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Friday, March 11, 2005

India's R&D -Rapid Strides -Lot More To Do

David Kirkpatrick of Fortune writes, that Science and Engineering Need to Be Cool Again and earlier he wrote aboutIs Engineering Uncool—or Just Unappreciated? in the US context and also wrote India is taking the education of its next generation much more seriously than the U.S. While it is generaaly well known that all knowledge related work would slowly move towards India,and that several western corporations in the high tech sector are already moving research work in considerable volume towars India,I was wondering what's the view on this from the indian research fraternity. Here the view from Raghunath Mashelkar,a well known name from the Indian scientific community. He writes,India's R&D has the potential to reach the Top. His key thoughts run like this:
- Five years ago, he predicted: "The next century will belong to India, which will become a unique intellectual and economic power to reckon with, recapturing all its glory, which it had in the millennia gone by".
- In 1926, the distribution of scientific productivity was analyzed by Alfred J. Lotka of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York. The result of his investigation, which remains largely valid, was an inverse square law of productivity, by which the number of people producing n papers is inversely proportional to n2. This means that for every 100 authors who produce, say, one paper in a given period of time, there are approximately 100/22, or 25 authors, who produce two papers and one author, who will produce 10 papers. Thirty years later, the same law was found to be applicable to patents.
-This means that the bulk of scientific and technological creativity and productivity lies in the minds and abilities of a small number of highly talented individuals.
- Jack Welch on setting up GE’s R&D center said,: "India is a developing country, but it is a developed country as far as its intellectual infrastructure is concerned. We get the highest intellectual capital per dollar here." One way to understand what Welch meant is to calculate the number of scientific research publications the country produces per dollar that is spent on R&D in India. Using the data provided by Sir David King (chief scientific adviser to the UK government) for scientific publications in major, peer-reviewed journals (SCI publications), I calculated the number of journal publications per gross domestic product (GDP) per capita per year. The top three nations were India (31.7), China (23.32), and the United States (7.0). John Welch's intuition was right!
- Indeed, if we apply Lotka's law of scientific productivity, India's and China's competitive advantage ought to increase by several orders of magnitude as more and more of the most talented scientists return. In this way, by shifting much of their R&D activity to countries such as India and China, the world's industries can greatly bolster the domestic intellectual capital of these countries.
- As I see it from my perch in India's science and technology leadership, if India plays its cards right, it can become by 2020 the world's number-one knowledge production center, creating not only valuable private goods but also much needed public goods that will help the growing global population suffer less and live better.
My Take:
- While the potential may be high , India needs to learn from the US to focus on applied reseearch more aggressively.Reseach in the emerging areas of digital/mobile technologies, Silicon, Conductivity,Communication, Sensor systems, Bio-technology etc. Anything less than being seen as world leaders in innovation in each of these categories would not be seen a full fledged success.
- For all its proclaimed prowess, India has not been able to produce nobel prize winners
- The academia, industry, government linkage looks very weak and needs to be improved several times over.
- India needs to attract lot of foreign talent to work out of India in cutting edge areas - India should be seen more easy to do business with and should host and participate in lot more scientific activities - conferences, exchange programs etc

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"