CNR seeks to raise R&D manpower by 60pc

Prashanth G N, Bangalore, Nov 10, 2013, DHNS:

Science in India

C N R Rao, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (SAC-PM), has requested Manmohan Singh and the Planning Commission to help increase Research and Development (R&D) manpower by a whopping 60 per cent during the 12th Plan period.

He also sought help to set up at least 100 to 200 research groups and launch a scheme for 1,000 doctoral and post-doctoral overseas fellowships to train young scientists.

Rao, who has worked on science planning for the last two five-year plans, told the prime minister that these initiatives would have to be taken as India was staring at a leadership crisis in science.

In a clearly worded report, “Science in India,” he prepared for the government’s examination, Rao said: “The present situation in the country with regard to science is not altogether encouraging. We do not have educational institutions which are in the top 50 or 100 in the world. Our universities have decayed due to years of neglect. Even our leading institutions are not performing as well as one would expect. In most areas of science and technology, there are only a few real experts.There is a leadership crisis wherein we do not find sufficient number of young leaders in science.”

Rao has charted a few measures to resolve the crisis. “We need to take note of this situation and do everything possible to build our capacity in science. Some of our Asian neighbours such as South Korea and China have made enormous investments in science in the last few years, not only in terms of funding, but also in creating a large manpower. The performance of these neighbours has out-classed our performance in terms of number of PhDs and scientific research papers.

The main concern for us should not be merely to improve quantity of our scientific contribution, but more importantly to improve the quality of science significantly by eliminating mediocrity from our educational and scientific institutions.”

Rao said the government has to provide R&D grants to universities and centres of excellence and make space for international collaboration for such institutions. A dedicated fund for such collaboration in identified areas has been sought. The government and the scientific community also need to identify India-centric innovations to meet the country’s needs and yet have a global impact, he said.

Clusters of non-homogenous innovations to promote inter-disciplinary work have also been recommended.

Rao also emphasised on need for sabbaticals for career scientists to help them train and learn from centres abroad. He recommended sabbaticals depending on seniority from one to seven years for science faculty.