Does Indian Science Suck?

What a question, many would say. Particularly in a blog post that is close on the heels of a special report on innovation that we did in Forbes India March 2 issue. Actually, this question emanates from the feedback to that report.

So, does Indian science suck? Yes and no.

Yes, because like so many other enterprises in this country, scientific enterprise is not without flaws, major flaws some would say, and I fully agree. Choking bureaucracy, hierarchy, orthodoxy, mediocrity, follow-the-supervisor (or Godfather) culture, fear of asking bold questions, doing-confirmatory-tests-and-saving-the-skin, science-lodged-in-ivory-tower-syndrome …the list goes on. All the reader comments I got in this story, are true and justified. I even got a few calls asking why didn’t I flag the major issues plaguing the system.

But don’t we know that already? The reason we did this story was to talk about the change that is unfolding. And as my editor says, “Our story isn’t about the state of Indian science.”

So let me take a few criticisms, one by one.

People say the ills of the system are self-perpetuating. Prof Jayant Murthy of Indian Institute of Astrophysics has commented: “The institutions that are being set up have the same old people in charge. These people, by and large with exceptions, are hidebound and hierarchical. In many cases, they are self-perpetuating because they pick their successors in their own mold.”

True, but let me give a few examples of change: When IISER Pune was set up and K Ganesh made it’s director, one of the criticisms floating around was that Prof CNR Rao, chairman of the scientific advisory committee to the PM who promoted setting up of five IISERs, chose his son-in-law as the first director. It was a valid point. I don’t know if there were more suitable candidates, but today IISER is certainly considered to be shaping very well.

If you’ve read the NCBS story in the package, you’d know how S Ramaswamy was brought back from the US to lead a few new centres at NCBS.

While it’s good to have change agents from outside, sometimes even insiders can do the magic if they want to. Prof Pankaj Jalote, an IIT-system product, is running a new institute Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in Delhi. And visiting faculty there sing praises of his professionalism and the speed with which ideas get executed.

Another reader comments: “This initiative has the capability to change India’s fortune obviously if properly executed which does not happen most of the times. Nothing less than a revolution is required.”

It’s bang on. Some of the architects of these initiatives understand that and question the limitations publicly. DBT secretary MK Bhan says there is substantial legacy problem in the institutions which are not thinking about younger people who don’t feel part of the system. So, does he only lament or is he doing something?

He is working with the older IITs on this as he is helping them establish research infrastructure in lifesciences. He is setting up network called Bio-Connect in Bangalore that would look after young researchers in life sciences across the country. RA Mashelkar in the last issue of Science proposes a new Academy for the younger generation so their voices could be heard.

Bhan even wonders if “our ambition is larger than what we have in the government” as he seriously wishes the government would do systemic and institutional studies to pinpoint and eliminate the bureaucratic and ideological limitations and do public-private partnerships in the right manner. But does that stop him from innovating in his own department? No.

When I asked DST secretary T Ramasami how can the industry be made part of the innovation process so that both public-funded research and industry work to each other’s strengths, he gave a fitting example: At Central Leather Research Institute in Chennai, a CSIR center with the then budget of Rs 15.8 crore, he raised Rs 13.8 crore from the industry. So the basic question is not whether industry is willing to participate but whether both can work to each other’s time scales. Industry needs to innovate and execute faster, but Indian institutions want to file patents just to be able to publish papers. (Once the patent is filed, they can publish and get their academic credit as our system is more geared towards rewarding publication than innovation). Is there a common ground?

Yes, but covering that sufficiently requires a significant cultural change. It may not happen soon. “Not in my tenure, or even in my lifetime”, says Ramasami. “But if I have to play the role of Rahul Dravid for this country in science, I don’t’ care how long I need to bat, whether I get runs or whether I’m sweating hard or not, I bat.”

I am tempted to tell him (in retrospect, of course) that given the present need, he and other batsmen in Team India Science need to swing for the fences, not just settle for singles and doubles.

This special report is not only about how Ramasami, Bhan, and others are batting, but how they can inspire and facilitate many more, both test players and T-20 enthusiasts, to score quick tons.

77 comments to “Does Indian Science Suck?”

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  1. With a group of federal funding agencies and their associated cluster of institutes spread over the country, how have been the performance, output and real translation of public tax money into scientific excellence is anybody’s guess.

    The science education right from the school level is far from deriving inspiration and developing affinity towards the subject. Consider theses cases .

    Case I “selected” students, already created a rift among the mates by teachers and encouraged by the management of the school, are given extra coaching to target >95% without realizing the physiological implications of such tremendous load on a young brain to achieve the “popularity” for the school, especially private who charge exorbitantly.

    Case II the other students are enrolled by the coaching centers who even prepares them for XII exit point exam and entrance for admission to med/engg streams. This is another aberration. A student at this level is made to realize that science= medicine/ engg. Parents enjoy the pleasure of being their ward admitted to either of these.

    At graduate level we are still following conventional science teaching approach and by the time they finish it, majority go for options of “dropouts in science education” by choosing MBA, Civil services or any other.

    At PG level, situation in majority of the colleges/institutes for far from better. The quality of teaching in terms of content is poor, obsolete where a teacher even uses the class notes that were dictated to him/her by his/her teacher much years earlier. Labs are poorly equipped, syllabus still not complying with the current and future need in bringing about significant learning and application process. Students are far less prepared for research, instead prefer IT jobs or even marketing . The institutes can therefore claim a near 100 % placement for their existence in highly competitive education “industry”, which has to some extent lost its sanctity and integrity , yet have become a safe way making profits. There is No efforts to invoke thinking process, in some cases the teacher is “as young as” a student who lack perception, dedication, motivation and above all experience.

    We have one of the largest number of Ph.D.s in science still lack quality contribution in research?! The university level teaching and research is domain specific and is too much compartmentalized and the concept of knowledge integration, sharing and management has hardly has any place. Our university ranking among the world is utterly disappointing. The quality of research and publications are average and the citations are much below average. The impact factor of most of the Indian journals is still in factions. You really need a “god father” to survive in the world of science in India. There is clash of ego, attitude, trust and many more.

    Very old people, with due respect, still continue dominate to administer policies, decisions and running of science.

    Science in India is dominated by Power, ego, attitude, vested interest, and are least accountable towards the use of public money. There is a need for a genuine efforts to bring a Change for a better nation in terms of Intellectual capital, Intellectual property.

    We need to take lessons from China who has the credit of having 4 of its universities in the top 20 among the world university ranking.

    We need to change all these first by brining in change in us then at the primary level – nurture science naturally, delicately and thoughtfully and at higher level let science be open, transparent, accountable, ethical and rewarding to Self.

  2. Science created Fiction and Technology Shows reality.

    Technology is used to create fiction hence no point creating fiction but enjoy reality.

    Prof Agarwal in a lecture @ Krishnaansh Gaddi

  3. Shame Shame.
    The secret world of DRDO
    Indian Express
    By Yatish Yadav and Nardeep Singh Dahiya 02nd September 2012 12:00 AM
    Tejas, the much-delayed LCA goes through its paces | EPS
    Tejas, the much-delayed LCA goes through its paces | EPS
    Defence Minister A K Antony with DRDO chief V K Saraswat | EPS
    Defence Minister A K Antony with DRDO chief V K Saraswat | EPS
    India is at war. Tejas fighters wheel over a smoke dark battleground, taking down enemy aircraft with their superior radar and missile capabilities. Lower still, Indian-designed helicopters are giving hell to enemy armour and troop formations with missiles and machine-gun fire. On the ground, mighty Arjun tanks lumber slowly across dunes, sure of their inpenetrable Kanchan armour even as they spew death through their 120 mm guns. Jawans crouch and advance with the tanks, firing three-round bursts from their INSAS rifles and lobbing bhut jholokia grenades at their foes. They are tireless, having imbibed performance-enhancing pills, and well-fed, having had spoil-proof parathas and self-heated packaged meals before battle.

    This is what a DRDO dream looks like. However, a nightmare was revealed recently when Defence Minister A K Antony ordered the Comptroller General of Defence Audit (CGDA) to do a secret audit of India’s equivalent of the futuristic workshop of James Bond’s ‘Q’ — the Defence Research and Development Organisation that goes by the handle DRDO.

    The highlights of the report are frightening. Here are some of them:

    * DRDO has been developing equipment which is either sub-standard or have extended deadlines and additional budgets;

    * Many of the projects have been sanctioned without the requisite government approval. Only 10 per cent of projects have come to the ministry for clearance;

    * Corruption and nepotism exists in the upper echelons;

    * There is an exodus of qualified scientists;

    DRDO has challenged the findings but the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has taken cognisance of them. It will be ordering a review of the agency’s approval processes as well as that of the recent proposal to enhance the financial powers for DRDO chief V K Saraswat.

    Waste products

    Crores of rupees are spent on research that mostly flops

    The CGDA audit findings raise serious questions on the capability of this defence outfit, which has an annual budget of Rs 10,500 crore. Established in 1958, it has a network of 52 laboratories nationwide, employing 5,000 scientists with about 25,000 support staff. But only 29 per cent of the products developed during the last 17 years are being used by the Armed Forces. The audit notes that in several cases, DRDO bought equipment from other companies after spending crores on R&D. For instance, the CGDA found that after spending two years and Rs 29.96 crore to develop satellite signal monitoring, DRDO ultimately bought the same from a public sector undertaking on a single tender basis for Rs 24.50 crore in April 2011. “If such technologies are indeed commercially available, where was the need of a development project by DRDO?” the audit asked. DRDO also spent Rs 6.85 crore to develop explosive detectors, which were offered to the army for Rs 30 lakh each. Foreign versions of these are available off the shelf for Rs 9.8 lakh per piece, a price that also includes repair and maintenance.

    The CGDA report criticised the ‘joint development’ technology initiative of DRDO, calling it “import of older, foreign technology under the disguise of joint development.” The CGDA accused DRDO of promoting Israeli company M/S SCD without the mandatory formal transfer of technology agreement. Commenting on a DRDO deal to develop a higher format uncooled detector, the CGDA said: “DRDO shall be financing the development expenditure of `19.90 crore by releasing it direct to M/S SCD Israel. Basically, instead of doing development itself, DRDO is funding a foreign agency’s development effort, that too, without any explicit arrangements being finalised about ownership of intellectual property generated from such financing,” noted the CGDA. “Neither the production agency nor the users — mechanised forces of army — have been kept in the loop,” the CGDA report says.

    With a chaotic record of arms experiments and eccentric choices of spending money on pickles and automated idli and dosa makers for aircraft carriers, the very reason for DRDO’s existence seems dubious. Says V K Mittal, a former senior scientist with the agency, “DRDO technology is almost two decades old. Two projects, namely Samyukta and Sangraha electronic warfare equipment, were partially inducted in the armed forces, but users felt these were outdated and more expensive than the latest technology available.” Meanwhile, the agency has developed many products that is meant for the soldier at the front: DRDO pickles made of semi-ripe berries and spices such as red chilli powder, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, black pepper powder, and clovers, spicy potato parathas, instant kadhi mixes, cashewnut barfi, mutton vegetable korma, instant halwa mix, egg biscuits and instant upma mix are among its culinary achievements. The agency also successfully bred a region-specific hybrid goat using technology that mixed the genes of adaptive and meat traits through cross-breeding breeds such as Changthangi and Gaddi and Sirohi and Black Bengal goats. DRDO has also developed ‘Lukoskin’, a herbal care product for leucoderma and the performance enhancing drug Perfomax which is meant to “improve physical and mental performance in high altitude and hypoxic conditions.” In true 007 style, it has also developed a car coolant that will not freeze in extreme temperatures. The crores of rupees wasted in innumerable half-baked projects add up to quite a sum. In a separate report by CAG in 2011-12, the DRDO is criticised for spending crores on random research projects. In 2011, out of 55 high priority projects based on user-requirements, only thirteen went into production. A modular bridge, being developed for the army was shelved in 2010, after eight years of experiments and spending Rs 21.46 crore. Six months later, Rs 13.25 crore was sanctioned for another modular bridge project. The initiative to produce next generation laser weapons was closed down within a month after equipment was procured.

    “We are dangerously behind our adversaries. China is far ahead in indigenous technology in both tanks and missiles sector. DRDO’s claim of modern technology is too old when it is delivered to armed forces. It is a big disappointment”, observes security analyst Major General (Retd) Afsir Karim.

    Flop wonders

    Institutions without qualifications are promoted

    Defence minister Antony had asked the CGDA to investigate after receiving complaints on suspected manipulation in DRDO contracts, undue favor to some external vendors, and irregular appointments in the agency which runs a vast network across the country. Its annual budget has no audit verified document to show what value has been generated so far through its technologies. Under a very personal cloud is DRDO chief V K Saraswat. The CGDA has questioned why he granted Rs 2.88 crore to a mathematics institute to develop a futuristic radar when its scientists are not even remotely connected with research relating to the project. Incidentally, Saraswat is the president of the institute’s governing body. The audit also stated that the institute lacked expert manpower, and started recruitment only after getting DRDO funds that were released without due diligence. A Dehradun scientific lab was granted Rs 14 crore to develop a communication link, while the institute headed by Saraswat was also sanctioned Rs 2.98 crore to develop the same technology — it doesn’t have even basic facilities like computers for individual researchers. “It shows that the radar development project is being split in different parts to avoid going to the ministry and users with a proper full scope development programme,” the CGDA said. The DRDO understandably refutes the findings. “These are only observations. The laid down procedure of audit was not followed, and it was issued without authorisation. It is a one-sided report. We will give a point by point reply of audit findings. DRDO has achieved several milestones and that nobody is talking about, ” retorted Dr Ravi Gupta, DRDO’s official spokesperson. However, the CGDA report says that DRDO has tried to camouflage its failures in the name of secrecy and national security.

    Says Commodore (Retd) Uday Bhaskar, former head of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), “The Government is not willing to discuss the Rama Rao committee report that talks about reforming DRDO. It shows that they are not serious about the decaying of a government institution, which in the last 30 to 40 years has completely disappointed the users. Money is being spent without any effect on indigenous programmes. I will appeal to Indian Parliament to take this matter and discuss the issue.”

    Project black hole

    DRDO has been spending fresh money on its own failed projects

    The CGDA accuses the DRDO of functioning in a non-transparent manner. “There is no comprehensive database to find out the details of projects sanctioned for execution by the DRDO and how many has been declared as successful,” it said. Antony was also informed that DRDO has been operating as an authority unto itself, bypassing the MoD where many crucial expenses are involved: the agency comes under the ministry and its main objective is to develop a modern technology base and equip the defence forces with internationally competitive systems and weapons. During 2009-2010, DRDO sanctioned 702 projects costing above `50 lakh but only 102 research projects were referred to the ministry. The audit body also questioned the grounds on which DRDO authorities sanctioned new projects in the name of completing failed projects with questionable changes in scope to avoid ministry’s nod. For example, DRDO took up a project for development of counter mine flail (CMF) for T-72 tanks at a cost of `8 crore in December 2002. CMF is a device that creates a safe passage through a minefield by deliberately detonating land mines in front of the vehicle that it is mounted on. Army HQ revised the requirement in 2004, but DRDO continued with the old parameters and in 2008, the product failed tests. In spite of this, it was not closed and in February 2011, another new project costing Rs 49.85 crore was sanctioned for the same CMF project.

    Armaments apart, the DRDO has been splurging 10 per cent of its annual budget on construction of offices and auditoriums. CGDA also indicted DRDO for unauthorised sanction of Rs 49.15 crore to develop a vehicle testing facility in Pune — mainly for civilian use — disregarding approval rules.

    “There is a lack of transparency and accountability in the name of defence research. For decades, DRDO has been promising a lot to the armed forces but have failed to deliver. The top brass should be made accountable. Unless this happens, money will be squandered away on technologically outdated projects and the armed forces will be cheated,” says Mittal.

    Meanwhile, there has been a huge exodus of scientists from the agency. Last year, 86 scientists took VRS. Says Gen Karim, “The functioning of DRDO is improper. In the next five years, the difference between our adversaries and us would be glaring. The MoD is not serious about reforming DRDO. A national blueprint is required for this.”

    The swadeshi trap

    Unplanned indigenisation leads to losses and aborted projects

    In this situation, how efficacious are the agency’s multimillion-dollar projects? India purchases arms worth $6.9 billion from the US, making it America’s second largest defence client after the Saudis. The Congressional Research Service’s annual survey of global arms sales written by Richard Grimmett and Paul Kerr says India is fast upgrading its equipment from its Soviet-era arsenal. In late 1993, a committee headed by then Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and DRDO chief APJ Abdul Kalam had set the goal of 70 per cent of indigenisation in weapons production by 2005; DRDO has not moved beyond the 30 per cent it had reached in 1995. The passion for swadeshi is the principle behind the money being spent by the Indian government on DRDO. But most of DRDO equipment malfunctions or the projects themselves are yet to take off or are delayed, sucking in more and more money.

    Rifle recoil: The mass produced INSAS rifle, meant to be the main rifle for the Indian Army has been known to malfunction in extreme conditions. The first known debacle was on August 7, 2005. As the evening shadows grew longer at the Royal Nepal Army’s Pili camp in western Kalikot district, about 550 km northwest of capital Kathmandu, Maoist fighters massed silently outside. The roads connecting the camp that housed about 200 soldiers — mostly employed in the construction of a new highway — had been mined. A little before 6 pm, over 1,000 Maoists attacked the camp. Armed with INSAS rifles, the Nepalese soldiers fought back, but in vain. By 4 pm, the Maoists had captured 100 soldiers, and executed 40 of them. Nepal blamed INSAS malfunctions for the disaster: “The rifles are okay if you fight for an hour or two, but are not appropriate for long battles. If we had better weapons, our casualties would have been much less,” said a Nepal government spokesman. In November 2011, the Ministry of Defence issued a tender for 66,000 assault rifles to replace the INSAS. The MoD wanted the new rifles to be able to switch calibres between the small, high-velocity 5.56 mm rounds the INSAS fires and the devastatingly powerful 7.62 mm rounds of the older FAL rifles.

    The story of this short-lived rifle epitomises the drift in the way the DRDO works, and also between it and the armed forces. The DRDO took a decade to design the INSAS. A few years later, it was supplied to the Army throughout the later half of the 1990s. But the Army did not put all its eggs in the desi basket; it bought 100,000 AK-47s from Bulgaria in 1995 for its frontline units in Kashmir. The INSAS began rolling off the lines soon after, at a cost several times that of the Kalashnikov. When war broke out in Kargil in 1999, INSASs jammed; the transparent polymer magazines cracked. Its ammunition-conserving three-round burst went virally fully automatic. An oil spray glitch was detected. By 2002, the Army had ordered the Israeli Tavor 21 rifle for its special forces and the Galil for its snipers. This year, the Special Forces will induct US-made M-4 rifles, the Vietnam-era M-16’s newer version that US soldiers now use in Afghanistan. “DRDO products are half imported and half prepared here, which is dangerous. Defence is too serious business to be left to one party. It is the user — our armed forces — who will decide which product is useful. DRDO cannot claim success of a product sitting in the workshop,” says Gen Karim.

    Air disaster: In the early 1980s, the Indian Air Force was over-reliant on Soviet-made MiG-21s, which would be phased out, beginning in the mid-90s. In 1984, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), a national consortium of over 100 defence laboratories, industrial organisations, and academic institutions with HAL being the principal contractor, was created specifically to manage the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme. The DRDO was to develop the plane’s flight control system, hi-tech radar, and engine. DRDO delivered on the flight control system. However, the radar was the one that was to be developed by Ericsson and Ferranti Defence Systems Integration for the Gripen, a topline Swedish fighter plane. DRDO decided to develop the radar at home, and started in 1997. In 10 years, cost escalations, delays and other serious problems grounded the project, which is now being developed with help from the Elta group, an Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary. Kaveri, the engine of the LCA — christened Tejas by former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee — was to be developed by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment, Bangalore using prototypes made by General Electrics, USA. By 2003, it had to be abandoned for an upgraded version of the GE engine used in the prototypes selected to power the first pre-production Tejas. The Kaveri had, in the meantime, failed high-altitude tests carried out in Russia, and by 2008, was officially declared unsuitable. GE was selected to provide 99 engines that were even better than the ones used in the first LCAs. Mysteriously, 15 actuators of the aircraft that were part of the LCA’s integrated flight control system went missing in December 2008 from Heathrow, London. The Tejas has flown, and well, but with an Israeli radar and American engine. The Kaveri programme alone cost the nation about Rs 2,800 crore over 23 years; the cost overrun of the entire LCA programme is estimated at about 3,000 per cent.

    Tanked hopes: It took 35 years to make India’s main battle tank Arjun. In 1974, DRDO’s Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment at Chennai started designing the tank expected to be ready for war in 10 years. The Arjun was to weigh 40 tonnes with a 105 mm main gun. By the time it was finished in 2000, the tank had grown in size to 58.5 tonnes with a 120 mm gun that can fire rockets. In terms of cost overrun, the Arjun is the champion of delay and drift: it has cost 20 times the initial estimate to make an Indian tank with a German engine. It is so big that ordinary Indian rail wagons, the ones that have been transporting our older Soviet- and British-origin tanks had to be redesigned to accommodate its bulk. Military planners say bridges will collapse under Arjun’s weight. The Army and DRDO have been at loggerheads over the Arjun. Field tests have varied wildly: some have given the Arjun a junk rating, and others say it’s the best thing to have happened to the Armoured Corps. The tank is a ‘jugaad’ queen. South African howitzers have been mated to its chassis to make a self-propelled field gun that DRDO calls Bhima. The army will, at last, add to its ranks about 250-odd Arjuns, and 1,000 T-90s. The next Indian tank, the Futuristic MBT, may well come from a joint initiative with Russia.

    As the MoD prepares to review DRDO’s financial procedures, the news is not all bad on the achievement front. Last week, the 350-km range surface-to-surface Prithvi II missile was successfully flight tested at the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur in Odissa. Saraswat, a multitude of rings embedded with various stones flashing on his fingers celebrated by feeding laddoos to the army commander present. However, the question for him is, after the ministry’s review, what’s for just desserts.


    We need more proofs to get convinced that we are shameless. A person who has worked in Germany, Oxford and many other such places could not work with the brilliant shameless clerks/ babus and criminal scientists.

    System defeats scientist return
    G.S. MUDUR
    The telegraph

    Shreemanta Parida in front of his home in Berlin after his return from India in the last week of June
    New Delhi, July 27: Defeated and tired, Shreemanta Parida sat in aisle seat 25G of the Frankfurt-bound Lufthansa flight out of India and struggled to understand how his homecoming had turned into humiliation.
    The doctor-turned-medical scientist wondered if there was something — anything — he could have done differently to avoid losing, as he just had, two years of his life in India.
    By the time the Boeing 747 had reached European skies, Parida had converged on something he had told himself over and over again during the previous eight weeks: that he was the victim and had done right in quitting.
    The non-resident Indian scientist, appointed two years ago as chief executive officer of a government vaccine research programme, resigned last month and returned home to Berlin, saying India’s science bureaucracy had prevented him from working.
    Scientists familiar with Parida’s plight say his 25-month stay in India is a tale of how an entrenched science bureaucracy stonewalled a newcomer, senior administrators failed to curb the harassment, and good intentions deteriorated into bitter acrimony.
    India’s department of biotechnology (DBT) had, after an international headhunt, hired Parida to lead its Vaccine Grand Challenge Programme (VGCP) and accelerate the development of new vaccines for dengue, malaria, TB and other infections.
    Parida was expected to guide the programme through new policies and research initiatives. But the scientist, who had returned to India after 22 years overseas — in Geneva, Oxford, Berlin and elsewhere — complains his own DBT colleagues handicapped and harassed him in multiple ways.
    In emails to senior DBT officials, Parida has indicated he was denied access to VGCP documents and kept out of meetings while the programme’s initiatives were run by someone he described as a “shadow” scientist-bureaucrat. Parida did not get any office infrastructure, computer, staff or even an official email address, and his salary was held back for months, he says.
    “It was humiliating,” Parida told The Telegraph from Berlin. He said he had pleaded several times with then DBT secretary Maharaj Kishan Bhan for intervention that would allow him to carry out the tasks he had been hired for.
    Two senior DBT scientist-bureaucrats who played a role in picking Parida said the decision to hire him had been a mistake. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
    “It was not a good hire; the process for operationalising his position was not well thought through,” one of them said. The other official claimed Parida had not done any work assigned to him.
    Current DBT secretary Krishnaswamy VijayRaghavan, who took over nearly 20 months after Parida’s appointment, said Parida was “an accomplished researcher”.
    “Sometimes, though, particularly in a new and complex environment for a new recruit, things don’t take off as they should, and it is important to accept that this happens and move on rather than be mired in recriminatory debate.”
    A panel of DBT officials and an independent scientist will meet next week “to understand better what went wrong”.
    But email correspondence, documents and interviews with scientists in the DBT and other institutions suggest that differences of opinion and friction between Parida and DBT adviser T.S. Rao erupted into confrontation. The correspondence indicates Rao declined to share key VGCP papers with Parida.
    Trouble also emerged with Parida’s attempt to steer the VGCP along directions mandated by its own guidelines. He wanted to discourage funding of individual, piecemeal projects and to promote “theme-based” research where multiple teams collaboratively engage with different aspects of the challenges to vaccine development.
    Yet, the DBT went ahead with tradition, inviting proposals for individual research projects. “The call for proposals went out without my knowledge,” Parida said.
    During his DBT tenure, Parida found himself invited to several international scientific meetings. In December 2012, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden invited him to an exclusive think-tank meeting to discuss new concepts in TB research.
    “Your work in TB immunology and clinical implementation has been groundbreaking and set a new paradigm on how to diagnose or treat patients,” the institute wrote in its invitation note.
    In contrast, the DBT did not even inform him of an internal meeting on TB in April this year, Parida said.
    Parida, who pursued medical research after getting an MBBS from Cuttack, had helped conduct one of the world’s largest trials on a therapeutic vaccine against leprosy in Uttar Pradesh during the early 1990s.
    After his PhD, he moved to the WHO in Geneva for research and training in immunology. He spent four years at Oxford, two years in Brussels, and was in Berlin for five years, leading an international research consortium to hunt for hidden biomarkers for TB.
    In a note to DBT secretary VijayRaghavan this year, Parida wrote he had joined the VGCP with a “passion to serve the homeland” but added: “For reasons unknown to me, I have not been empowered yet to function for the position (I was) recruited for.”
    “When there is interpersonal friction, mechanisms must be in place for senior administrators to step in and mediate. As this apparently did not happen… the DBT’s reputation… suffers,” Trinad Chakraborty, director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology in Geissen, Germany, said over the phone.
    A DBT document suggests Rao had said in a note on November 27, 2011, that “Parida is not discharging the duties and responsibilities as CEO in a manner desired by (the) DBT and has not fulfilled the purpose for creation of this post”.
    Following this, then DBT secretary Bhan set up a committee of three scientists to review Parida’s performance and hand in their report by November 30, 2012.
    But two of the three scientists told this newspaper the DBT never followed up on the communication and the panel never met. The third, neurosurgeon Prakash Tandon, said he did not recall even being told he was on this panel.
    The DBT declined to respond to queries why Parida’s salary had been withheld for several months and why the DBT’s displeasure with his performance had not been officially communicated to him at any point during his tenure.
    When he joined the DBT in May 2011, Parida had returned to India alone, leaving his wife and school-going son back in Berlin. “For some reason, I had apprehensions and didn’t want to uproot them,” Parida said. “I’m so glad I didn’t.”

  5. The Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow (IIM-L) has been caught in unseemly politics over the post of director for the past few months. The search-cum-selection committee shortlisted a few names, including that of Devi Singh, who was director of the institute until a few months ago. The controversial director wants a second term and is likely to get it. This is a deviation from the culture of IIMs, one important aspect of which is that the director should not seek a second?term.

    If the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) could emerge as one of the most powerful brands of India, one of the principal reasons is the culture cultivated by Ravi Mathai, arguably the best director IIMs ever had. He established important practices for governing a management institute that valued the freedom and respect given to the faculty. IIM-A became a truly faculty-driven institution, in that all important decisions were taken by the faculty. One practice that has been religiously followed by the institute is that of a single term for the director. When Mathai decided to step down as director and again become professor, he set an example. There was great pressure on him from the faculty and the governing board to continue for at least another term. He did not agree, though he had credentials and age on his side.

    Setting standards: A file photo of IIM-A. Many of the important practices for governing a management institute were established here. Madhu Kapparath / MintHe had valid reasons for doing so. Besides giving others an opportunity to administer the institute, he also did not want to give hierarchal primacy to the director’s post over the faculty. He wanted that the professor who became a director should again work as a faculty member without loss of pride or without taking it as a demotion. Perhaps he also thought this would restrain directors from using the office to cultivate governing board members and politicians to advance their careers.

    Over the years, all IIMs have been following this practice, though of late there has been one deviation in the selection of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, or IIM-C, director Shekhar Chaudhuri, who was granted another term last year. Now, this trend seems to be catching on, with Devi Singh also aspiring for a second term. The bad part is that political pressure is being used in the selection process, overriding the faculty’s will. For the first time, even the Prime Minister’s office has got involved in the selection.

    Such political interference began in 2002 during Murli Manohar Joshi’s tenure as human resource development (HRD) minister. The search committee’s composition was changed in favour of government nominees. Earlier, the HRD ministry would get the list of shortlisted names and one of the names would be approved by it. Since 2002, the ministry, in a way, also had the power to shortlist names.

    It is believed that the appointment of Devi Singh was a result of political interference. There was great resentment among the faculty at the time. As many as 30 faculty members left IIM-L during Devi Singh’s tenure. The way he recruited faculty to fill this shortage has also drawn much criticism as some of them did not have the requisite academic credentials and work experience. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, there have also been allegations of financial irregularities against Singh, including favouring some board members.

    Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting and Research (C-fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools. Comments are welcome at

    19 Oct 2012
    Hindustan Times (Kolkata)
    CLAIM Varsity VC has been accused of concealing his status as a pensioner

    Sushanta Duttagupta, the man who is entrusted with running of Tagore’s hallowed institution, has been accused of concealing his status as a pensioner and enjoying both his salary along with his pension, in violation of the VB Act that governs his employment.

    Letter of Sobodh Mitra
    February 19, 2013 by truthwinsinindia


    Ruppur-731236, West Bengal. Tel: +91-9444177197



    Santiniketan, 7 February 2013


    1. Honourable Shri Pranab Mukherjee, The President of India and Paridarsaka of Visva-Bharati, Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, India–110 004.

    2. Honourable Dr. Manmohan Singh, The Prime Minister of India and Acharya of Visva-Bharati, PMO, South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi-110011.

    3. Honourable Srimati Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, National Advisory Council, 2 Motilal Nehru Place, New Delhi-110011

    4. Prof. Ved Prakash, Chairman: University Grants Commission (UGC) Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi-110002

    5. Copy to all members of the Executive Council of Visva-Bharati

    Subject: Corruption and mal practices of Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta, Vice-Chancellor, Visva-Bharati disrupting basic human rights, traditional values of Santiniketan, and dignity of women at workplace.

    Respected Sir/Madam,

    While Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta, the Vice-Chancellor of Visva-Bharati, appears to boast Govt. inaction into all allegations leveled against him at various quarters, I have a deep sense of respect to you and also faith in you that prompts me write this letter.

    I had the privilege of writing to you about several financial misconducts of the Vice-Chancellor of Visva-Bharati Professor Sushanta Datta Gupta and also about his serious moral turpitude. As already communicated to you, Prof. Datta Gupta has been drawing his pension from JNU and salary from Visva-Bharati in complete violation of the Statutes of Visva-Bharati. He has been habitually consuming alcoholic beverages at public places making Visva-Bharati pay for his drinks. A PIL has been recently moved at the Calcutta High Court by me and the Division Bench has given direction to the VC of Visva-Bharati to explain his position within six weeks with regard to the above-mentioned issues. I have also written to you drawing your kind attention to the genuine grievances of Prof. Anita Mehta, a distinguished scientist. Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta harassed Prof. Mehta as the Director of the S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences in Kolkata over several years which finally led to the termination of Prof. Datta Gupta from the post of Director: S.N. Bose Centre for Basic Sciences: Kolkata in 2005.

    I am taking the liberty of submitting the following facts for your kind perusal and appropriate necessary action in Saving Santiniketan and Visva-Bharati, in addition to all previous complaints already communicated to you by me.

    1. Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta has suppressed vital material facts, including the fact of his dishonourable termination from the S.N. Bose Centre for Basic Sciences, being found guilty of sexual harassment of a woman colleague while making the Executive Council of Visva-Bharati endorse his extension as the VC beyond 65 years.

    2. Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta has been abusing the power of the Executive Council, using the EC in according post-facto approvals to vital decisions taken by him without consulting this important statutory body. He has been making the EC take decision on financial matters including fixation of pay.

    3. Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta moved an extremely unfair and illegal proposal through the Executive Council abolishing several important posts including the posts of the Accounts Officer, Deputy Finance Officer and Special Officer of Rabindra-Bhavana in the pretext of redesignating those posts, in an attempt to victimize officers whom he dislikes. The proposal has been sent to the UGC and the VC has introduced changes without the approval of UGC.

    4. Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta has engaged an extremely expensive solicitor firm, (Sinha and Co.) violating all rules, in defending himself against the charges brought against him as an individual, and not as the VC of Visva-Bharati, through various litigations. Visva-Bharati’s litigation on the basis of a report published in the news paper “Khabor 365 din” appears to be a wasteful expenditure as the report unearthed corruption of Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta as an individual. A PIL has been moved at the High Court of Calcutta with regard to the personal corruption of Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta. Most unfortunately. Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta has been using the public exchequer in defending himself, in this particular case as well, that include allegations against him consuming alcoholic beverages spending Govt. money and drawing both a pension and salary.

    5. A notification has been recently issued by the Registrar of Visva-Bharati, preventing the entry of Sri Pulak Chakraborty, an expelled PhD Student and the General Secretary of the Visva-Bharati Alumni Association and Sri Nilanjan Banerjee, Special Officer of Rabindra-Bhavana (suspended by Prof. Datta Gupta) into any premises of Visva-Bharati including Santiniketan, Sriniketan and Kolkata, in serious violation of the fundamental rights granted to the free citizens of India by the Indian Constitution. Mr. Banerjee is a patient of cancer with a history of eight major surgeries on neck. The notification issued by the Registrar as instructed by under instructions from Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta, appears to be most inhuman and completely condemnable, as premises of Visva-Bharati clearly includes hospitals, libraries, central offices, auditoriums and various other public places.

    6. Srimati Purba Banerjee, Museum Guide of Rabindra-Bhavana has been transferred to the Publishing Department of Visva-Bharati in Kolkata by Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta, as a docket/dispatch assistant and later as a proof reader, without any justification as a serious instance of gender discrimination at Visva-Bharati. While the Govt. of India is most sincere in ensuring basic securities to women in the country, Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta continues to harass women at Visva-Bharati without paying any attention to their genuine grievances.

    7. Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta has rubbished the proposal of constructing a twin-museum for the invaluable collections of Kala-Bhavana and Rabindra-Bhavana as declared by the Chancellor of Visva-Bharati Prof. Manmohan Singh. Instead of the Twin-Museum as declared by the Chancellor, Prof. Datta Gupta has moved a proposal to construct a Museum of Natural Sciences at Visva-Bharati which sounds frivolous and fishy as no such collections exist at Visva-Bharati for which a museum worth Rs. 50 Crores would be required.

    8. Prof. Sushanta Datta Gupta has started installing ugly-looking and uncouth granite plaques in front of historical houses at Santiniketan bearing his giant signatures. A recent plaque has been installed in front of the heritage house of Rabindranath’s youngest daughter Meera Devi, at Malancha.

    You are requested to kindly look into the above mentioned matters and take appropriate and necessary action restoring the serenity and sanctity of Gurudeva’s Visva-Bharati.

    With kindest regards and respect,

    Yours faithfully,

    Subodh Mitra

    General Secretary,

    Association for Protecting Rights and Area Development

    Role of IMTech and IISER Directors in NIPER Registrar Recrutement are also questionable
    Mohali: The Punjab Harayana High Court set aside the selection and appointment of P. J. P. Singh Waraich as registrar of NIPER. The court passed the judgment while allowing a petition filed by Dr. Parikshit Bansal and Dr. Neeraj Kumar, Asst Professors, NIPER, challenging the appointment. This judgement not only shade light on NIPER malpractices but also questions integrity of directors of IMTech and IISER

  6. It is not only Ganesh who is outperforming, there are Goels, Narlikars, Ananths, Mr and Mrs., Doctor wives of Doctoral Husbands and many more who are all probably outstanding performers by birth, marriages and sychophantasy.

  7. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says: -#1

    Very bold article on Indian Science. There are innovators everywhere and only we have to spot them and nurture them. Though we have NATIONAL INNOVATION FUND,NRDC National Awards,TePP etc., these are meager in a vast country like ours. I have been advocating creating an INNOVATION FUND by Private Industrial Giants like TATAs,Mahindras,Infosys,Birlas etc. It must be sizable fund not just to get tax exemption!
    Problems – People – Solutions
    Research, Development and Demonstration projects in developing countries have generated a variety of devices and systems for exploitation – for example, solar cookers, wind battery charges etc. In Innovation theory, this is a classic case of technology push, that is, technical solutions looking for a social application. Technology push innovations might of course be adopted if they happen to satisfy a real demand, or are heavily promoted. Success is much more likely, however if the needs, priorities and demands are studied before attempting to introduce a new technology or system. This is the demand pull approach to innovation.
    Often identifying the right problem is difficult rather than finding a possible solution. People are better judges to identify the problems and since they benefit most by the solutions, they can contribute for finding the best solutions.
    A novel and innovative scheme is suggested to achieve the above goal.
    In developing countries the Government can advertise in the media seeking problems from the people in different disciplines like education, health, energy, industry etc. The problems received can be screened, studied and short-listed by a committee comprising government officials, experts, representatives from N.G.O’s etc. The short-listed problems can be re-advertised seeking solutions from people. The solutions received can be studied in detail and the best solutions given awards. To catch a fish the bait should be attractive enough. As such there should be sizeable incentive so that people can devote their talent and energies for finding solutions. As the saying goes ‘Anything can be done for a Dollar’. In this way the creative potential of the people can be tapped to the full and a thought process will be set in motion in the country. In India a general knowledge programme conducted by a Super Star on TV is a roaring success and children, youth and old-all alike have become addicted to get equipped with general knowledge so that they can try their luck for winning fabulous cash prizes.

    The Author has developed Novel solutions and sustainable technologies for the benefits of bottoms billions like Everybody’s Solar Water Heater, Simple Solar Drier, Safe Drinking Water from Solar Disinfection,Energy Conservation in Irrigation pump sets,Hand operated Battery charger,Savonius rotor with concentrator for Battery Charging, Multiple Uses of Gas Stove,Pedal operated Washing machine etc.,
    Innovation, Invention and creativity are the pillars of progress of any Society / Nation. The greater the participation of people in the developmental activities, the quicker will be the progress. A new approach “Innovative Technology (IT)” deliberately involving people from all walks of life is the need of the hour in identifying the felt needs in the developing countries and finding solutions. Such a technology will contribute to Integrated Development (ID).
    Modernise the Traditional – Traditionalise the Modern

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  8. The recently concluded Indian Science Congress states that India is performing very well in science, more money pumped in will improve the scientific scenario and the country will progress happily ever after.
    If we do not make the system accountable, the permanent, unaccountable system will eat up the money resulting in more degree producing, nonperforming institutes ranked at 500s across the world. The graphs will keep growing as it has been from the past fifty years proportionate to the amount of money begged to increase our fiscal deficit.

    Even small countries like Sweden, Singapore, Korea, Netherlands with much less total scientific expenditure and proportionally equivalent to the best funded institutes in India are performing way better than their Indian counterparts. Moreover India might be marginally increasing its publication numbers, the technology transfer to the industry, collaborations and other essential features denoting good scientific health is absent. Indian industries gain nothing from the indian scientific developments. India being the largest importer of defense related utilities spends thousands of crores in purchasing foreign equipments. Indian industries are still suffering from the aftermaths of stone age while government funded institutes keep publishing papers, getting promotions and bribing to get the post of directors and vice chancellors.
    Be it science, engineering, technology, agriculture, fishery or aviation, there lies a Clerical Manager, the Indian Babu Saheb who calls himself the driver of all indian departments, sitting at the helm of every affair without the knowledge, know how, technicalities, breaking the very backbone of every cadre, demeaning their spirits by having the status of demiGods born with the knowledge of details of every science, technology, arts, found nowhere else on earth, the sole supremo God in the absence of the true One.
    It is important to note here that species similar to IAS (in terms of power and unaccountability) is found nowhere else on earth and thus forms the primary reason why India preserves this breed as moral and ethical responsibility, to showcase its generosity.
    Every Indian respects the idea of being ruled by them and are devoid of any information about running the world of affairs without the Babu. Most even proclaim that there exist no public administration system for human civilizations which can be run without them. As if the rest of the world comprises of barbaric creatures devoid of the very noble concept of a Babu, while the true gems are still being found only in India.
    The party ruling India for the past many years (IAS), has celebrated the diamond jubilee of unaccountability and permanency twice, while political parties keep facing public wrath after being washed off after every five years. It is again important to note here that political parties face public wrath because they have a face, while the ruling party has none. They stay covered and protected in the luxury cushions of bureaucracy.
    The brilliant selection procedure for the ruling party comprises of three steps

    Millions of kids visit Mukherjee Nagar, New Delhi with an intention to serve the country. The country is served by being highest paid clerks, staying constitutionally protected even after adopting extreme measures of corruption while being in the scrutiny committee of other government servants, forming policies without having knowledge, technicalities, intricacies or impact of knowing the aftermaths of wrong decisions.
    The best memorizers are selected to rule the country on D-Day.
    Rest of the memorizers take pride in spending four years of their most creative and energetic part of their life in an attempt to the become demi Gods of un accountability.

    In contrast the scientists have a fairly tough selection procedure wherein you keep licking a senior scientist/ professor till you become one of those, change to bureaucrats and politicians to become directors and vice chancellors.
    In this regard studying public administration systems of the US, Europe or even Singapore will be helpful, especially the terms of accountability, lateral entry to various posts and procedures ensuring technical heads for technical departments. Accountability for the academic services is ensured using a grading system comprising of scores for publications, impact factors, citations, consultancy projects, projects of national importance, teaching feedback from students and administrative and extra-curricular initiatives.

    The good part of the Indian Science Congress or for that matter any congress is that everyone knows that accountability is important for a functioning system. The laughter challenge question:
    Who is going to bring in accountability to the system?
    The three capable alternatives are:

    Bureaucrats : They will bring in accountability once they discover one for themselves.
    Scientists/ academicians: Am I joking?
    Politicians: They will once they come to power. Remember the ruling party has already celebrated the diamond jubilee of ruling with unaccountability twice.

    The best Indian attitude after school on encountering corruption for the first time is “ I will work hard to reach the top and then remove corruption from the system”, and on reaching the top “ the whole system is corrupt, even I was corrupt at times, I have kids”.
    The very fact that Britishers were ruling a foreign land, never inherently had a feedback mechanism for the administration they created to rule us, for the obvious reasons that the feedback will be poor. The Indians preserved the system and now even Britishers are amazed at the outstanding preservation capabilities of Indians as the system is still sucking blood, even 60 years after they left.
    If by increasing salaries or stipends, anything better could have been achieved, we would have had the best bureaucracies in the world which by some accident, is just the reverse. The only thing improving for 50 years is fiscal deficit giving an illusion of development.

    The best part of Indian education system is the segregation of sciences, technology, arts and social sciences from each other. The primary reason why indian scientists are not able to appreciate, deliver and perform innovative research and are in a mad race to publish papers is the lack of complete social environment of people from diverse backgrounds staying in a campus together. We have failed our university system and digged wells of science (IISc/ER), technology (IIT) and social sciences, pumped 100 crores in each and wait for them to publish. Obvious outcomes being publications but no technology advancements through science, technology development with no industrial delivery or feedbacks to address social causes.
    Our universities are not even ranked in 500s and the people in research/ technology institutes keep fighting to get their names in publications, breeding jealousness, promoting narrow mindedness, breaking papers into many papers to increase the total count, killing innovation and promoting mad race.
    The situation is not only confined to the fields of academia or research but also to true for all other government departments.
    The bare fact is that the top position of every department in India is that of a clerk! And we talked of excellence sometime back. Books on public administration published in 1950s had their authors frustrated by the unaccountability in government service. British brought a new public administration system for themselves after testing with a public administration system in india after removing its anomalies. Moreover it was designed by definition to suck indias blood and donate it to England. Even britishers are now amazed at their creation. Their system is celebrating diamond jubilee of sucking blood. Countries smaller than Uttar Pradesh are also highly developed.
    It is a shame that technical departments are lead by clerks. Probably if given an option IAS would also like to rule Intel, Google, IBM and many Indians still believe that they could drive them to the best companies in the universe.

    Apart from unaccountability, shamefully less punishments for corruption in India has made the nation economically and morally bankrupt. Cheating, crime, bribing or even rape do not draw punishments. On the contrary honesty is a punishable offence. The institutes/ universities and colleges have become the training centers of corruption for fresh students out of school. Even the top notch institutes (including the newly established institutes of sciences) have adopted kin selection as the dominant mode for faculty/ administrative staff selection. Moreover kins/ relatives of eminent personalities in india show a peculiar peak in intellectual level at the time of their selection for jobs only. Most of them have not been selected in any of the competitive examinations during their undergraduate/ postgraduate levels. Even IIT faculty kids selection in JEE is unnoticeable. Only after their degrees are over, their excellence rises, selection into an institute takes place after which noticeable fall in their research calibre due to the lack of funds is observed. The institutes do not display the scores received by individual candidate during the selection process to facilitate the inclusion of their relatives as academicians/ scientists. Even at the top institutes in india, it is exceptionally rare to find non-relatives holding faculty positions in India. We shamelessly recruit sons, daughters, in laws using no laws. The worst part is the dead scientific community shamelessly sees while keeping silent denoting the dead conscious of the fraternity.
    Rays of hope include NCBS, with a tenure track system for its faculty and probably a temporary administrative staff to kill red tapism. On the contrary, IISER Pune probably has a permanent administrative staff and a temporary faculty position.

  9. M.A.Padmanabha Rao, PhD (AIIMS) says: -#1

    How scientific discoveries are made?

    I saw a long debate keeping in view why India could not make any original research or scientific breakthroughs. It is not true that India failed to do any breakthroughs or discoveries in the past. In understanding a surprise finding noticed in 1988, I worked day and night for 9 yrs from 1988 until my retirement in 1997 at the Defence Laboratory (DRDO), Jodhpur, Rajasthan. I officially met Dr.A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the then Scientific Advisor to Minister of Defence, in 1992 in his office and appraised my discovery on detection of light emission from radioisotopes. Moreover, the Director of the Laboratory has officially sent my official Technical Report released in April 1997 on my discovery of new ‘atomic phenomenon’ in radioisotopes and XRF sources to Head of DRDO, Dr. Kalam. Instead of giving an award or a normal promotion, I was not even allowed to attend interview for my last promotion to sc F post in summer 1997, because of downgrading my confidential reports by my seniors for reasons unknown to me. Some annual and half yearly reports sent from the Laboratory to Dr. Kalam mentioned my discoveries, yet I was victimized. . There is none to question Dr.Kalam, and DRDO why it happened to the discoverer of a new atomic phenomenon and none can undo the immense harm done. After retirement, I continued my fundamental physics research at my residence in New Delhi for another 13 yrs until publication of my research paper in Braz J. Phy, Mar, 2010, which claims six fundamental physics discoveries including the discovery of Bharat Radiation. Since I am an Indian and done the research in India, so the researh is hardly known to most Indians for various reasons. Some top scientists pretend that they are not aware of the recent physics discoveries done in India, though most popular in Internet. On record, I am the current discoverer in India but I do not find any senior scientist from DRDO or any other organization coming forward to recommend for any award, research grant, or Emeritus Scientist. Most of my pension benefits (nearly 2 lakh Rupees ) were spent on funding my own research, attending international conferences in USA, Bulgaria and Russia to check up the opinion of foreign scientists whether these are really discoveries. Since Russian Conference in 2008, I did further research on discovery of Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission and Sunlight phenomenon. Many of my juniors were fortunate enough to supersede me at Jodhpur, while I was busy with my research breakthroughs. By doing routine research generally scientists get every promotion and many facilities in professional life. For being an Indian discoverer I lost everything, promotion, the pension benefits and minimum pleasures of life while working several hours a day. When I was seriously working on surprise finding during 1988 to 1997 or afterwards, I was not sure whether my paper will ever be published. It was rejected over 13 times since the journals generally hesitate to publish breakthroughs and more from countries like India. After publication, none from India or abroad cared to verify the published findings. Discoveries take long years for recognition. Sometimes, if discoveries are done on Indian soil, it is possible that they never get recognized. But I never felt that I wasted my precious life. Doing a discovery is a rarest of rare event in science, and could be done only by a very few in the world. I am happy since I was able to do the research despite very unfavorable conditions. Although my juniors superseded me, it did not dampen my spirits to do research up to late in night for months and years at Jodhpur. Except in 1997, media did not show any interest in releasing the news in Indian Dailies or TV, even when published the discoveries in a peer reviewed journal. Many top Indian scientists of repute whom I met simply discouraged me and some others tried to suppress my work from publication. So I stopped meeting top people seeking any kind of help. At 75 yrs age, I work at times 17 hrs a day. I have material to publish two more important papers on Sunlight phenomenon and ‘different wavelengths of light travelling at different velocities’ but I feel it is impossible to publish papers from home. This is how discoveries are done in India and buried with malnutrition!

    M.A.Padmanabha Rao, PhD (AIIMS),_PhD_(A.I.I.M.S)

  10. How to improve India’s higher education and research quality?

  11. I am an undergraduate student of IIT Kanpur interested in pursuing scientific research in future. Thank god i got to read this blog and the comments. My father ,who is himself an IITian has always lamented the quality of scientific research in india. He has worked in ISRO, NAL,HAL – all so called research organisations in india. Having suffered from bitter experiences of working here he has always enncouraged me to pursue my dream abroad. But it was I who wanted to work in INDIA but reading so many comments from those who have had the experience of working here coupled with my own father’s reviews about working here i guess i have to rethink my plans. Some major problems being:
    1. Corruption from the lowest levels to the very top.
    2. Unhealthy work culture. Neither do they themselves work hard nor do they allow others to do so.
    3. Ever increasing politics in promotions and the deserving being sidelined.
    4. No originality in so called research done here. This is what my father said…..” What actually happens in INDIA is they take some top papers published in US, JAPAN etc , copy it and just alter it to some extent without even understanding the whole content, get some so & so result and publish a PAPER. Lack of original work done is what plagues our society.
    5. Since INDIA doesn’t have heroes , we make any one idiot a HERO….. APJ Abdul Kalam is the best example. He may be called a good manager but he has no original scientific work to his credit. Plainly speaking he is no scientist….well to understand and appreciate what i am saying you must have in depth knowledge of nuclear and space science…anyway that man is now worshipped in india as being a legendary scientist and has been a popular president already…. The story of india matches with a hindi saying….andha gaun mein kanha raja….(in a village of blind people a person with one eye is the king)!!!

    • Pragnya: I agree with your observation on APJ Abdul Kalam that he is not a scientist, at best a technologist. And CNR Rao is the only person who has said this publicly, again and again, and IISc the only institute to deny him professorship.
      I also agree with your observation about science in general but I don’t think you should stop pursuing science for these reasons if you really enjoy it. It is an entirely different way of looking at the world and can be truly rewarding. I am sure you will find a good mentor here (if you decide to stay in India) as some of the new institutes are promisingly progressive.

      • In spite of the fact that the stark truth, completely devoid of any kind of sugar coating, is very difficult to swallow, I have to say this. The new institutes in India are still run by the same people who have been running the show in other institutes, and juiced up on their connections, accept other “mentoring roles”.

        There is no doubt about it: the government is throwing public money at the facade of scientific research and education. But the money sticks to the already-sticky hands of those who already have money, with one difference: like politicians who make their spouses/relatives stand for elections or moneyed chaps who buy public land in their relatives’ names to avoid detection, these connected scientists are fronting their students who are now in their twenties and thirties.

        With this stone, they kill the bird called “I mentor youngsters and help their careers” and the other bird called “let’s keep the money in the ‘family’ “. The problem is not with giving youngsters money–it’s with not giving ALL deserving scientists a chance. Moreover, in a country like India which should respect skilled and qualified human resources, the government is coming up with idiotic policies with respect to age. Apparently, people stop being scientists after the age of 35.

        It still takes ages for reviews to be complete; for applicants to be informed about the approval/lack thereof, all of which adds to the mess. The same few people keep reviewing research proposals and while they recycle ideas from Western scientists claiming to investigate some “new” aspect of these hot topics, they reject proposals that they feel will intrude on their turf. Requests to funding agencies to publish names and abstracts of funded projects to avoid fresh applicants from wasting time entering these crowded areas are ignored.

        They are more concerned with hiding their tracks about whom they are funding and not inviting questions as to what was done with the public money by these funded scientists. Unethical practices abound and fraud goes unchecked. Again, requests to convert the proposal submission system into online submission systems, much like manuscripts are submitted online to most international journals, are ignored. Once these proposals pass the first preliminary review, then signatures can be obtained in hard copy from university and institute authorities. This will prevent the “screening committees” in universities from rejecting proposals and then coolly recycling them under their own names.

        But nobody wants transparency and accountability. So yes, if you youngsters get a chance to go abroad for higher education–GO. If you plan to return to this country for personal reasons, then better do your PhD here in India, go abroad for a postdoc and come back and make nice to your PhD guide for your career prospects.

    • Dr.A.Jagadeesh says: -#2

      I totally disagree with you. No doubt PUSH – PULL approach dominates every field in India and Science and Technology are no exception. One need not find faults with others and demoralise oneself. With my 40 years in Science and Technology,Energy and Environment I have hundreds of Research papers published and presented at International Conferences. In the last 2 years more than 2000 comments/short articles were published in leading science journals like SCIENCE,Scientific American,MIT News,Forbes,etc. I have over 20 INNOVATIONS . I worked in Denmark,Italy and Sultanate of Oman. If your work is really outstanding you need not bother about recognition at home and you can get International Recognition even staying in home country. I never bother about opinion of Indian Scientists and Technologies in Government and Outside as their knowledge is limited(surrounded by bureaucratic control). That is why I publish outside. When West recognises then only our people recognise you. The Example Dr.Jayanth Narlikar.

      I want to recall the great contributions of Dr.Yellapragada Subba Rao,a Doctor,Biochemist par excellence who headed the Research Laboratory at Lederle in US. We instituted a Foundation in his name in Nellore.

      Here is the inspiring Story of Dr.Yellapragada Subba Rao:

      Dr. Yellapragada Subba Rao – A Medical Reasearcher, Inventor of Life Saving Medicines, A Noble Doctor
      Name Dr. Yella Paragada Subba Rao
      Father Name Y. Jagannatham
      Mother Name Y.Venkamma
      Date of Birth 12-01-1895
      Born BHIMAVARAM , West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, INDIA
      Died: 1948, on Aug 9th

      For the first time in the history of medicine Dr. Yella pragada Subba Rao’s name came to lime light in 1924, with the association of professor Pesco . He invented ” Rapid calorie metric method ” to estimate “phosphorous element” in human cells in easy and accurate. This method is named after the two researchers”Pesco-Subba Rao method “. Later he identified with ” Adenosis tri phosphate” which is the root matter to the power of muscles in body. He proved this is the root cause for physical movements of life. With this innovative research he proved Noble Awardees researchers research in 1922 was went wrong. He proved this with clear-cut research and analysis. Though he made a great research of worth, he was not awarded Noble Prize.
      In 1930 he got his doctorate (PhD) from Harvard University, U S A.. Though he was great researcher in medicine, he never run after awards. In recognizing his great dedicated research thence “LEDRLE”Pharmaceutical Company appointed him their director. Even some of his invented anti biotic medicines named after him as “Subbo Mycin”, “Subburo Mycin” by ledrle to honour Yella Pragada with love and affection. He continued “Ledrle’s director” till his last breath.

      Hetragen A remedy medicine for filaria (Elephantiasis) and Isnophelia
      Inonex A remedy medicine to T.B ( Tuberculosis)
      Methotrexate, Aureomycin A remedy medicine to prevent blood cancer in children
      Tetracycline A Remedy medicine to cure Cholera, Typhoid, plague & Dysentery
      Folic Acid vitamin A remedy medicine to cure “Sprue”, a spreading disease that spread in tropical regions

      In a glowing Tribute the Former Director,Centre for CEllular and Molecular Biology(CCMB),Hederabad wrote:

      “Most of the famous scientists around the world are known only for one major discovery that has had a lasting impact on our lives : Wilhelm Roentgen for x-rays, Marie Curie for radium, C V Raman for the scattering of light by liquids, P M S Blackett for cosmic rays, Ronald Ross for the life cycle of the malarial parasite, Alexander Fleming for penicillin – all awarded the Nobel Prize for their one major discovery. There have been a few scientists known for two discoveries : Albert Einstein for the photoelectric effect and the theory of relativity, John Bardeen for transistors and super-conductivity, Hargobind Khurana for the genetic code and synthesis of gene.

      Occasionally a scientist makes a large number of discoveries albeit in only one field like Robert Woodward in organic chemistry. Then there are persons who have made important contributions but have not received the Nobel Prize or equivalent honours like Jonas Salk who made the first polio vaccine, Michael Heidelberger the father of modern immunology, G N Ramachandran who discovered the structure of collagen, the most abundant protein in our body
      and also laid the foundations for CT scan and NMR technologies.
      Rarely, extremely rarely, a person comes on the world scene and transforms science and our lives by making a large number of major discoveries in – and otherwise makes important contributions to – more than one basic field and does not only not get a Nobel Prize but does not get to be known by name to most people, including scientists around the world.

      I am referring to Yellapragada SubbaRow. Such an individual is perhaps born once in a thousand years or more. I do not believe there is any other person in the documented history of biology and medicine over the last 5,000 years who made such a large number of basic discoveries that are applied so widely.

      If there were a Nobel Prize for those who died virtually unknown but whose accomplishments lit the path of many who came later, SubbaRow would surely be among the first to receive it.
      Even today in our country very few people know of him. The efforts of the Centenary Committee succeeded in getting the government issue a stamp in his honour in 1995. But he has not been given the appropriate recognition by the nation till today. We have given the Bharat Ratna posthumously to others. Why not to Yellapragada SubbaRow?”( (Adapted from a talk at the SubbaRow Centenary Exhibition in Hyderabad’s American Studies Research Centre – now Indo-American Centre for International Studies – with italicised updates). Formerly Director of CCMB, the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Dr Bhargava heads ANVESHNA the science consultancy in Hyderabad).

      Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

      • Pragnya Jha says: -#3

        Okay, even i did not know about Yellapragada Subbarao before you told me. Yeah he did achieve success in biochemical research and had significant discoveries to his credit but it was all at Harvard. I seriously doubt whether he would have been able to make a significant impact in his area of expertise in INDIA. All Indian Nobel prize winners in science ,of course, except Sir CV Raman had done their Nobel prize winning work outside of India. Jayanth narliker himself developed his theory of steady state cosmology with Fred hoyle at Cambridge. All this data do point to something significant ,right? India does not have the apt environment to nurture and develop new scientists.

      • Hemant Kumar Jha says: -#3

        Whatever your achievement you are contradicting yourself..You disagree with the title and yet your statements support it again and again.

    • Hemant Kumar Jha says: -#2

      Agree with you entirely and can expand it into volumes…However, just an advice – use words carefully..Loose or bad words take away the seriousness of the argument.

  12. Dr Ashutosh Gupta says: -#1

    The problem with indian science not only starts and ends with premier & good institutes/universities, but it trickles down to the bottom level.

    At least some work is going on in good research institutes (IIT, IISER, CSIR etc) & central universities.

    Let see now what is the condition at state level universities and their affiliated colleges.

    Those institutes lack not only infrastructure (no electricity) but also work culture (office hours: 10 am to 4 pm). Students whether or not doing PhD are only concerned about their degrees and interested in only noting down dictations. they don’t wish to get exposed to outer world or to latest scientific activities.

    At times it looks as if everything has taken an erratic shape of systematic functioning of such institutions.

    Even those faculty members who have had good education say from IITs and wishing to serve in India struggle do contribute in a meaningful way. They get inducted in such a system because recruitment policies are not fair at every level. People talk about corruption, nepotism etc at higher level but at state level universities and colleges things are abysmal. and even if one gets into such a system, one cannot work under such environment.

    perhaps the root cause of all this is feudalistic thinking of indians.
    unless all jobs become private or unless casteism, religionism etc. goes away, things won’t change

  13. Prof. Man Singh says: -#1

    Is there any proper program to bring the real talent to the laboratories. The real talent is far off than only those who take masters and doctorate degrees either for job or position. None of them is for real creativity in science. The real talent is in villages which is far away from all those Govt. Scheme prepared by mechanical or robot type educated people like Sam Petroda any many others who are only for show off. It is different issues that when a lot money is spent at least some in IT may come out. So the robot made people must be thrown out from systems and real creative people who have truly done something which is gone from lab to society must be consulted for creative science.

  14. Indian science is run by mediocre scientists or bureaucrats who have no idea of what is going on in the rest of the world. The quality control system in place belongs to iron age. For instance, we have no device to evaluate the quality of a scientist. No institution ask for a reference letter from a mentor before taking a decision on appointment of a faculty. Neither do they evaluate the real scientific quality or merit of the work done by the applicant. I mean they don’t count on the impact of the journal publications or citation of the articles. Still the oldies rely on the marks one candidate scored from high school onwards. They are still sticking on checking the stamp on an experience certificate similar to appointing an apprentice in an automobile workshop. Also, we are still ruled by a prejudice that anything from US is to be celebrated and appreciated while hard earned experience from labs from the rest of the world is being stifled. Once appointed he/she will be promoted disregarding his/her performance in teaching or research. So genuinely enthusiastic and productive scientists will be frustrated in this lethargic system.

    Another point is that scientific projects are being funded without much scrutiny to cronies without any follow-up on the outcome.

    In fact, India should adopt international norms for the selection of faculty and scientific projects. I have few recommendations.

    1) First of all the recruitment panel should be composed of international experts and scientists. We can avoid corruption to great extend by this in such a way that they are least prone to corrupt influences.

    2) Adopt international norms for the selection of faculty. I mean avoid childish insistence on percentage of marks at the schools and colleges and “stamps and seals” on the experience certificate and all. Instead, look at the merit of the candidate by evaluating his research output and quality.

    3) Delete promotions based on seniority alone. Instead, adopt international norms of giving proper weight to research output as well.

    4) Install options for publishing the students’ feedback on a faculty member as is being practiced in the West.

    5) Call for projects in specific periods in an year by the funding agencies and set up international panels for the evaluation of the proposals.

    6) Set up international panel for evaluation of the performances of each universities/centres/institutes and rate them accordingly. Funding should be based strictly on their rank in this classification.

    7) Restrict funding so many national conferences. Instead promote International conferences instituted by reputed scientific societies (for instance, IEEE or SPIE or AIP etc). This will in turn, improve the quality of the local science and provide room for introspection.

    • Jayachandran: I took some of your and others’ suggestions and wrote another blog post, addressed to the PM. Hope somebody, somewhere pays some attention. Thanks for sharing your views.

  15. annaswamy sankaran says: -#1

    indian science had long back got sucked. otherwise, i wonder how a super genius G.N.RAMACHANDRAN, known for decoding of collagen that received profound appreciation from pauling and his tool ‘ramachandran plot’ for protein structure validation and his path breaking work on medical imaging(convolution committee, never received any civilian award. india has shabily treated such a nobel
    class scientist. arguably there is no equal to GNR in the post independent india’s science scenario.
    our science is made up of sycophents in the garb of science. we have lost our moorings in science in the post independent era.

  16. VR Suresh says: -#1

    Recently, I had a discussion with some colleagues about faculty recruitment and thought I would share some of these points.

    1) People are returning with all sorts of degrees from countries that were typically not considered higher education destinations. Moreover, fraud is always rearing its ugly head everywhere as people float illegitimate institutions to lure students and cheat them. To try and determine whether these degrees are legitimate, the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) has asked the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) to evaluate people’s degrees and transcripts to issue equivalence certificates if these are found to be legitimate and equivalent to the corresponding degrees in India.

    However, the AIU does not deal with the equivalence issues for professional fields like medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, physiotherapy etc because of which people from these fields cannot be judged to be equivalent to Indian graduates in these fields! This means that people from these fields cannot apply to government jobs in universities or institutes; only private universities that can be approached and are probably already flouting other UGC rules will be willing to flout this one too and hire such people. Neither UGC nor AIU deal with this issue right now so tough luck trying to deal with university authorities if they insist on equivalence certificates!

    2) Master’s degree requirements: Based on the reality of this country’s higher education with STIPULATED times of 2 years for Master’s and 3 years for PhD degrees, the UGC has recommended that faculty candidates have a minimum Master’s degree to apply for Professor positions (assistant and above). The government has been inviting many Indian scientists to return to India to participate in teaching and research. Like many of my colleagues were telling me, PhD programs in the USA often ask for a minimum Bachelor’s degree besides the GPA and GRE scores for admission into their programs.

    As Bachelor’s programs in the USA last for 4 years, either one has to have done a 4-year Bachelor’s course here in India (professional courses like the ones AIU doesn’t touch are typically for 4 years) or do a 3-year BSc + 2-year MSc to fulfill the minimum 4-year requirement. Many PhD programs in the USA then offer the option of getting a Master’s degree when the requirements are met and register again for a PhD or exit with a Master’s.

    But otherwise, students who have entered the PhD program and have qualified, go straight through to finish with a PhD degree after 5+ years that include at least 2 years of coursework, several qualifiers to become a PhD candidate and research to submit and defend the thesis. In spite of this, because UGC asks for the Master’s degree certificates, these people will not be considered for faculty positions in Indian universities related to the central and state universities even though they have the higher PhD degrees!

    3) API: While guiding students and publishing research form the core of higher education and research, the UGC has assigned points to the programs in which the students have registered. For instance, guiding PhD and M.Phil students carries points. But in many universities, MSc students also do research for a certain period of time and submit theses. The universities that have this requirement do this with the noble intention of trying to inculcate project-based experience instead of just theoretical knowledge. Guiding these MSc students is not an insignificant demand on faculty members’ time. In another (private) university, a colleague mentioned that there was the degree called Master’s (by research) which is supposed to be a 2-year course with the same coursework requirements as the 3-year-long PhD programs and full-time research to submit theses in the end.

    In fact, apparently the MS by research students pay fees that are only slightly lower than those of the PhD candidates, their course is supposed to be 2 years long (vs. 3 years for PhD), they should have a minimum C grade in each course they take (PhD students can have overall C) and they have to have communicated a research paper to a journal (PhD students should have one publication for their degree). But this degree is not recognized by the UGC! So both the students and the faculty guiding these students won’t be acknowledged for their time and efforts!

    There is so much randomness and chaos in this country that it is appalling that policy makers did not take into account the concept of standardization and try to regulate things from the beginning in such a way that implementation and policy would effectively use the vast human resources in this country (nowadays even USA and other countries are looking into changing their immigration laws to retain trained people, especially the ones they trained). People quote the rule book blindly when they should look in depth and throw the rule book out of the window at other times.

    Even appearing so incompetent and disorganized should be declared a punishable crime and this in a society where people are always occupied with appearances! My advice to scientists who are still trying to make up their minds about returning to India is don’t just listen to the talks; read the writing on the wall and in the UGC and the nation’s research bodies’ regulations before you make the leap. You can’t go by the promise of funding alone if the work and social culture won’t help you.

    • I fully agreed with the points mentioned by Suresh. In fact, I am going thru all such difficulties after returning from France after working there as postdoc for 3.5 years. I am not able to find a good research based institute to work. Nobody is interested to hire me, despite my good record of publications with good h-index. Regarding API, there are in fact more “stupid” conditions that favors (more or less) mediocre. I have even written a mail to UGC chairman, and simply got no response. in that mail, I gave many empirical evidences that API calculation is flawed e.g. a PhD from UC, Berkley (currently asst prof at NUS) is not eligible to apply for asst prof post in an Indian university. This is ridiculous. I wish I could have stayed where I was few months back 🙁

  17. VR Suresh says: -#1
    Check out these positive, “inspired” sound bites by “eminent scientists”. The above Nature news article states that:
    ‘the PM, advised by his scientific advisory council chaired by CNR Rao, said ‘ “The problems are not down to funding alone, “but the overall environment for innovation and creative work”. Singh was told that a crisis in leadership is also looming, with not enough young people to take on such roles.

    The council presented a plan to improve the situation. To solve the leadership crisis, the advisers urge Singh to send as many as 1,000 young people to advanced centres abroad for PhD and postdoctoral studies.

    It also recommends removing mediocrity from educational and scientific institutions, eliminating bureaucracy, making structural changes for better administration and creating “a large number of small centres of excellence” around outstanding individuals.

    “This is a real bottom-up approach,” says Lingadahalli Shashidhara, a developmental biologist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune. “It is good to push the average standards upwards; it is key to the success of Indian science.” He adds that he hopes India will also provide well-funded, flexible research positions for foreign researchers.

    Gangan Prathap, director of the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources in New Delhi, says that the suggestions are “implementable and long overdue”.

    Mamannamana Vijayan, a biophysicist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and former president of the Indian National Academy of Sciences, agrees. He says that the move for structural changes is laudable, because the existing structure of Indian science is “the single most important hurdle obstructing the flowering of Indian science”.

    But some are sceptical about how these changes will be implemented. “All this has been seen before but the will to implement it is totally missing,” says Gautam Desiraju, a chemist at the Indian Institute of Science. “As long as the present dispensation continues in the present way, no progressive change can be expected.”

    Rao says he has indications that the government is taking the panel’s advice seriously. “It has asked us to prepare a set of priority recommendations for rejuvenating science and the structural reforms needed for the purpose,” he says. “We have just sent these and we are promised that these will be given place of importance in the coming 5-year plan.” ‘

    If the flower of Indian science is not already nipped in the bud, the “existing structure” for all their sound bites will definitely do it before they go. If these changes are so important, why didn’t they implement them already, especially since they pride themselves on being so far-sighted?

    There is no system or structure for people who return from abroad and who graduate here, how will it help to send people abroad–or will they be sending favorites abroad on taxpayers’ money? When India cannot even assure good opportunities to Indian researchers, should we be speaking of foreign researchers?

    “Small centres of excellence” around outstanding individuals: beware of these, they already exist and some of these “eminent scientists” already have a stake in these. Such centers are built on funding from taxpayers’ money given to certain individuals who have absolutely no accountability and whose misconduct goes completely unchecked by funding agencies and because of the over-generous funding, also by the universities that house these centers.

    This does not fulfill the mandates of these scientific agencies and bodies to train more researchers and promote Indian research because these central “outstanding” cult figures completely strangle everybody around them and do not allow any intellectual freedom for anybody, not students, not faculty. These centers only promote the careers of these tyrants, their flunkies and their cronies.

    • Seema Singh says: -#2

      @VR Suresh: The blog started out by saying that neither my special report nor this accompanying blog aims to be a constant lament on how things are in Indian science. (That applies to the media as well which is in equally bad shape and the fact that we at Forbes India are trying to do sincere journalism in areas that we can, speaks of my belief.) I am a short term pessimist and a long-term optimist. I don’t believe in whining and groaning. I agree CNR Rao, for all the long years that he has been in influential positions, he could have done lot more for Indian science, and I don’t mean setting up new institutions, but reforming policies and how science is conducted. As for Desiraju, I remember having spoken to him when he was at Hyderabad Central University and he thought IISc was one snobbish place. Look where he landed! At IISc. So some change, even if at select centres, is better than no change.

      • 1) You must admit that your title, “Does Indian Science Suck?” is a very tempting invitation to elaborations as to exactly how much it sucks (or blows depending on how you look at it).

        2) The problem is with this system that runs on yes-power and promotes only yes-men and yes-women. So only pleasant things are discussed, photo-opportunities are welcomed and critics are silenced or removed. This only perpetuates the mess that is already all-pervasive. And dissenters are dismissed as whiners without paying attention to what they have to say. There’s a reason why teams and tool boxes work: you need the differences that the individual members and tools bring to the worktable—everybody nodding and being pleasant won’t help all the time.

        3) My point is not to discourage change but to ensure that change is made with the intention of actually improving the situation and not to make sound bites for the media. And yes, personal credibility does matter (doesn’t it always)—after all, in a world where people constantly pay attention to who says and does things rather than what was said or done, shouldn’t one pay attention to gauging the sincerity and reliability of the speaker/doer?

        4) When I ask why should 1000 people be selected by the government to go abroad for their degrees, I want to question the wisdom of the government getting into the area of research scholarship. It is the ability to pass examinations, aptitude and sheer determination that should determine whether people pursue higher studies. Yes, if someone is a deserving scholar and financially unable to afford the cost of higher studies, the government should help finance such students, whether they want to go abroad or not. But none of this 1000 people business–this will only mean pet selection and a complete lack of transparency as to who was chosen and why.

        5) Anyone would agree with recommendations such as “ removing mediocrity from educational and scientific institutions, eliminating bureaucracy, making structural changes for better administration” and I agree with anyone here.

        6) The reason I am very wary of ‘creating “a large number of small centres of excellence” around outstanding individuals’ is because of what I have personally seen in which one of the providers of sound bites in this Nature News article is also a big player. I am not against the creation of a large number of centers of excellence—I am against the complete lack of accountability and transparency that goes with such a move. Usually, these funding agencies won’t get involved in monitoring these places once they’ve handed over the very generous amount of money, and universities and other places will welcome such places for the benefits they foresee in such an association. However, without regulation and without careful picking of these outstanding individuals, all this ends up being is a waste of money and teaching the next generation of scientists how being crooked is the only thing that works in this system. I suppose this also needs to be learned in the present set-up.

        7) Didn’t know about Desiraju but there’s always the matter of “sour grapes.”

        8) I prefer steady, meaningful but pervasive change rather than change at selective centers—this elitism and rarefied atmosphere is what landed Indian scientific research in this mess in the first place.

        Instead of creating little pools of funding and research infrastructure meccas that pull in photogenic people who give optimistic sound bites, we need to be able to connect these pools with more labs, institutes, universities, colleges, schools etc that can really tap into all the trained people who want to be a part of education and research and get a free flow of knowledge and expertise to teach and train more young people.

        Sure, from time to time, you can choose some “outstanding people” from these pools/selective centers and give them padmashris and padmabhushans—after all, where else do lotuses bloom but in stagnant water? But I believe that we need to build self-sufficiency in the coming years, not encourage the existing elitist paternalistic approach.

        • Seema Singh says: -#4

          Yes, I admit that the blog title is tempting, and it is deliberately so. The whole idea is to trigger a debate and I am glad that readers like you find time and reason to share their views. Please keep ’em coming.

  18. Santosh K.Goyal says: -#1

    The Indian Science has undergone seemingly irreparable damage during the last half century. The crab mentality, ego, longing for personal gratification and team spirit and sears acting like a banyan tree are a few of the many reasons for this scenario. Gone are the days of groups lead by PMaheshwari, VPuri and Mahabale, who worked for science and took care of their group. Political interference, favouritism, absence of sincere and critical evaluation of projects and their performance by the funding agencies and shying away of the corporate sector from research and development, have lead to disheartened research efforts. Morphed Theses and research publications are the outcome of this. I will not hesitate to say that the present day scientist has become an ‘egoistic philosopher’ who works for his self and come to this field only by cance and not by choice.


    The views expressed by the author in the above link have similar context as the topic of our discussion.

  20. Being from IISc when CNR was the director, I have seen as Seema reported how old school management played even in a place like IISc. As she pointed out, the oldies still want to hold on to power. Why CNR should continue to hold all posts (the worst part is, even his wife is a professor at JNCSAR…I dont know for what?). A country with over 1 Billion people could not find even replacement for CNR’s wife?. Secondly, even in CSIR, I see the same…Why Sivaram is still being employed? V.Krishnan never did anything great when he was in IISc, but he is still a faculty in JNCSAR?. Recently, we saw CNR’s recent paper that was publicised for lifting sentences published by other scientists. How many of the readers know of back dated papers published by CNR in superconducvity?. Till date he has not answered for those 4 papers? How is it possible for CNR to publish 1500 papers holding all the posts and travelling everywhere, as well as Sivaram filing 100 patents being a director of NCL?. I am picking on these names to show the old school mentality of autocratic rule, any work done in the organization should have their name, if a problem appear, blame it on student. India’s perilous state of research to a large extent should be attributed to the culture CNR created in indian science (By the way, once again, I want to remind that I was a student from IISc, when CNR was the director).

    • I am actually amused by Alp’s comments. The Indian research scenario is full of people like CNR, V. Krishnan, Sivaram and CNR’s wife! There are these people who occupy very important positions requiring them to be traveling, meeting people all the time but even as they occupy such positions, their name appears on publications, book chapters etc. I know someone who is practically blind and who hasn’t picked up a paper or book for the last two decades but this person puts their name on the papers and proposals of junior faculty even if their work has no connection with these papers. As I wrote in an earlier comment, these Indian institutes tell younger faculty (35 plus) that they are too old. I know of this person who, in their fifties, got a heart attack and was then diagnosed with cancer. While this person was undergoing cancer treatment, they were appointed in a top position in an institute that presumably wanted their name on their payroll. Does anybody know of any forum to anonymously post links for papers authored by these “eminent scientists” that contain research errors, fraudulent claims if the journals don’t take action about them? Seems this is one way to go to expose fraud when the system does so much to help these people. No use going to the system asking it to take action against its own.

      • I absolutely agree with you and commend your courage in writing it. Yes, at 38 I was told I was too young to know this or that. The Indian academia is not an academia. They behave like the mafia bosses. It is really and truly a mafia, cruel, corrupt and dangerous.

  21. All have exposed the pathetic system of mera bharath mahan!Suresh and Arpit rightly pointed out paligarism and psychopaths, deep rooted corruption and nepotism. Well, let us thing like this. If Infosys Narayana Murthy can start an industry with the cooperation and support of like minded people and develop as stable sustainable system. Why it is not possible for us to form an cooperative system and start research and development center. In this regard, I appreciate the words of Dr T Ramasamy. Any takers?

  22. Manish Kumar says: -#1

    Well written seema !! Though I agree on most parts of your article, I would like you to summarize the solutions and steps that are being taken to cope with these issues. These solutions (mere the enlistment would create positivity). Whilst there is undoubtedly cases of godfatherism not only in science but in most of the field one doesnt needs to be disheartened. More transparent system of recruitment or promotions /awards/rewards must be worked upon. I have undoubtedly great regards for MK Bhan and his steps are clearly visible. Infact I got an imediate response when I showed interest on to proposing a new platform/academy for young researchers. Here I am pleased to know that RA Mashelkar keeps the same views. From a littel effort of mine and some firends we created a common platform/nascent academy called Biotech Dhaba (with more than 7000 members). I always have belived that the solutions come from the people down the pyramid as the top ones somehow tend to forget the difficulties that they faced long back. Targeting down the pyramid and finding a way to make them interact with the policymakers of Indian science would certainly enlighten the paths to future. Well, undoubtedly Indian science is changing for good but we have miles to go …


  23. I am including below some excerpts from a very informative opinion article in The Scientist, “Academic Publishing Is Broken” by Michael P. Taylor. I am not endorsing or condemning any business model (the scubscription or open access) in this particular comment.

    It is useful to know how publishing and science are connected. And this information is interesting in light of the prevailing climate in many universities who promote faculty based on publications in high impact factor journals, many of which come under the subscription model described in this opinion article, and which are notoriously difficult to publish in for many less well established scientists.

    “The current system by which academics publish their scientific discoveries is a massive waste of money. Academic publishers are currently up in arms about the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA)—a bill that has the perfectly reasonable goal of making publicly funded research available to the public that funded it. Tom Allen, president of the American Association of Publishers, described it rather hysterically as “intellectual eminent domain, but without fair compensation.” Why are he and his colleagues so desperate to retain the current business model?

    By any objective standard, academic publishing is a very strange business indeed. It became established at a time when all publishing was on paper, when duplication and delivery were demanding problems, and when publishers provided an important service to researchers. Now, as the Internet is dramatically changing other forms of publishing, academic journals seem stuck in the 1980s, with results both comical and disastrous.

    Let’s take a look at the flow of money in the production of research. The government takes tax revenue from citizens and uses it to fund university research groups and libraries. Researchers obtain government grants and use the money to conduct experiments. They write up the results in manuscripts that are destined to become published papers. Manuscripts are submitted to journals, where they are handled by other researchers acting as unpaid volunteer editors. They co-ordinate the process of peer-review, which is done by yet other researchers, also unpaid. All these roles—author, editor, reviewer—are considered normal responsibilities of researchers, funded by grants.

    At this point, researchers have worked together to produce a publication-ready, peer-reviewed manuscript. But rather than posting it on the Web, where it can contribute to the world’s knowledge, form a basis for future work, and earn prestige for the author, the finished manuscript is then donated gratis to a publisher: the author signs away copyright. The publisher then formats the manuscript and places the result behind a paywall. Then it sells subscriptions back to the universities where the work originated. Well-off universities will have some access to the paper (though even they are denied important rights such as text-mining). Less well-off universities have access to varying selections of journals, often not the ones their researchers need. And the taxpayers who funded all this? They get nothing at all. No access to the paper.

    It’s pretty outrageous.

    With government-funded researchers providing the writing, the editing, the reviewing, and even most of the formatting, you might think that the publishers who benefit from all this would be able to do their part very cheaply, and that subscription prices would be low and falling fast. Not a bit of it: at a time when library budgets are being progressively squeezed, Elsevier—the biggest of all the academic publishers—reports a 2011 profit of £768 million on revenue of £2,058 million, an astonishing 37.3 percent, compared for example with Apple’s 24 percent profit margin in their record-breaking 2011. This makes 2011 the fifth consecutive year in which Elsevier’s profit margin has increased. Publishers are bleeding libraries dry: it’s no wonder that subscriptions are being cancelled left, right, and center.

    Since these publishers are effectively government subcontractors, you might think they would be subject to government regulation. Far from it. Even the very reasonable public-access policy of the National Institutes of Health—that authors should be allowed to post freely available copies of their unformatted manuscripts 12 months after they are published in formatted form—was recently attacked by publishers in the form of the Research Works Act, a nasty piece of legislation that would have made the NIH policy illegal. Although that act was shouted down by a researcher revolt, no one trusts that it won’t be back again in another form.

    In the face of the ludicrous status quo, it’s no wonder that researchers are starting to turn to “Gold Open Access” publishing. Under this model, authors pay a publication fee, and the publisher makes the resulting article freely available to anyone and everyone. There are no subscriptions, and open-access publishers don’t demand copyright. The taxpayers who fund research have full access, and anyone can do whatever they like with the published papers, including text-mining. The benefits to research, commerce and society are enormous.

    Since open access is a manifestly superior model, we would expect it to have become ubiquitous. But depending on our definition of open access, it seems that only between 5 and 8 percent of scholarly articles are published under this model. Why is this?

    It’s certainly not due to cost. To publish in the reputable open-access journal PLoS ONE costs a publication fee of $1,350. Other open-access journals average a bit less, around $906. To publish in an Elsevier journal, on the other hand, appears to cost some $10,500. In 2011, 78 percent of Elsevier’s total revenue, or £1,605 million, was contributed by journal subscriptions. In the same year, Elsevier published 240,000 articles, making the average cost per article some £6,689, or about $10,500 US. So to publish behind a paywall with Elsevier—and make your work available to only some other researchers and no members of the public—costs nearly eight times more than publishing openly with PLoS. It’s apparent that we are not getting value for money from the traditional academic publishers.

    And so, the $10,500 question: why do we keep publishing with subscription-based journals? There are three reasons.

    First, academic publishing is not an efficient market, because of the monopoly effect of certain journals. If you work in the field of cell biology, you simply have to have access to the journal Cell. There are no competitors that you can buy instead, because the specific papers that are published in Cell can be found nowhere else.

    Second, academics tend to be conservative. So when publishers say that the current system works and there’s no need to change it, academics are, surprisingly, all too ready to accept that claim. Senior researchers can become too comfortable to rock the boat; their juniors can feel too insecure to do it.

    Third, and most important, while it may cost a fraction as much money to publish in an open-access journal, those savings are not rewarded to the researchers. With open-access publishing, the researchers must pay those fees out of their own grant money, or with department funds, while subscription bills are footed by the university libraries, which have completely separate budgets. So, even though, under an open-access publishing regime, for every thousand dollars that a researcher or department spends on author fees, the library could save eight times as much in paid journal subscriptions, the division of budgets within universities (and the fact that until all publishing is open access libraries will still have to continue subscribing to paid journals) is inhibiting this transition.

    So subscription-based journals continue to thrive, bringing in record revenues and profits year after year, because at the moment the status quo still represents a local maximum. We can see that there’s a much higher peak just across the way, but we fear the journey because it will take us through a swamp. Happily, two things are happening to change that. One is that the land surrounding our peak is inexorably rising: open-access publishing options are becoming more common and more attractive. And at the same time, the peak itself is diminishing, as the ever-increasing costs of subscriptions make the current arrangement less and less appealing. We are heading for a moment when all paths lead uphill to a more attractive publishing paradigm. Paradoxically, the thing that could most quickly bring about this change is for publishers to keep hiking journal prices. In the long run, then, it might even be that the more exploitative subscriptions become, the better off the scientific community will be.”

    Michael P. Taylor is a research associate in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. He can be reached at

  24. I run a group INDIAN SCIENTISTS ABROAD on linked in
    i kept your article for poll in our group of 1244 INDIAN scientists all around the world.
    will keep you posted of the update

  25. An acquaintance recently announced that she wanted to partner with this NRI from the USA (she is Director in the same university that he graduated from) to start a finishing school for the Biotech industry. Currently, she is supposed to be training students through Masters and PhD programs. Why do I say “supposed to”? Because many of these students have told me that they receive no scientific training worth mentioning, but all learn how the real world works: the backstage politics, backstabbing, political mindgames etc.

    She is part of a university’s network which is only too happy to be pulling in more money through additional programs. I won’t deal now with the quality of teaching and the lack of facilities to do research in the rest of the university. But the Director wants to leverage her research centre and the funding from the government to set up a finishing school to lure more students with the promise of training them to be “industry-ready” because industry faces the famous, ubiquitous “manpower crunch.”

    When asked about how she would allocate resources between the existing research scholars who needed the facilities to pursue their degrees and the incoming candidates who would pay AFTER finishing their degrees somewhere to become industry-ready, she replied that it was done everywhere. This sort of school student’s reply of “everybody does it so why can’t I?” made me surf the Internet for this growing phenomenon.

    Indeed, many universities do offer workshops and seminars to offer hands-on training in techniques and charge registration fees and accommodation fees for outsiders. These techniques ought to be taught in their courses that they teach students (theory and laboratory) after taking fees from them in exchange for bachelors’ or masters’ degrees. Instead, it appears that not much goes on by way of practical teaching as a result of which most students graduating with Bachelors’ and Masters’ and even PhD degrees in India are often not prepared for the real world: industry or anything else.

    Many students have complained to me that they are given “demos” on tissue culture, ELISA, spectrophotometry, chromatography etc instead of hands-on training because these facilities, materials, instruments are all expensive and their use (and misuse) can prove to be very expensive for the institute. As a result of this, many students who go on to become lecturers and teach other students about these topics, haven’t really touched any of these instruments. To fill the gaps and overcome the inadequacies of the system, in come the finishing schools.

    The Karnataka government officially set aside money for these schools to “revive” their position in the biotechnology industry and I believe other states have followed suit. When I worked in industry for a while, I too saw how poorly prepared and trained the students were when I saw in on interviews. I also saw how poorly prepared and unwilling many of the scientists were in the companies themselves to train the incoming students on the job to bring them up to par.

    Sometimes these scientists were genuinely busy and swamped with work, at other times, these scientists themselves did not know what they were supposed to be overseeing and had got into their jobs through the ever-present system of connections and knowing the right person. These were very big factors contributing to the manpower shortage that everybody complains about in India. This was less of a problem in some areas of work like chemistry (process, small scale, analytical) where people were recruited on a large scale, trained on the same large scale and also, turned over on the same scale.

    Judging by the biotech industry, it would appear that chemical engineers and other protein engineering/molecular biology professionals are also available for training to go on and for the industry to grow at the pace it has. But pharma and drug discovery are different stories and while the chemistry part is strong enough for different chemistries to be tried, the logic behind why something should be made is missing in the pharma industry. The absence of a rational approach is ONE of the reasons (besides poor intellectual property protection) why drug discovery lags in India.

    To look at the other end of the manpower chain, that is, where their training takes place: colleges and universities too are unable to hire and retain good teachers and administrators are not foresighted enough to shape curriculi and programs in ways that will produce strong professionals. Even if the syllabi look superb, their implementation is poor and many students complain of poor teaching, unimaginative and unchallenging exams and the all-consuming rat race that demands no skills or talents others than grades and certificates.

    I was very intrigued when I recently found out that many of these finishing schools boast of “eminent” educators, physicians and scientists (NRI or RI) on their scientific advisory boards. A 2008 Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar awardee who is also a senior faculty member in one of the IISERs is on the scientific advisory board of a Bangalore-based finishing school. When this was pointed out to me, I was quite puzzled as to how he could reconcile his role as an educator with such a conveniently profit-making enterprise which was basically an admission that the system he was part of and should be shaping was so inefficient in educating students.

    But human beings, and our Indian media demonstrate again and again how Indians are particularly so, are very flexible and can reconcile any number of discrepancies. This seems a bit like a restaurant owner also owning a pharmacy next to the restaurant so that patrons of the restaurant who experience discomfort from their visit there can conveniently buy medicines for stomach aches or diarrhea etc right there. So also, these educators and scientists recognize how inadequate their own services are and offer a convenient solution for it in the form of finishing schools. Never mind that parents paying fees for their children’s education will be expected to shell out more money for these finishing schools before their children can be considered employable. These really may be finishing schools for one and all.

    • Respected VR Suresh
      India needs revolutionary scientists like you who have different mindset and vision from his Desi counterpart . In India whole environment is polluted wit Bollywood and Cricket. Young Indian are searching their role model in these two communities. Parent want money spinning career for their children . Mainstream media has no time for science news . The scientist who are working day to night in their lab considered mad . Real heros of world have no value in Indian psyche only fake people have been regarded in the society. You have some real thoughts in your mind and certainly you will be heard by everyone in near future.

    • Manish Kumar says: -#2

      @Suresh you cant be more true. Its really an aching problem in the biotech sector. All these finishing schools loot the students and the parents. The solution to this is that like minded people must campaign and raise voice against these fake schools.

    • Atanu Chatterjee says: -#2

      Dear sir,
      I am moved by your ideas. We share similar views and we are currently working in this direction.
      I would like to get more acquainted and discuss similar ideas with you.

      Atanu Chatterjee
      Indian Astrobiology Research Centre

  26. “ Indian psycophantists” keep praising the scientific system even after realising the rampant corruption prevalent in the system. Accepting the facts before improving the scenario is a better set of steps than praising the corrupt scenario itself in a hope to improve it.
    Scientific policy, recruitment procedures and the whole scientific system has been a blunder committed for over fifty years. Science is the only officer grade profession in government organization without any defined selection procedure, based primarily on recommendations and interviews. The system works well in developed nations where honesty is a priority. The industry follows the same procedure but the recommendation/interview system works due to the presence of a feedback mechanism where the employee gets fired if he/she becomes a non-performing asset to the company.
    Scientists on the other hand cannot be selected by a common entrance procedure/ exam, the absence of a feedback mechanism wherein they are judged for their work (research/teaching) and lack of accountability makes them the least productive professionals.
    The rot in the system exploits this loophole and in combination with the lack of ethics leads to the selection of people with below average calibre.
    The whole system from getting education to becoming a faculty/scientist is beautifully modified to promote and absorb sons, daughters, in-laws, wives and last but not the least psychophantists. The Indian Institues of.., National Centers of.. are a brimming example of family welfare schemes adopted by the scientific/ academic community in India.
    The recommendation system meant for the developed countries where ethical professionalism is a dominant mode, is copied minus the ethics leading to the pitiable state of scientific recruitments in India.
    The poor selection brings with it low quality research, extensive plagiarism, exploitation of young students, caste-ism, state-ism (much higher than other government services) and economic corruption leading to a decaying scientific structure in India.

    • Well said Arpit, I was a science student in my intermediate years and since then I believe that scientists are the only person who are changing the whole world and in my opinion developed countries have much respect towards scientists .But in India politicians have high influence in the society and therefore science is also politicized in India. I want to quote here a part of interview of Mr. L.K. Advani in which he had accepted this fact and since then I have much respect for him.
      Q.-Do you think the stain of autocracy — or we should say dictatorship — has been removed from the Congress party’s DNA?

      L.K. Adwani – No. In fact, whoever forms the government doesn’t hesitate in committing excesses, even some of our people. Power corrupts and nobody wants to let go of it once they have it. No political office anywhere in the world holds as much clout and influence over society as it does in India. I say that because the political office holder is the only person in the country whose influence is far more than his or her innate merit.

      I tell my party colleagues in private meetings that there is a lot more arrogance in India. In America, say if a scientist, lawyer, artist, senator and plumber live in a certain locality, the senator won’t claim he is bigger than the scientist. People have their own standing because of their talent.In Hindustan, even a municipal corporator thinks he is bigger than a scientist. I have maintained that in India just as political office gives influence and respect far in excess of his or her basic merit, the same is true for journalists too. ………

      I am surprising that in Indian mind set the persons responsible for the magical change of the world should have been worshiped like God and there should be Newton temple or Einstein temple in India . But Indian people do not know about these great people and they are running behind so called Godmen. Various temples of living God already exist here and various persons are claiming themselves God or Godman in every sphere of time of Indian History.
      I have no any science background or any scientific connection but I have motivated my son to become a scientist because I believe scientists are real person and they should get much respect from society. My son is interested to do his PHD from abroad and he has offer from IMPRS Germany. He has also applied for some other places . I have no idea that from where should he do his PHD either from India or abroad as I have no idea about Indian scientific scenario . I coincidentally read the article of Mr. V R Suresh and Arpit and since then I am worried about my son’s future . I will be grateful if you could please guide me in the matter in future . The opinion and experiences of Mr. Suresh and Arpit are like eye opener for me.

  27. Regarding the scientific misconduct part, I believe that India needs some kind of research integrity and ethics watchdog (of course, we need this in all spheres of activity and Lokpal has not given me much hope on how we can achieve regulation and accountability. But given that poilcymakers themselves lack ethics, I don’t know the solution. I had written something for another article under another name, but I wonder (or maybe can be reminded) if people know about the following cases:
    Case 1:
    Gopal Kundu controversy
    In 2006, Dr. Gopal Kundu in the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune was accused of duplicate publications. Although an internal NCCS committee advised Kundu to retract the paper, an independent (read as government-appointed) committee led by Prof. G. Padmanabhan, a former director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, concluded that there was no problem. In 2007, the Journal of Biological Chemistry (which had published the later paper) withdrew the paper; Dr. Gopal Kundu is Scientist F in the NCCS.
    Case 2
    Anna University controversy
    In 2007, a Journal of Materials Science (ironically, CNR Rao’s field is also material science) article by K. Muthukumar, T. Mathews, S. Selladurai and R. Bokalawela (Anna University and Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR)) was reported to be a reproduction of an earlier article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by David Andersson and others at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. In a correction, the journal reported that the article ‘does not just plagiarize the results presented in the PNAS paper but actually copies most of it word for word’. The journal started investigating the matter and in the meanwhile, the Anna University barred Dr. Selladurai from guiding any more doctoral students. As per convention, Dr. Selladurai blamed his student, because the professor “was not capable of” scientific activities.
    Case 3
    Prof Ashok Pandey controversy
    Ashok Pandey is deputy director and was head of the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (Trivandrum) under the umbrella of India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). He is the editor of many well known international Biotechnology journals and appears in the list of most cited authors; he received the Thomson Scientific Citation Laureate Award 2006. His 1996 original article in Appl Microbiol Biotechnol was found to be an extensively plagiarized version of a 1989 Biotechnol. Letters paper by J. Lee and S.N. Agathos (Agathos pointed this out). The Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Alexander Steinbüchel, confronted Ashok Pandey with the evidence and decided that “manuscripts from K. Balakrishnan and A. Pandey will no longer be considered for publication in this journal, and the Editors-in-Chief of other journals covering aspects of microbiology and /or biotechnology will be informed about this matter”. Subsequently, Appl Microbiol Biotechnol journal withdrew the plagiarised article from its online archives, without posting any retraction notice. Following the public exposure, CSIR had to appear to investigate Ashok Pandey for plagiarism and he was downgraded by CSIR. In 2004, CSIR quietly reappointed him to a higher position and made him the editor of CSIR’s own journal. He has founded the Biotech Research Society of India (BRSI), which appears to be another CSIR organization straddling both academia and industry.

    • Ethical practices in scientific research has been a challenge. I remember when I pointed out about a “type” of publication will explain below to an Institute Head, his reply was “this happens every where”. The cases are given below: Case 1: an paper gets an authorship for a person X (an ex- BPO employee) , in paper totally unrelated to X such as “algorithms in data mining” ( , just because one of the author is a father of X person. Secondly the same person X manages to get a first author in a very poorly written review article related to environmental toxicology (again not the subject domain of X)( This is the attitude of the people and they get easy promotions by showing they are research publications. I wonder if there is any independent agency to report these case ?

  28. Seema, I cannot give specifics of what goes on everywhere. But having seen many of these places and gone to conferences, it appears that with people moving around for jobs, the culture that you refer to (choking bureaucracy etc) gets spread around and moving physically does not really help. The problem with these comments that these eminent personalities make is that they are all humbug. The people who act unethically are crooks but so are the spineless insects that stand by and watch quietly in the hope that THEY don’t get into trouble. Recently I saw these very eminent scientists who enjoy very special places in biotechnology and have given many sound bytes to media about how shameful the state of Indian science and how urgently we need reform etc. These people (especially one of them) are vocal about the need for sustainability of science and how we need to build non-person-centric systems that allow people to be independent and function peacefully and efficiently. But they accomplished the complete opposite when they helped this other rather senior scientist (maybe a few years younger than them) formulate rules to put their name (I keep it gender-neutral) on junior faculty’s papers even though this senior scientist’s expertise is not in those areas and they cannot defend the work. The rules ended up clipping the wings of the junior scientists in that centre and the ones who spoke up had to leave and find another job. Neither was this a sustainable system nor did it help anybody (other than maybe the crook) function peacefully and efficiently. With regard to patenting: I think more people are patenting nowadays as IPR becomes a more widely discussed topic. Agencies like TIFAC (a DST division) encourage the translation of research into practice. But again, from personal experience in the life sciences, I have seen some people claim that they are patenting some things that EVERYBODY has worked on and which are absolutely not novel. So one has to be careful about patenting: IP is still a black box for many and while the prospect of money attracts all, not everybody seems to understand what makes something patentable.

  29. Mr. Garg,
    If I were to believe you, hypothetically speaking that is, that you have brought your son up to serve science, society and the nation in that order, then he is going to be miserable like the rest of us. But to be serious, if your son is a student in one of the IISERs and is working with TIFR, then he fits into the category which I have mentioned: he has been trained by the scientists in India and they will want people like him around them because he will know how to keep them happy and vice versa. So the lack of your connections need not be an issue. So don’t worry, or worry about things that everybody worries about (inflation, saving enough for retirement etc) rather than specifically about your son’s survival in science.

  30. When I used to be asked by everybody some years ago why I chose to return to India after finishing my studies abroad, I was puzzled as to why it was considered so idiotic to want to return to one’s own country and have do independent research instead of being a postdoc abroad. Now I can tell you understand why it was (and probably is) considered so idiotic. Whether we speak of industry or academics in the life sciences field, nepotism, corruption and unethical conduct are rampant.

    The people in charge seek and hold power and all its trappings and will do anything to keep their position in the ratrace. A look at DST, DBT, CSIR etc websites will make the reader feel that the government really wants to promote research in this country. Funding is not scarce but the distribution of funds is very poor and selective, much like recruitment. Media reports cry about how many faculty positions lie vacant in institutes of national importance.

    But what really drive recruitment in India are connections not merit or qualifications. Even if qualified candidates show up, their CVs are not selected by screening committees who look to place their own students into these positions as they have been trained to be compliant and agreeable. These students are tired of always nodding and saying yes so they seek to go abroad. Between the exodus and the incestuousness, positions lie vacant.

    There is much talk about how few women enter and stay in the sciences. But recruiters in industry and academics alike ask women candidates when they will get married if these women are single, and when they will have children if these women are married and straight away assume that between marriage and children and in-laws, these women are not going to get much done and deny them the jobs. In a couple of cases I actually saw, the women were refused the jobs with the clear statement that they would be too “distracted” and that research needed a lot of “commitment”. The idiots then went and offered the jobs to some male candidates who left within six months for greener pastures.

    In a country like India where people refuse to resign and leave their positions. Between 70+ politicians and army chiefs who want to cling for just one more year, there is no respect for the rule of sanyasa even though every other social rule is thrown at people—when to end brahmacharya, when to have children etc. Many institutes and universities want “young blood” defined as the 25 to 35 years’ age group. Websites of these institutes do claim to relax the rules for women and SC/ST candidates by five years but still the bias is evident.

    I know of many very elderly scientists who have had heart attacks, have undergone cancer treatment, can barely see, who cannot hear very well, who are barely coherent and whose senility has become a running joke with everybody around them. But while these people are invited to become directors and associate directors of government-funded research centres or of private institutes, 35+ year-olds are considered too old for jobs. And the irony is that this is a country that cannot afford to turn away its skilled manpower (or womanpower).

    Foreign countries are quick to realize their society’s needs and act accordingly: in nations where the population growth is low and slow and the population itself is not very high, retirement ages are kept on the higher side to get more advantage of the existing manpower. If unemployment is high, working hours are cut down but employment is given to more people to decrease unemployment rates. But India neither recognizes its problems not do these bureaucrats act.

    I have been encountering many of these elderly scientists who lived (and worked) abroad for many years. As they grew older, their health problems and their own personal tragedies (death of spouses or other family members, illness etc) unsettled them and they decided to return to India. Even on their pensions, they would have a better standard of living and health care and personal help from cooks, maid or man servants etc if they moved to India. So the government of India (through DST, DBT, DRDO, DAE, CSIR etc) in its shortsightedness gave these people crores of rupees to set up autonomous research centres under the intensification of research in high priority areas.

    Even the cooking gas agencies have the sense to give connections to households and sell regulators along with the cylinders. But the government did not see fit to think of regulating and monitoring the research activities of such centres. Many of these centres revolve around these scientists who have returned from abroad who spend some years re-learning how to navigate the system. However, their connections and their age often help them gain a foothold much faster and higher than other mortals and they display exactly the same intolerance and autocratic behaviour (sometimes worse) that the Indians who never left Indian soil to go abroad display.

    The exposure, etiquette and the tolerance that the foreign systems should have taught them or maybe were successful in extracting from them is not at all evident in India. Scientific misconduct is rampant and their connections along with their “reputations” ensure that no one dares to question them. The lessons that younger scientists and aspiring scientists learn from such unchecked misconduct will bring much harm to Indian science in the coming years. Steering committees (when they exist) are impotent bodies of elderly technocrats who boast many civilian honours and who visit the centres every year or so; eat, drink, travel, sight-see at the government’s expense and return home to take rest.

    They visit each other on invitation and shower each other with much praise, photo-opportunities and honours. In fact, some of these eminent scientists write articles commemorating a quarter of century of some of these national funding agencies and how institutes and research centres should develop in a non-person-centric way and develop systems to promote independent research by younger scientists so that they can help build a knowledge-based economy. But they are seen to close ranks with their cronies who punish younger scientists if they do not give these senior scientists control over their research projects and help these senior scientists get funding and get their names on projects in areas they have no research expertise in. No one is permitted to ask any questions. And when the people on top are rotten, there’s not much chance that things will change and improve.

    • Very nicely written . If it is the true picture of Indian Science then what the parent of an young student who motivated their son to become a good scientist should do in this scenario .
      Disclosure: I am a parent who always motivated my son to become a good scientist, Serve Science , Serve Society and Serve Nation. But I have no any connection in scientific community of India. I am worried that how my son will survive in scientific field.

  31. Vikram Saini says: -#1

    Most of the science graduates in India know that NCBS and IISER Pune are outliers and not the norms. Just to remind you- all these instt operate in more or less similar set of rules as any other instt. Its more to do with the leadership of these instt who worked above their own interests and worked for Nation. Quoting E. Hemingway- “Few men for the right cause brave the disrespect of their fellow men, the censure of their colleagues and ignorance of society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields out painfully to change.’ I wish it to be a norm and we have more such people. I am at least happy however that people are recognizing it and at least there is some talk on it.

  32. Manish Garg is the first student among the five IISERs whose two different research papers are published in two different prestigious scientific journals of the world. His one research paper titled “Quantum dynamics of H2O2+: H2+formation on ultrafast timescales” has been published in ‘Journal of Chemical Physics’ on 13 January 2012 (Please visit ) and another research paper titled “Ionization dynamics of Tetra Methyl Silane (TMS) in intense, two-cycle laser fields” has been published in the ‘Physical Review Letters’ on 15 February 2012 (Please visit ). The research paper of Manish Garg titled “Quantum dynamics of proton migration in H[sub 2]O dications: H[sub 2][sup + ] formation on ultrafast timescales,” which was published in Journal of Chemical Physics has been selected for the February 2012 issue of Virtual Journal of Ultrafast Science .His third research paper has already been submitted for publication in ‘Journal of Chemical Physics’ and hopefully it will also be published in coming days.Manish has done all three researches in joint collaboration with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Mumbai. The above mentioned scientific journals are very prestigious in the scientific world and publication of the research work of an undergraduate level students in these journals is a great achievement for our nation and our scientific community. It is my feeling that these news can inspire our scince students and motivate them to become a good scientist. If choosing science as career is not good decision in terms of making money then at least they should get some recognition as compensation for their work.

  33. I agree with our people comments on ‘ How our scientific institutes are doing’. Our institutes are sucked with nepotism and are fully influenced by a section of people. Our people and government has not learn any lesson from China. If we compare how our Research and Development sector is doing compared to China and Korea, it is very ‘shameful’. There is no vision and most of our universities are deteriorating their standards. As I know most of the professors and other staff won’t take classes, then how can we expect to correct or read the research paper thoroughly. This is what happened on Dr. CNR plagiarism issue. There is no plans to attract the brilliant people form abroad and as we know many scientists who returned to India and again returned to US. More over in most of the universities, the faculty are recruiting by corruption only, then how can we expect the ‘QUALITY’. The OTHER major reason in our national institutes, is at each and every stage we have to fight . If the govt has not taken any drastic steps definitely ‘INDIAN SCIENCE SUCK’ further.

  34. Sweetheart says: -#1

    “When IISER Pune was set up and K Ganesh made it’s [sic] director…”

    ITS, not IT’S, Forbes India sub-editors. That’s science. Or, oops, is that “American science” that, which like the Indian one, obviously doesn’t suck?

    By the way, it would have been nice if the article had mentioned WHAT changes are needed in the academy of science rather than who has been employed where and how these people have brought in “good” or “bad” initiatives. None of these people mentioned in the piece are my friends so they haven’t told me their great ideas yet, which are all so “fitting” and “bang on” and what not! I hope they do some day when I manage to befriend them, after I finish reading this piece.

  35. Nitin Gandhi says: -#1

    Well- as author above mentioned that all the problems are known.
    We are grouping in the dark, the problems are not in science-the problems are in our society which is based on lies,corruption, selfishness, dishonesty, and finally immaturity. This is specially true about the so called educated class.
    If one wants to improve science or any other field whatsoever, then first and foremost is try to eliminate those negative attributes in us.
    Will this be possible? I do not think so- what is built up in last 5000 years cannot go in few years of our life time.
    Though my ultimate message is do not give-up, those who are good and doing good and are in position to do good do not give up!

  36. While visiting faculty might sing praises of IIITD you should consult with the PhD students and current faculty to assess what they feel about the institution. I think your opinion might change a bit. Old sock in a new shoe is still as smelly and tattered as it was.

    • Shahid: Thank you for highlighting this. Let me clarify though that by visiting faculty I don’t mean overseas profs. Some local profs from other institutes have told me this. But I will dig more.

  37. Hi Seema,
    Typo in paragraph 4 from bottom:

    “Industry needs to innovate and execute faster, Indian institutions want to patent just to be able to publish papers.”

    Did you mean to write it the other way around?

    • JNCBala: Thanks, I think I missed a few words. What I mean is that the industry of course needs to innovate and translate into products and not just open R&D centers to avail tax sops, whereas academics need to go beyond publishing papers as right now they file patents so that they can then publish papers. Both have to work together. If you read Jayant Baliga’s profile in this apckage, you’d see how he had to withold publishing his IGBT work because GE wanted to patent and develop a product around it.

      • Ressci Integrity says: -#3

        Ms. Singh: You forgot to mention about the recent case against Dr. CNR Rao on plagiarism. There might be many cases like that…your title fits well with Indian science…

        • There is no case against CNR Rao regarding plagiarism simply because there is no plagiarism. A new research student had paraphrased from another technical paper without giving credit in the aricle he submitted for review. And he also included CNR Rao’s name as coauthor. After the reviewers had objected, the mistake has been corrected. This case is needlessly being over sensationalised in the media.

          • Nitin Gandhi says: -#5

            So all the credit is PI’s and all the mistakes is on student?

          • Ressci Integrity says: -#5

            Well, that is always the case. There are no investigations yet. Look at the sensations in the USA right now for scientists of Indian origin. Check for few names…originally from India. I know of few cases in India who were cleared by former IISc directors. Check wikipedia for scientific misconduct in India. Pritam, truth will come out whether you would want to cover it up or not. Like cold fusion experiments – remember? There is no point in blaming the Ph.D. students only….by the way, I am a professional scientist and i know these things very well.

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