Brushing aside the temptation to tread familiar ground I decided to address two issues that are matters of concern to many young researchers, beginning careers as independent investigators in India – research facilities and teaching. Everyone I have met (or almost everyone) seems to want more of the former and less of the latter. For those with an insatiable desire to accumulate sophisticated research facilities. I turned to Richard Hamming: ‘It is a poor workman who blames his tools. The good man gets on with the job, given what he has got and gets the best answer he can.’
Science, as taught today, can hardly enthuse a new generation, which is fortunate enough to encounter an ever expanding range of career options. The excitement of science and the pleasures of research can only be communicated by exposing students at the earliest opportunity to laboratory work, in which outcomes are not always anticipated.
Professor Balaram's point is valid and important. However, in a system where tap water is scarce in university laboratories and getting a simple chemical involves an arduous procedure, how can the joys of a laboratory be communicated? This has resulted in undue importance given to theoretical research, especially in engineering, even in premier institutions. Workshops have been replaced by Acad; distillation columns have been replaced by Aspen. Both the researchers and administrators (Professor Balaram is an exception to this) feel that theoretical research is better and certainly less stressful. The institute represented by both researchers and researchers-turned-administrators do not have to worry about infrastructure (space, power, water etc) and maintenance. This has led to the situation that 70% of the doctoral thesis produced in engineering in IISc (and possibly in other IITs) are based on theory/simulation.