Monday, December 26, 2011

India - anti-science ?

The ex-director of IISc, G. PADMANABAN, writes in "The Hindu" and asks whether India is anti-science. He asks,
Is there nothing in this country of substance beyond Bollywood, cricket and politicians? But more seriously, if young minds do not opt for science, where are the role models? .... But unbridled activism against science and scientists will only lead us to miss out on technology options. We need to give S&T a chance to deliver.

But he actually answers (though possibly unintentionally) this when he says,
Each area has become much specialised and older generations, barring some, are not in touch with the developments. But they would not hesitate to make sweeping generalisations.

When the minister asks for a report from the academies on the issue of Bt Brinjal, all he gets is an unreferenced, non-trustworthy report, which does not list the authors or potential conflicts of interest. Further, selections at any level (whether it is recruitment in universities at the assistant professor level or whether it is election to fellowship of academies) are not purely based on merit. If this is the case of Indian science, why should young minds opt for science? 

They obviously do not. When DST announced the INSPIRE fellowship for students who secure top 1% in boards or 10,000 ranks in AIEEE/JEE and pursue science, they were hoping many (10,000 was their target) will take up the fellowship. The results for 2010 indicate only around 45 have taken this fellowship through the competitive exam mode.

When scientists are unable to teach school children the joys of science, are unable to ensure career prospects for science doctorates, ensure transparency in recruitment and selection, if India becomes (or is) anti-science, the blame squarely rests on the scientists.