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Indian Report Bemoans State of Science

The Indian government harshly criticized the state of science in the country this week, part of new draft assessment that examines how India can better compete in a global economy. The much awaited draft of the Millennium Science and Technology Policy, the first document of its kind since the country's independence in 1947, declares that India desperately needs to revitalize scientific enterprise among its own people.

India spends less than 1% of its gross national product on research, and its academic system is in tatters. "We appear to have lost an entire generation of scientists," the document declares, "and strategic departments like space, defense, and atomic energy find it increasingly difficult to attract the best of human resources."

The report recommends that the government more than double research spending over the next 5 years and create boards to fund basic science and to foster innovation. It also highlights 12 areas where the government needs to focus its attention, from rebuilding the academic system and rekindling public interest in science to speeding the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the market. In addition, the draft statement stresses the importance of public understanding of science, with an emphasis on improved instruction from the primary grades through the undergraduate years. Finally, the report suggests that the government make better use of indigenous knowledge, covering everything from traditional medicine to sustainable agriculture.

"A concerted plan of action is necessary to infuse dynamism into our science and technology policy," declares the report, which grew out of a year-long exercise led by Science Minister M. M. Joshi. The document is expected to be submitted to Parliament after its approval by the Cabinet.

The statement comes as no surprise to Indian scientists. "The situation is very alarming," says Goverdhan Mehta, an organic chemist and president of the Indian National Science Academy. "Science in India is not in a healthy condition."

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Millennium Science and Technology Policy Report