Nurturing a scientific mind

India cannot become a global power in science unless it improves the quality of research, says professor CNR Rao, Bharat Ratna awardee in an interview with Sanchayan Bhattacharjee.

India cannot become a global power in science unless it improves the quality of research, says professor CNR Rao, Bharat Ratna awardee in an interview with Sanchayan Bhattacharjee

As per Budget 2014, the government has allocated funds for new IITs. What are your views on this?

The Government has announced that they will have five more IITs. I hope that these institutions are started gradually and not in haste so that each new IIT has the necessary facilities and infrastructure. I say this because most of the eight new IITs that were started in 2008-2009 are still not well established.

They do not have proper buildings, campuses and other facilities. IITs are supposed to have a special culture and an environment which brings out the best in students. This can only be done if there is adequate preparation.

It is often said that students use the IIT brand name more than the knowledge imparted by the institution. Your Comment?

I have always been against a large number of IIT graduates going for management. This has been a great loss to the country. I feel that they should remain engineers. IITs themselves should not have started management courses.

In a recent interview, you mentioned that `science taught in schools is boring`. How to make it interesting?

Science in schools is boring because what they impart is old fashioned and taught poorly. Chemistry for example, is not about just memorising a bunch of equations or methods of preparations.

There are a number of interesting and exciting things happening in chemistry and yet we never bring this out in the classroom. This is also true of physics and other subjects. There are a few institutions where good teaching happens, but that is after school level. At school level, major changes are yet to occur in the way we teach science.

Please comment on the research scenario in India.

As far as the research scenario is concerned, there are always few individuals and a few institutions, which are doing well, but the overall situation is sad, both in terms of quality and quantity. We have to increase the quantity of research output. Some of our neighbouring countries are doing extremely well in this regard. However, it is more important to improve the quality of research.

We have to pursue competitive research comparable to the best in the world. Unless we do this, India will not become a global power in science in the next 20 years or so. The government is providing some funds for research, but they have to increase their contribution. It is important that our industries also contribute to science. In most of the advanced countries, industries contribute almost 50 per cent of the science budget.

Apart from the funding, how else can students and institutes improve the frequency and quality of research work?

The most important thing for most researchers particularly the young ones, is to have perseverance, doggedness and dedication to pursue what they want to do. Unless one has these qualities, individuals and institutions cannot succeed. There is a need for people who want to succeed in science and other disciplines by doing outstanding research and teaching. We as a society, have to provide the environment for carrying out good research and high quality innovation.

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