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Special Feature: Research Opportunities in India--An Upward Trajectory

In the past 2 years, countries in the West, as well as the E.U., Japan, and Australia, have moved aggressively to establish new scientific exchange agreements with India, or to update their existing arrangements. And no wonder: India’s emergence in scientific research parallels its rapid economic growth; the country’s gross domestic product increased 8.5% last year. India has become a leading exporter of software and technology services, and it has a large and well-educated English-speaking population. Companies worldwide have established research centers in India to take advantage of this brainpower, and not just because of the recognized cost advantages. MORE …

In this feature …

India: A New Knowledge Hot Spot. India is fast becoming a place where people from around the world go to do scientific research. That means more research opportunities for Indians and foreign scientists.

U.K.-India Initiative Aims to Renew Old Ties. Despite a long historical connection, today, research opportunities in India are limited for U.K. citizens. But new bilateral initiatives are making up for lost time.

American Tales in India. Although job opportunities for American researchers are just beginning to expand in India, those who have lived and worked there say that the career and personal benefits outweigh the many challenges.

GrantsNet Guide to Financing Research Exchanges with India. Scientists seeking funds for a research visit to India can look to their own governments, multinational organizations, and a few private groups.

Despite this rapid economic growth, India still faces a high poverty rate--25% of the population lives below the poverty line--threats of environmental degradation, and serious public health concerns such as HIV/AIDS and avian influenza. India’s national research priorities combine its well-publicized focus on advanced technology--especially information technology--with the need to feed and protect a population in excess of 1 billion, and keep it healthy. But these days, India is moving beyond these core efforts and into the kind of fundamental research that's often found in Western labs.

Because of the widespread use of English in India’s university system, Indian students and postdocs have been a common sight on campuses in North America and Europe for decades. But only recently have students or research scholars begun making the return trip in significant numbers. For this growing group of research pioneers, Science Careers takes a look at the Indian research environment, discusses opportunities for conducting basic scientific research, and shares the experiences of recently returned science exchangees from India.

Pallava Bagla , Science magazine’s contributing writer in New Delhi, describes India as the “new knowledge hot spot.” Bagla describes India’s research system, including its major science institutions, trends in funding and support, and opportunities for collaboration with research institutes, universities, and private companies.

London-based science writer Amarendra Swarup tells how a new bilateral initiative between the United Kingdom and India, along with other exchange programs, are creating more opportunities for British researchers. The United Kingdom, Swarup writes, is lagging in its connections to India despite its long historical connections. But it's determined not to miss out on these emerging opportunities.

Science Careers correspondent Andrew Fazekas relates the experiences of American scientists who recently returned from scientific exchanges in India. Fazekas reports that American researchers faced various challenges in making the journey, but they feel the experience was well worth it, and opportunities for foreign scientists in India are expanding.

Finally, Alan Kotok , Science Careers managing editor, has compiled a list of programs to finance one’s research exchange in India, from GrantsNet and other sources.

Researcher Ann Russell with her family and local villagers in Kerala province, India

Research project clearance in India

Foreign-national researchers planning any work in India must first get their projects cleared by India’s Department of Higher Education, a division of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The department’s Web site has a downloadable 3-page form that needs to be completed and returned by people seeking a Research Visa, which enables foreign scientists to work in India.

Recent experience has shown this is not a pro forma exercise. The department’s Web page says the approval process can take 3 months, but reports in the Indian and American media since February 2007 have told how some researchers, including American Fulbright grantees, have had to wait 9 to 12 months for official clearance. Some of these same reports discuss a plan by the Indian authorities to develop an expedited process for the 2007-2008 academic year.

Until then, the U.S. Educational Foundation in India advises researchers to get an early start and be aware of topics and other sensitivities that could cause Indian authorities to delay or reject your application.

Alan Kotok is managing editor of Science Careers.

Comments, suggestions? Please send your feedback to our editor.

DOI: 10.1126/science.caredit.a0700056

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