Success will undoubtedly need more than irreverence. It will need professionalism, a clear understanding of the virtues of collaboration and cooperation and an honest and rational system of measuring and assessing performance. It will also require commitment, enthusiasm and resilience.The key, in my opinion, is the lack of an honest and rational system of measuring and assessing performance. In addition, it is the lack of a critical mass of scientists and researchers, as discussed later.
A recent article in Current Science discussed on scientometrics, cricket and Wisden. The author criticizes the administration for the lack of leadership qualities, spells the name one of the greatest batsmen of our times, V.V. S. Laxman, wrongly several times in the article and concludes that the bane of Indian science lies in the use of scientometrics and the lack of leadership.
Cricket is the not the correct sport to be compared with science. The number of people who play cricket in India is much higher than the number of people who play cricket, say, in New Zealand. Thus, if India performs better than New Zealand in cricket, then one is not surprised. Maybe we should compare tennis with science. Except for an occasional star or two at the world level, and with no singles winner at any Grand Slam event, it is similar to Indian science. The lack of winners have not led to people not playing tennis and if there is an occasional Grand slam winner, he/she will be an outlier and not the norm. To produce Grand slam winners (or Noble prize winners) consistently, requires effort, investment and commitment not just irreverence or leadership.
The number of scientists in India is much smaller than the number of scientists in China or USA. So is the GDP alloted for research. Thus, the output of researchers will be proportionately smaller. For example, India produces 650 engineering Ph.Ds per year; the number of Indians getting engineering Ph.D's from USA alone is higher than this. To determine how India is performing compared to the world, one has to provide normalize this activity with size. Such an article has been recently written by Dr. Gangan Prathap, who concludes by saying the following,
For India to reach this league, not only must it increase its investment by 30–50 times but its number of R and D workers by 30–80 times.
Unless this is done along with an honest and rational system of measuring and assessing performance coupled with an "assured" decent job for an average scientist, India's S&T will never become a leader.