Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ph.D's in USA

How many Indian PhDs from US universities stay back in the US? Well, according to this article, based on a report, it is 81%.

In 2007, foreign citizens accounted for 16,022 of the Ph.D.s awarded in science and engineering in the U.S., or 46% of the total, according to the Oak Ridge data. In contrast, the class of 1997 had 12,966 foreigners, or 30% of the total.

Graduates of Ph.D. programs in the physical sciences and computer science are more likely to remain in the U.S. than those in other fields, Mr. Finn said. Those programs are popular with Chinese and Indian students, who are more likely to remain in the U.S. after completing studies than those from Taiwan, South Korea and Western Europe. Among 2002 graduates, 92% of the Chinese and 81% of the Indians were in the U.S. after five years; in contrast, 41% of South Koreans and 52% of Germans were.

The figure shown in the above article seems to be referring to data of 2002 and shows that the number of Indians receiving science and engineering doctorates in 2002 was 615.The trend in the interactive graph indicates that 91% stayed back in 2003 while 81% stayed back in 2007, indicating a 10% drop in 4 years. Couple this with the fact that the number of Indians receiving doctorates have been increasing significantly in the last few years. The number of Indians receiving doctorates (in all branches put together) in 2002 was 838. The number of Indians receiving doctorates in USA for the year 2008 has now increased to 2316. Thus, the numbers returning back to India have increased significantly in the last few years. This is partly because the salaries in India for doctorates in certain organizations now are about $40,000, which is higher than that of US if one takes into account the cost of living and purchasing power.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Higher Education and Profit

Chidambaram spoke at the convocation of St Xavier’s College, Calcutta, on January 17.

He began by demolishing the general view that Indians are fans of higher education. He pointed out that less than 12 per cent of school-going children were able to find place in colleges or universities. The world average is 45 per cent. Given that there is a shortage of places in higher education institutions, how do we fill the gap? Chidambaram claimed that “Higher education — or what passes as higher education in India — is, save a few shining examples, either a money-spinning business or a moth-eaten system.
He said that higher educational institutions fell into three categories. There were government-run universities. He was scathing about them: “They are no different from any government office. As a matter of tiresome duty, they produce graduates and post-graduates every year, the vast majority of whom are no more ‘educated’ at the end of their terms than they were when they first enrolled in the college or university.”
A second group consists of elitist institutions, run with the support of the government. He conceded that these were often well-run but attacked them on the grounds of elitism.It was the third set of institutions that drew most of his ire: “For them, education is commerce. Since demand for seats and colleges far exceeded the supply through legitimate sources there was a huge business opportunity that was grabbed with both hands by shrewd business persons. The bulk of these self-financing colleges and self-styled universities are no more than money-spinning businesses that exploit the demand-supply gap.
While I agree that the higher education system should be based on philanthropy of the person who sets it up, the number of universities that need to be set up are far too many that can be set up with such motives. Even the second group of elitist institutions, that Chidambaram refers to, are too slow to expand. For example, though IITs were setup more than fifty years back, the total number of undergraduate students admitted to all IITs is lesser than the total number of undergraduate students admitted to VIT, for example. When governments have insufficient funds to provide the population with the necessary education and when elitist institutions are unwilling to expand, it is not unwise to let private businesses cater to the education needs of those who can pay. When private institutions come in, they should be allowed to make a profit. Why can't check and balances on the output be implemented?.

On the other hand, basic education (upto XII standard) should not be for profit. That would imply that the vast majority of the students will be educated well, compared to now when good quality education at the primary level is often provided only in private schools, which make a huge profit.

As Sanghvi says,

If we are to drive out the profiteers and we are to raise our percentages of college-going youth, then we cannot do so by depending solely on the government whose institutions Chidambaram so eloquently damned in the same speech. We need to evolve a new model of higher education that may well use government financing but which functions without governmental corruption and inertia. As of now, no model exists that fits the bill.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Out of beta

I had previously announced the creation of the website for prospective and new faculty. Some of the pages were empty then. I have tried to fill in all the required content and take it out of beta. I have also tried to address the various questions asked in this blog and updated the website. Tinyurls of the website has also been created and posted as links in the gadget, located at the right of this blog content.

Please leave any request for addition/deletion and clarification in the comments. Thank you.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eroding trust

An interesting editorial by Professor Balaram, in which he states,

In countries like China and India the drive to increase the number of publications by offering incentives can be dangerously corrupting. Some institutions offer monetary incentives for publishing papers, scaled by journal impact factors. There cannot be a better catalyst for promoting dubious practices in science. In India, a bloated reward system offers monetary incentives of various kinds, ostensibly for enhancing research performance. The monthly bonus offered to scientists who are elected to fellowships of two academies or those who receive  CSIR’s  Bhatnagar  awards  are  examples  of schemes that will promote a scramble for these accolades. The DST’s J. C. Bose Fellowship, which should really provide stable research support, now carries an enhanced monthly bonus. This profusion of monetary incentives for ‘performing scientists’ has distorted the view of many researchers. A long list of publications, preferably in journals with high impact factors, is sometimes desirable in order to enter the ‘circle of recognition’. For a privileged few, pedigree and connections may suffice. Some years ago none of this may have really mattered. Unfortunately, attaching a regular monetary bonus to Academy fellowships, the J. C. Bose fellowship and Bhatnagar awards distorts the view of many practitioners of science. Research must be enjoyable, satisfying and intellectually stimulating. Publications must be a measure of the enthusiasm that scientists have for their disciplines. The pursuit of recognition and reward cannot become an end in itself.

A similar sentiment is echoed in an article by my colleagues, Diptiman Sen and S. Ramasesha and in another article by A. Pasupathy. For example, they state,

One can surely think  of  many  reasonable  ways  of encouraging high quality research without giving long-term personal rewards for work done over a period of about 10-15 years. Therefore, paying an honorarium to individuals seems to be a particularly  ham-handed  way  of  recognizing scientific merit.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Website for prospective and new faculty in IISc

Based on several requests on this blog and the suggestion by Bharat, my colleagues and I have set up a new website for prospective and new faculty in IISc. Do leave your comments here and we will try to update the website. Please also note that standard disclaimers apply and this is not authorized by the administration of IISc and does not represent the official view.

Please note that we started working on it only from 9th Jan, 2010 and, therefore, please consider it as a beta or first draft. Much of the material is taken from this blog and other websites but we have tried to put everything in one place. Most of the content has been uploaded by my colleagues.

It would immensely help if any new/junior/senior/retired faculty are willing to contribute to the website. Please send an email.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


In the talk in IISc,Prof. Venki Ramakrishnan, mentions

" “The quality or impact of work is much more important than the number of papers published,” he said while citing the example of double chemistry Nobel winner Fred Sanger who published only around 40 papers in his long career but who transformed molecular biology."

I could not agree more. However, the impact of the work has to be considerable, which is clearly what Venki is implying. It is famously said that what statistics reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital. Statistics like 40 papers hide more than what they reveal. I looked up the record of Sanger, whose work has led to the creation of the famous Sanger Institute. The impact is not measured by the number of papers but by the number of citations. The Web of Science shows that he has 66 research papers with 90,000 citations i.e, at an average of 1500 citations per paper. No Indian scientist can boast of such numbers either in number of citations or in the number of citations per paper. Only Prof. CNR Rao comes close with around 40,000 citations.

Thousands of scientists in India have 40 papers but not even 1000 citations. If they quote Sanger's example to justify their output and support, I can only quote Winston Churchill who asked whether we make the mistake of using statistics like a drunkard uses a lamp-post -- for mere support, rather than for illumination.

Selection committee

I was supposed to attend a faculty selection committee meeting in an Institute (not IIT). However, a court order has stayed the proceedings and I had to cancel my flight tickets at the last minute. Many of my colleagues from other departments also cancelled the tickets. No doubt this would have made Kingfisher happy, the said institute unhappy but I am happy and unhappy for different reasons.

I am happy because of the free time due to the cancelled trip, I can write blog posts and work on my research papers during normal working hours.

I am unhappy because this phenomena of court cases is becoming more frequent. A couple of years back, IIT-Madras recruited faculty on behalf of IIT-Hyderabad so that IIT-H will have an head start. After the selection committee meeting and when the offers were finally being made, the court stayed the proceedings. The whole procedure had to be repeated after 1.5 years. I do not know whether the original candidates even bothered to apply again. I also know of cases in universities, in which the members of the selection committee had to justify their choice to an enquiry commission and a judge. If this becomes more and more frequent, less and less people will be willing to serve on these committees.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cycles in IISc

Bicycles are the most common mode of transport within IISc among students. I hope this will not change with the increased scholarship money :-)

The student council had organized an excellent initiative on common cycles. Yesterday, CISTUP organized a cycle jatha, where (among other things) the advantages of cycling was discussed. One of our alumni, who is currently a professor at Bangalore university, has fabricated several kinds of bicycles (when he was in IISc) and writes about his experience. He mentions how a office attendant (a kindly soul) sidled up to him and whispered that it would do no good for his maryada (loosely translated into English as ‘self respect’) to be found cycling. I solved this problem by buying my bicycle from an office attendant, when he bought a car !

With the near completion of the perimeter road and the near unanimous support of all chairman (at least at the meeting) for restricting motorized vehicular traffic to just the arterial roads, I hope that many will start using bicycles and encourage the student council's initiative.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Talk by Nobel Laurate

Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan will deliver the IISc Centenary Lecture at 4 pm in the J.N. Tata auditorium on the 5th Jan, 2010 on From Baroda to Cambridge: A Life in Science.

You can also listen to his NDTV interview, which was conducted on the IISc campus. Faculty/Students of IISc will recognize a couple of people in the background.