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  • Indian expat scientists scheme off to shaky start


An Indian scheme intended to encourage expatriate scientists to return home has made unintended waves after its first recruit was dismissed.

Shiva Ayyadurai, an inventor with four degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States, was the first expat to be appointed as an 'outstanding scientist' at India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

CSIR intends to recruit 30 senior scientists in total.

Ayyadurai was dismissed last month (October), five months after taking up the position and just days after the publication of a critical report of CSIR that he co-authored.

Samir Brahmachari, CSIR director-general, says Ayyadurai's "appointment offer was withdrawn" because he did not accept the terms and conditions of his contract.

But Ayyadurai says he was sacked for sending his report to senior CSIR scientists. The report was intended to gain feedback from scientists about institutional barriers at CSIR to commercialising technology, he says.

"Our interaction with CSIR scientists revealed that they work in a medieval, feudal environment," he says.

"The fact that the CSIR administration is impervious to healthy and fair criticism" will send the wrong message to Indian scientists thinking of returning," says Pushpa Bhargava, founder-director of CSIR's Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.

But Gangan Pratap, director of the CSIR's National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources, believes that most returning expats will focus on research rather than policy — so are unlikely to face similar conflicts.


Nature doi:10.1038 (2009)

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