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Cure needed for Indian science

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on January 4, 2007

India’s most important scientific conference has gotten off to an inauspicious start. Over 5,000 people, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, are attending the annual Indian Science Congress in the southern town of Chidambaram. At a time when many Indians are worried about the country’s scientific output falling behind that of China and other countries (for instance, see this Asiatech item from last August), the meeting is an important opportunity for India’s science bigwigs to show that they have a plan to reverse the decline. So it’s especially unfortunate that the big news on the eve of the congress was illness – specifically, an outbreak of food poisoning at the site of the meeting. According to the Hindu, “twenty-seven people, including three scientists, were taken ill after consuming food from the Indian Science Congress (ISC) venue at the Annamalai University here.”

In his speech opening the congress, Singh acknowledged the poor state of health of Indian science. “I am deeply concerned about declining enrolment in schools and colleges in basic sciences,” he said. (See transcript here.) “There is also widespread concern about the decline in the standards of our research work in universities and even in advanced research institutes. The university system needs upgrading in a massive way.”

Good for Singh. The prime minister went on to say that “the time has come, however, for a new thrust and for renewed investment in basic sciences.” Tooting his own horn, he lauded the government for opening three new institutes for advanced research of research in 2006. Singh also pledged that the government will spend more on R&D, growing from the current 1% of GDP to 2% five years from now. Admirable goal, but I have my doubts that India can manage such a big jump in such a short amount of time. As in so many things, China has a head start over India in this, since the Chinese government has been pouring billions of dollars into R&D over the past few years. But for all that, Chinese R&D spending is still only at about 1.3% of GDP. (See this BW story for more.) Still, it’s good news that Singh recognizes that the Indian government needs to do something to solve the health woes of India’s scientific community.

Reader Comments


January 4, 2007 1:46 PM

Indian governament spends less than 1% of GDP in R&D. Indians are going abroad and showing their mettle. Bright examples are:
38% of doctors in USA are INDIANs.
12% scientists in USA are INDIANs.
36% of NASA scientists are INDIANs.
34% of Microsoft employees are INDIANs.
28% of IBM employees are INDIANs.
17% of INTEL scientists are INDIANs.
13% of XEROX employees are INDIANs.

Co-founder of Sun Microsystems: Vinod Khosla
Creator of Pentium chip (90% of the today's computers run on it) Vinod Dham


January 5, 2007 1:52 AM


Indians are famous for their braggart and abstract exaggeration culture. Every Indians are proud of India and yet try all possible ways to get out of India like it is hell. Here is some stats Indian readers choose omit:

India per capita GDP $600 – below Africa average
India National Average IQ 81 – below world average

Maybe, the stats you quoted are right. Why don’t those high IQ Indians go back to India to help India out? India is poor like hell and in desperate need of Indian’s scarce high IQ few who choose to abandon India.


January 5, 2007 12:52 PM

One more number: 40% of adult INDIANs can't even write their own name.


January 5, 2007 6:10 PM

All those figures about Indian doctors, NASA scientists and Microsoft employees are urban legends roaming around the Indian community. There is no basis to the claims. In fact, Bill Gates himself had publically refuted the myth that 34% of Microsoft employees are Indians. The percentage he stated was about 20%.

David Scott Lewis

January 13, 2007 9:27 AM

Many Indians are brilliant. Fortunately, they're mostly in the States. That's great for the U.S., lousy for India.

When it comes to R&D and engineering services outsourcing, China beats India by every known metric (e.g., published technical papers in English, English language technical conferences hosted in their country, patents, the list goes on and on).

Also, a key part of the 11th Five Year Plan in China is R&D. China will be making a huge effort, although much will be dual-use (as in the States), i.e., with military and commercial applications. But, like I said, this isn't much different than in the States.


January 14, 2007 4:34 PM

I agree with Steve - Indians should stop bragging and focus on cleaning house. We have much to be grateful for our ancient heritage but the ground reality is this - much of India is suffering from poverty.

In my view, we are better off focusing on building the infrastructure needed for strengthening education, science, and research. There are too many urgent issues that need action to ensure long term success as a nation and we are miles before proclaiming our very recent successes.


January 23, 2007 3:42 PM

I am not the steve above.

India's software industry will hurt India's R&D in long way.

Most of the employees in software industry are working in simple coding. Not too much talent is needed. But every one should chase the job oppertunity that offer US$10,000 job in a country whose GDP per capita is about US$700.

But few other indian industry can provide these kind of jobs.

I am saying that most of top India talent is now in software industry. How about other industries?


January 29, 2007 10:48 PM

Stop talking India as being a problem. Look how indians view themselves. hahahaha


June 5, 2007 5:40 AM

HI evrybody,
It's thei sick mindset taht's makin them unable to digest facts about the greatness of India.
I pity those ppl.Poor fellows


December 15, 2007 1:59 PM

38% of MS employees are Indian? Gates says 20%, not 38. No wonder Vista is so bad......

And one or two successes like Hotmail or Pentium chip doesn't justify FOUR MILLION of them imported on L-1s fraudulently. Sun's real founder was McNealy. Kosla was along for the ride - he just got lucky. For every Kosla or Hotmail guy there are 100,000 Indian frauds imported to U.S. under false pretenses who cause massive business failure.


July 29, 2008 8:30 AM

Hi samir,
u come to india and see the massive microsoft buildings in india and the number employees working in india alone and then are talking about fraud, its every where, you can't say or show any country where there no are talking about business failure, i totally disagree with u.its not because of the people who came into america, its because of lazy people who don't want to work so hard.not every employee in any company have same sort of skill level, so it doesn't mean they are all worthless and it's not fare to say other country in the world has got these many techie did u enter into america?u tell me?don't think everybody is fraud, there are good brilliant people, who are contributing a lot and u should realize can u say rest all indians in america are imported fradulently, it doesn't make any sense. say suppose some american invented something, it doesn't mean all the american employees who are working for the country are worthless. the inventor came from one of those employees,u should understand this. don't ever dare to say this.u didn't invent anything , so if i say u are worthless, do u take?


July 29, 2008 8:39 AM

also, things changing quickly in india.people are not going out like they were before as many multination companies are moving to india.i mena to say the percentage of indians goingout has dropped, also many people are coming back to india(which very few notice this).its the political situation that needs to be changed, until then we can do very least, as most of the population still poor and un educated.

screw samir

July 30, 2008 3:09 AM

samir, just because we are doing good, you cannot stand it. keep getting jealous

John Moshi

September 10, 2008 2:41 AM

No one can deny the fact that Indians have carved out a very appreciable image in the US, particularly in the IT and medical field. However, gross exaggerations such as 38% doctors, 36% Nasa Scientists.... are vulgar and only undermines our greatness. Well, regarding Samir's stats(with no evidence) only highlights the pathetic condition of failed states such as Pakistan who and reminds us of 'sour grapes'


September 12, 2009 4:17 AM

While that statistics might be exaggerated, it may not be very far from truth. Indians are contributing in a big way to US. No one can deny the fact that number is very significant.

I don't believe in that biased IQ ratings. That is also exaggerated beyond limits.

Don't forget India & China was once largest economies until 1800's when British started ruling India. We were the richest nations through out history & are fast catching up.

Yes I do agree that China has done some things better than India and also the other way round. Democracy & freedom came at a price in India. I guess you have to dig more into the topic to get a fare idea on this.
Read this for better idea:
*China and India: The Reality Beyond the Hype by Delloite research*

Don't be of the wrong impression that what China does is perfect & India fails in what ever it does.
India has succeed in many things while running its democracy and also that Delloite report says that India was more successful than China in the money it invested.

Now a days it became a trend to Compare everything with china. You are forgetting how priceless 'Freedom' means!
Now that people in china are settling economically, next thing they would think of is more freedom & I wonder how China can handle this.

What finally matters is how happy the people are than all this economic parameters. It is just a matter of time India will reach the top.

@Samir: Don't be jealous... your words show u r already beaten person & from a beaten country. One fifth of MS is also a large number poor fellow.

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