CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 94, NO. 7, 10 APRIL 2008
SWOT analysis on Indian scientific research
V. Rajagopal Manmohan Singh, the honourable Prime Minister of our country, while inaugurating the 95th Indian ScienceCongress on 3 January 2008 at Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, announced that the Government pro- posed in the 11th Plan to establish 30 new Central Universities, 5 Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, and 8 new Indian Institutes of Technology. With an aim to promote scientific spirit, he also pro- posed science innovation scholarships to 10,000 students, as an incentive for those entering the sciencedegree courses. This is a welcome change towards promotion of quality in scientific research in the country.
India has emerged as one of the leadingnations in scientific research during thelast six decades. Among the developingnations, India ranks first in terms of notonly the number of scientific organiza-tions, both universities and institutes, butalso in the number of science graduates.The most remarkable achievements arein the fields of space science, nuclearscience, communication, medical andagricultural sciences. For the sake of convenience and also because of their in-separable nature, the ‘technologies’ are alsoincluded as ‘science and technology’. Thisimplies that both the theoretical and ap-plied aspects are relevant while discuss-ing the overall achievements in scientificresearch in the country. In this context,the fast developing fields are biotechno-logy, computer and information technolo-gies, which have revolutionized the utilityvalue of research in terms of knowledgeexplosion, more importantly in reachingthe common public. Establishment of ATMsby several banks for easy and quick money accessibility, cell-phones for rapidcommunication and on-line reservationsfor various purposes have impacted thegeneral public with tremendous success.
India is surging ahead in biotechnology/ bioinformatics research, be it in plant oragriculture (transgenics, resistance todiseases and pests) or in medical res-earch (stem cells, cancer, diabetes, etc.).Nano-technology is the most recentemerging field which in the next fiveyears is expected to facilitate the societyin a big way. All the above are possiblebecause of modern infrastructure facili-ties and the advanced training impartedto scientists in India or because they aredeputed to reputed foreign laboratories toacquire latest knowledge. The Govern-ment provided substantial funds in theFive-Year Plans to different ministriesassociated with scientific research.
Let us have a cursory glance at the growthof science in India from pre-independenceperiod to the present (six decades). Forthis, the number of universities and re-search institutes are taken into considera-tion. From a modest about ten traditionaluniversities in the 1950s, the number hasnow reached over 240, which includesabout eight Central Universities. Some of the leading centres of excellence in sci-entific research have also received thestatus of deemed universities. To providethrust to agricultural education, researchand extension, the Government had startedState Agricultural Universities (SAUs) atPantnagar in the mid-sixties and later atCoimbatore, but now there are 39 SAUsin almost all states, with Maharashtraalone having five of them. Five Universi-ties for Animal Sciences and Fisherieshave also been introduced to take care of the livestock and fisheries sectors. Re-cently, exclusive Medical and HealthUniversities have also been establishedto strengthen health research.Besides, the Government establisheddifferent scientific councils and depart-ments as apex bodies to enhance researchpotential, like the Council of Scientificand Industrial Research, Indian Councilof Agricultural Research (ICAR), IndianCouncil of Medical Research, Depart-ment of Atomic Energy, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Space ResearchOrganization, etc. Under each council/ department there are a large number of institutes. For instance, the ICAR has 93institutes, National Research Centres, Di-rectorates and 74 All-India CoordinatedCentres. In addition, there are world-recognized organizations like the BhabhaAtomic Research Centre, Indian Instituteof Science, Tata Institute of FundamentalResearch and seven Indian Institutes of Technology. The State Governmentshave established research institutes toaddress local problems. India has alsorenowned science academies like the In-dian National Science Academy, IndianAcademy of Sciences, National Academyof Sciences, National Academy of Agri-culture Sciences (NAAS), Indian MedicalAssociation and Indian Medical Council.Almost all disciplines of science havetheir own societies to promote exchangeof research findings through conferencesand seminars and publications in their journals. Thus, the country is endowedwith vast scientific manpower, physicalresources and financial investments.
The time is now ripe to make a criticalanalysis of scientific research in the coun-try. The best way to do this is perhaps toundertake SWOT analysis (Strengths,Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of Indian scientific research as a whole. Al-though not a quantitative approach, SWOTdefinitely helps in assessing the real statusof a given situation, as successfully em-ployed in many international and na-tional projects. It must be admitted thatall the points listed under SWOT maynot be complete, but the information pro-vides an opportunity for in-depth study.
Largest number of qualified scientificmanpower.
Availability of topmost expertise inmany research areas.
Infrastructure facilities built to desiredlevels.
Vast scope for encouraging young scien-tists to pursue research in advanced fields.
Funds fairly adequate both from Gov-ernment and private sectors.
Large number of scientific academies,councils, societies, etc.
High-quality library facilities withmodern communication technologies.
Publication of a large number of scien-tific journals.