies. A bespectacled, bearded and often a balding man working with colored chemicals in a glass tube, often heating the tube on a Bunsen burner.
As time passed, I got a bit of maturity with age, I began to understand science to be an attitude of enquiry, people call if scientific spirit. . Attitude where nothing is trusted unless verified. This is not knew to us. Since the time of Vedas, students will question the teacher about self knowledge. Meditate on masters answer and come back to question him again. However, without verification nothing would be accepted. We need to inculcate this attitude of questioning by our students. That is the first thing that needs to be done to encourage the spirit of science in India.
To encourage research in the country and to accrue benefits of this research to general public by developing appropriate technology based on principles of pure science, one needs investment of money, creation of physical infrastructure, hiring qualified faculty and encouraging students to take up higher studies.
- Research and Development spending of government of India has increased with time. Though scientific community expects government to spend around 3% of GDP for research, like economies of US (2.8%) and China (2.1%), government of India will spend around 0.8% of GDP on research and development in 2018-19. Compared to decade of 2004 – 05 when India spent around Rs 241 billion, in 2018 – 19 around Rs. 536 billion has been allocated for research.
- Other indices of research and development are also going up. India’s share of peer reviewed publications in global stage has gone up from 3% in 2009 to 4.4% in 2014. Number of students enrolling for PhD studies was 1.3 lac in 2015-16.
- Progress has been made in the areas of space research, atomic research, agricultural research, pharmaceutical research, medical research and software research.
Though science has progressed in the area of applied research, India still lacks in the areas of pure science research. Although we publish a lot of papers, number of first author publication in first line journals like “Nature” and “Science” are miniscule. Similarly, how many Indian scientists, working from India, has been nominated for Nobel Prize?
Similarly, we tend to stay away from applied research that are First in Class. For example in the area of Pharmaceutical Research or Space Research, we can innovate to bring down the cost, but we hardly take a step to move into First in Class area.
Finally, I think scientific spirit is an attitude. Science raises a question, works to get answer to the question and finally creates a robust process for others to verify the answer. Such an attitude applies to any field of enquiry. Narendra Nath, later Swami Vivekananda, had asked Sri Rama Krishna “have you seen god?” A direct question. Sri Rama Krishna replied “not only have I seen him, I can show him to you.” That is the response where master is giving a process to disciple. That is the enquiring tradition of India, where a disciple askes a question and master answers. This is scientific attitude. Do not take anything at face value. We need to inculcate this attitude of questioning by students. That is the first thing that needs to be done to encourage the spirit of science in India.
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