India lagging in science and technology, says official

Ramasami says Indian science is not living up to its potential Copyright: WHO / P.Virot

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[NEW DELHI] A senior official in India has warned that the country is lagging behind others in both research funding and scientific productivity.

Speaking at a press briefing on Friday (25 August), T. Ramasami, secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, also outlined policy plans to reverse the trends.

India invested US$3.7 billion in science in 2002-03, he said. The figure is dwarfed by the US$15.5 billion spent by China, US$124 billion by Japan and US$277 billion by the United States.

Ramasami said India’s scientific competitiveness, as measured by the number of publications in research journals listed by the Science Citation Index, is not proportional to its inherent strength in science.

China, another highly populated Asian nation that has achieved considerable economic growth recently, is racing ahead (see table). In 2002-2003, its researchers published 50,000 papers in journals listed by the index, compared to 19,500 by Indian scientists.

“We cannot afford to be seen to be lagging behind,” said science minister Kapil Sibal.

Ramasami said India has planned a series of interventions that could improve India’s global Science Citation Index ranking from 14th to 7th.

These include increasing investment in science four-fold, from 250 trillion rupees (US$5.4 billion) today to US$21.5 billion in five years’ time.

India also plans to attract talented school students to careers in science before they lose interest in the subject.

It aims to provide the top 500 students with guaranteed funding from the age of 17 through to 32 so they can pursue their education and early careers in research.

In addition, India will organise scientific summer camps attended by Nobel laureates and famous Indian scientists for the top one per cent of school leavers.

  China India
Science funding 2002-03 (US$ billions) 15.5 3.7
Workers in research and development 850,000 115,00
Doctorates produced per year 40,000 4,500
SCI-listed publications 2002-03 50,000 19,500
Percentage share of global publications 5 1.9