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Despite booming economies, China and India are not fulfilling their potential in the arena of basic science. And cultural factors are a major impediment.

In this letter to Nature, C. P. Rajendran of the Centre for Earth Science Studies in Trivandrum, India, says that the Asian tradition of respecting authority and hierarchy promotes nepotism and conformity, and is an impediment to creative science.

To address their underperformance, the Asian giants must shed the burden of their past and develop modern frameworks for fostering original research, says Rajendran. But cultural shifts take time, and steps to promote change can be taken in the meantime. These include innovative post-graduate courses in basic sciences and better links between research organisations and industry.

Link to full letter in Nature

Reference: Nature 429, 501 (2004)