India has accomplished endless milestones since independence, but several challenges remain in different fields of science. While it is true that the growth of technology and economy has accelerated growth in science in the past few decades, science faces several challenges, including the fact that interest in scientific domains remains low among the youth, and the number of women in science is extremely low in India, as well as on a global level.
Investment in research is very little, and development of equipment in the country remains a hurdle.
Ahead of India’s 77th Independence Day, ABP Live spoke to Indian scientists and other experts to know what they believe are the challenges for India in the field of science, and how these can be overcome.
What are the challenges for India in the field of science?
A major obstacle for India in the field of science is ‘brain drain’, which refers to the emigration of skilled researchers. When skilled Indian students migrate abroad for higher studies, and pursue their careers there, the Indian scientific community suffers a loss of skill.
“Even though India is making its mark in the global science scene, there also lay important obstacles in the path ahead. One of these is the ‘brain drain’, which is the emigration of skilled researchers. It is well known now worldwide that the Indian education system produces high quality students in science and technology disciplines. However, there is a major trend for the students to migrate abroad for higher studies, often never to return, resulting in a loss of skills for the Indian scientific community,” said Dr Debarati Chatterjee, Chairperson of LIGO-India Outreach, and Associate Professor, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy & Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune.
Since interest in science is low among the youth, research institutes have started investing significantly in science outreach programmes, and are conducting open days and public talks.
Explaining that the number of students enrolling into science streams remains low due to limited job opportunities and low income levels, Dr Chatterjee said, “The interest in scientific domains remains much lower among the youth, as compared to professions such as information technology or medicine, especially under societal or peer pressure. In order to attract young students towards science, many research institutes are now investing significant effort into science outreach, by regularly organising open days, public talks, and engaging in social media and interactions with faculty. The number of women in sciences continues to be low globally, and measures are also being taken to actively motivate women into these male-dominated disciplines.”
Other challenges in science include the fact translational research needs to be improved, and investments in research need to be increased.
“There are a lot of challenges in science. These include increasing the investments in research, improving translational research, and getting scientists to tackle tough problems over a long period. Developing equipment in India is another challenge,” said Hari Pulakkat, Editor, IIT Madras Shaastra.
The fields of biotechnology and biomedical science face a lot of challenges, which include a long and strenuous research cycle, lesser employment opportunities compared to other fields, and lesser investment interest from investors.
“Some of the challenges in the fields of biotechnology and biomedical science are long and arduous research and development cycle, attracting the talent pool for research, lesser employment opportunities as compared to other fields, and lesser investment interest from the investor community,” said Dr Debojyoti Dhar, Co-Founder & Director, Leucine Rich Bio.
Different challenges can be overcome by encouraging startups in the fields of biotechnology and biomedical science. Also, government grants on research projects must be increased, and more compact social responsibility (CSR) funds should be allocated to research and development, because this determines how a company manages its industry and takes responsibility for its social impact.
Explaining that encouraging startups will generate employment and also spur innovation, Dr Dhar, a molecular biologist, said, “Government grants on research projects should be increased. More CSR funds should be allocated to research and development and bigger companies should mandate some percentage of the CSR funds to be given to startups for R&D. Investor community in India should fund more companies in this space and must have a higher risk appetite and more patient outlook just like their peers in the West. After all, the biotechnology sector is a high risk, high gain domain.”
One of the best ways to overcome the challenges in science is engagement in mega-science projects and international collaborations, because not only will this lead to development of a sophisticated academic environment, but will also encourage emigrants to return to India.
“The challenges in the field of science may be reversed in the future, with India engaging in several mega-science projects and international collaborations. Such projects will lead to development of a world-class academic environment as well as international facilities, with job opportunities in multidisciplinary scientific domains, encouraging many expatriates to return to India,” said Dr Chatterjee.
Therefore, increased investment in research, improvement of translational research, encouragement of startups, increased government grants on research projects, and engagement in international mega-science projects can help overcome the challenges prevalent in the field of science.