The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Science reforms on PM table

Bangalore, Jan. 6: Science is set for a complete overhaul this year ' reforms in education, a new funding mechanism for research and rewarding careers ' reveals the man handpicked by the Prime Minister to do the job.

The agenda for change has been drawn up by Prof. C.N.R. Rao, recently appointed chairperson of the Science Advisory Council. 'I have worked out an agenda and sent it to the Prime Minister and the minister for science and technology. We must bring in structural changes, institutional changes and changes in the administration to make science work.

'The way things are, science does not function as well as it should. The Prime Minister and Kapil Sibal are keen to overhaul the system. We are going to work in close cooperation with Arjun Singh (minister for human resource development) for modifications in education,' Rao said.

Talks have begun between the science and technology and HRD ministries. The objective is to match China and South Korea.

A new funding system for research and development projects, without red tape but with intellectual audit, tops the agenda. This would ensure a jump in allocation of funds while cutting down procedural delays and the long-drawn process of accounting.

'We are going to try new ways to encourage basic research as well as development of innovative technology. Our scientists are not going to waste time on sanction of funds or other accounting procedures,' said Rao, whose appointment was announced by Manmohan Singh at the Indian Science Congress in Ahmedabad on Monday.

Policies to encourage innovation in the product-patent era will also be put in place, he added.

'Innovation is going to play a bigger role in India. If you are innovative, the product can make it to Europe or the US, as companies like the Tatas and Biocon have shown. Innovation also includes reverse research started by CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) in the pharma sector. We will encourage innovation to prevent international R&D companies from taking away our young researchers. I have lost some of my bright students (post-doctoral) to General Electric (of the US),' he said.

Steps will be taken to draw young people to the creative sectors of science and engineering. New research centres and new projects in organisations such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, are on the cards.

'All our young people are going to IT jobs. We must provide them good salaries and more to keep them in science. The Prime Minister and Mr Kapil Sibal have agreed to look at this problem,' Rao said.

The education system is to be revamped from high school-level upwards.

'The amount of research is roughly 20 per cent of what it was two years ago. Unless we rejuvenate the education system, we cannot expect good quality science. The Prime Minister is keen to overhaul the education sector with infusion of funds for good quality education and make the sector more productive in terms of output of science graduates and research scholars. We are also going to look at new curricula and new types of talent search for budding scientists,' Rao said.

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