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January 04, 2007
Cure needed for Indian science
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.
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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
Posted by: Ravi at January 4, 2007 01:46 PM
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.
Posted by: Steve at January 5, 2007 01:52 AM
One more number: 40% of adult INDIANs can't even write their own name.
Posted by: STQ at January 5, 2007 12:52 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%.
Posted by: HC at January 5, 2007 06:10 PM
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.
Posted by: David Scott Lewis at January 13, 2007 09:27 AM
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.
Posted by: Vijay at January 14, 2007 04:34 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?
Posted by: Steven at January 23, 2007 03:42 PM
Stop talking India as being a problem. Look how indians view themselves. hahahaha
Posted by: Chuck at January 29, 2007 10:48 PM