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India's science administration system UPSC NOTE

 Need for reform in India's science administration system 

  • The separation of administrators and scientists is something which most robust science establishments generally embrace

  • Even the U.S., with labs being embedded in the university ecosystem and run by scientists, selects scientists for an administrative role quite early on in their careers

  • Such selected science administrators, by and large, only carry out administrative tasks thereon, and are groomed for the task, with very few of them ever going back to active science.

  • Such a separation has obvious benefits for all stakeholders, except of course the entrenched gatekeepers. 

  • As India remoulds its science establishment, one must really question the utility of scientists being given administrative tasks.

  • Whether as additional assignments or as full-time vice-chancellors or directors

  • Perhaps an American middle-way arrangement, where scientists are selected and trained in an all-India pool of a science administration central service.

  • In such a dispensation, university vice-chancellors would have greater bargaining power vis-à-vis the bureaucracy within the university as well as that of the ministries if they belong to an all-India service having received the appropriate training.

  • At some point, India has to come to the same conclusion that the world of business did in 1908 when the Master of Business Administration (MBA) course was established at Harvard.

  • Administration is something which has to be taught and practised separately from the subject matter being administered. 

  • The administrative setup of any complex is its central nervous system, and the same is true for science establishments. 

  • Without addressing these core concerns, India’s science establishment will continue to do injustice to its economic and strategic aspirations.

Current issues and its reasons

  • Sustained economic progress which can satisfy national ambition is invariably fuelled by scientific advances translated into deployable technologies. 

  • This has been the inevitable global experience since the onset of the Industrial Revolution

  • Alive to this reality, the government is overhauling India’s science establishment, which includes setting up the new National Research Foundation and restructuring the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

  • In this scenario, a frank assessment of the current administrative ability to simultaneously optimise Indian science’s efficiency and resilience is necessary.

  • India’s low overall expenditure on research and development (around 0.7% of GDP, compared to 3.5% for the United States and 2.4% for China) is but one aspect constraining its scientific outcomes

  • Considering such low expenditure, it is pivotal to allocate money wisely and focus on high-impact projects.

  • Unfortunately, the scientific administration has failed to do justice to the task at hand. 

  • Even the vaunted space programme is witnessing narrowing leads. 

  • In 2022, the Indian Space Research Organisation stood a distant eighth on launch numbers, with foreign startups racing ahead on key technologies such as reusable rockets

  • Likewise, the lead in nuclear energy has been frittered away, being latecomers to small

modular reactors; thorium ambitions remain unrealised. 

  • On critical science and technology themes such as genomics, robotics, and artificial intelligence, the situation is even more alarming

  • The direction and organisation of science is inconsistent, even unfit, for the vital role which science must play going ahead.

  • India’s science is dominated by the public sector.

  • Generic irritants associated with governmental bureaucracy, such as tardiness in approving crucial time-dependent funding, or equitable decision making across different funding levels, are known problems. 

  • Added to this, what is absent is the inability to commit to long-term steady funding of critical projects when faced with the inevitable occasional failures

  • This latter aspect is essential in any robust science management system.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: India's science administration system UPSC NOTE
India's science administration system UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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