Why Does India Fail To Produce Quality Scientific Research?

Story I: India Misses A Nobel Prize

How many of you know Subhash Mukhopadhyay, the man who could have won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2010 if he had been alive?

Dr. Mukhopadhyay committed suicide unable to face the social stigma associated with in-vitro fertilization (test-tube babies) and lack of government support.

Story II: India’s Nobel Laureates

Dr. Har Gobind Khorana was the only literate in his family of five. He changed the face of Molecular Genetics in the 1960s. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1968 for his remarkable work in decoding the Human Genome.

Did he achieve this working in India? No. He worked in the UK, Switzerland and later in the US.

There is a pattern marked among several other Nobel laureates like Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan. Of the total 5 Nobel prize winners India has had in Sciences and Economics, 3 were not the citizens of India.

What is wrong with India? One of the many reasons is ‘The Great Indian Crab Syndrome’. You can read about that later.

Read: How The ‘Indian Crab Syndrome’ is Impeding the Indian Science?

Now it’s not the society alone, there are several other factors to be blamed.

1.Education Budget

Just have a glance at the education budget of some of the scientifically advanced countries of the world. The United States spent over 6.2% of its GDP on education in 2017, while India spent only 2.7% of its GDP in education the same year, down from 3.8% in 2013. Further, India spends a major chunk of the educational budget on primary education and not on higher secondary education and skill development.

The GDP of the United Kindom is almost close to India with India seeming to topple it in the next 5 years. However, the UK spends over 5.5% on its education.

India is at the brink of becoming one of the top 5 economies in terms of GDP and heading in the wrong direction in terms of its budget planning in the education sector.

Source: NCED

2. Populist Government Policies and Bureaucracies

The Caste-based system kills meritocracy. The Caste System is a grey area which I don’t want to elaborate further.

As I mentioned before, India decreased its education budget over the years (from 2013 to 2018). However, the number of higher educational institutions increased in this period. For example, in 2013, there were 16 Indian Institute of Technologies (IIT) in India. Now there are 23. This was a deliberate move by the government to win the polls.

I am not against increasing the seats, I am against increasing the number of IITs. This is because it takes almost a decade to build a fully operational educational institute. The strengths of most of the new IITs are less than 2000 (all undergraduate and postgraduate students included). All the top foreign universities have much higher intake of students. The scientific output of a university is directly proportional to the number of doctoral and postdoctoral candidates. Therefore, I believe that the Government should first consider developing the existing universities rather than coming up with new institutes with dilapidated infrastructure.

I wouldn’t shy away to say that the infrastructure of IIT (BHU), from which I graduated, s**ks. There is hardly any lab space for Ph.D.s. In a 10 sq. meter room, there are usually 6 Ph.D. students accommodating themselves with the lab equipment. The working conditions are pathetic. Under such circumstance, don’t you feel the funds should be allocated to improve the conditions of the work environment?

3. Crippling System of Ph.D.

Read: Only 5% of IIT Madras PhD candidates land jobs

Read: Ph.D. Candidates Apply For the Post of Patwaris in Madhya Pradesh

The stipend for a Ph.D. candidate in an Indian Institute of Technology is INR 28,000 (US $400). As a matter of fact, less than 10% of all Ph.D. candidates land a job befitting their qualifications.

I feel pity for most Ph.D. students in India. One should think twice before pursuing a Ph.D. in India. No wonder why so many students are crazy about Management Degree (M.B.A.) and Civil Services. Almost all Uber and Ola drivers earn much more than most Ph.Ds.

Let’s compare it with the Ph.D. in European countries.

Ph.D. in Western Europe and Scandinavia is considered a job and you are liable to taxations and salary hikes just like a salaried employee in a company. For example, the stipend in several German universities is over $2400/month after all tax deductions and social security contributions. You can expect a similar salary in Sweden and Switzerland.

Low salary/stipend is an important factor for the ‘lackluster of academic roles’ after graduation.

4. The Academia and Lack Of Industrial Collaborations

There are 38 CSIR Labs in India which employ 14,000 people including 4,000 scientists. The annual budget of all the CSIR labs is just 20% of the Fraunhofer Labs.

The Indian Academia is merely focused on publications and hardly anyone focuses on commercializing the product, patenting or taking it to the production level.

On the contrary, the success of the Fraunhofer System in Germany and the CNRS system in France boasts of the translation of research into real-world products. The ‘Fraunhofer Society’ model focuses on applied research rather than on theoretical issues. Under the scheme, basic funding up to 30% is provided by the Federal and State Governments, the remaining being earned from the industry or government-sponsored projects. Financial accountability assures the autonomy of the institute and brings in a sense of self -discipline and motivation.

The Fraunhofer System relies on 33% of the Government Funds and 67% of the funds are from Industrial Collaborations. Currently, it employs 25,000+ people including 9000+ scientists. There are 72 labs under the Fraunhofer System.

5. No Contribution Of Indian Doctors In Life Science Sector

Sorry for the attention-grabbing picture. Manushi has nothing to do with this.

But 332 of the 579 Medical Colleges in India haven’t published a single research article in a scientific journal in the last 10 years.

How is that for a fact? You can read the entire statistics here later.

Read: Over Half Of the Indian Medical Schools Don’t Publish

I don’t blame the doctors alone. There is so utter shortage of doctors in the country that hardly they find time to do research. Further, the attitude of the stupid emotional people in manhandling doctors induces fear in able doctors to take critical cases. How can you publish when you don’t work on innovative cases?

6. Fake Research Paper Shops

Several professors I have come across lack ingenuity. Many of them don’t like to be questioned. Many of us must have been through this situation. However, you may not be aware of the’fake research paper shops in India’.

You can get your scientific research article published in the journal even with spelling and grammatical errors. All you need to do is pay a small contribution fee of $200-$500. Despite the UGC ban on these journals, they still thrive. These so-called predatory journals have brought a bad name for the country and also for many of its sincere researchers.

It takes 2 peer-reviewed journal publications to receive a Ph.D. degree from an IIT. I personally know some Ph.D. guys receiving their degree by publishing in a paid fake journal with the supervisor being the editor of the journal. Since most of the top students either leave India or end up in high-paying IT and Management jobs, the less-motivated students with low skillsets are often left to toil in PhDs in several universities (barring the top 10–15).

The fundamental importance of most Indian researchers on ‘Quantity’ rather on ‘Quality’ or ‘Excellence’ is a major factor for the failure of Indian science.

“It’s not the quantity but the quality that counts”.

Read: Pay, Publish, Profit: Inside India’s Fake Research Paper Shops


Do you know, “1 out of every 8 scientists and engineers in the NASA is an Indian”?

While China, Germany, and the US have important things to discuss, Indians opt to discuss marriage, cricket and the construction of Ram Mandir.

While India could accomplish its Mars Mission at less than the cost of one cup of tea sacrificed by each Indian, I don’t doubt its potential. However, it’s NOT the government alone who is to be blamed? I have already cited at the beginning of this article how the Indian society of the 1980s was responsible for the suicide of Dr. Mukhopadhyay. The ‘Indian Crab Mentality’ is still persistent.

There are several other issues like lack of professionalism in academic supervisors, lack of autonomy of academic institutions and lack of freedom of publishing in some areas. I have known of academic supervisors who send their Ph.D. students to bring their ward from school and do grocery shopping on a regular basis.

God bless Indian science!

SurajPanigrahi

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