By Rakesh Gollen
Growth in science endeavors is a clear indicator of the growth of a nation, as research and development (R&D) leads to economic growth, employment, and overall social well-being of their citizens. The report Globalization of Science and Engineering, published by the National Science Foundation, summarizes the changes in percentage of worldwide R&D expenditures (combined public and private) by geographical location over the last decade. The report clearly indicates that between 1996 and 2007 the highest investment was made by North America (40%), then Europe (~30%), followed by Asia (~25%), and lastly ~5% is contributed throughout the rest of the world. Remarkably, the trend of total investment into science decreases both in North America and Europe in year 2007, compared to 1996; whereas, it increases in Asia (most growth coming from China and India).
In its recent annual budget for years 2016 to 2017, India has announced increased funding for the broad category of science, technology, and the environment to 16% higher than from last year, which is ~INR209 billion (£2.2 billion), without adjusting for inflation. The way the budget is divided, where of the total INR209 billion for science, technology, and the environment, the science and technology department is projected to get INR81 billion (12% increase from previous year). Of the three departments within the ministry, science and technology will see the largest increase, a gain of 17% with a budget of INR40 billion, while the biotechnology department should see a 12% increase to INR18 billion. This clearly projects a great scientific platform and business potential for many companies in next three to five years.
This digital age of enhanced communications, enhanced freedom of travel in many nations, and striving for the efficient sharing of resources may present both opportunities and challenges to India. Considering all these factors, I look at this as a positive step towards the growth of India as a nation, which has human capacity and a well-equipped workforce—all it needs to fix the infrastructure in place, which serves as a precursor to subsequent R&D competency and should be the main focus of current national government.
At the same time, in my opinion, India should strive to preserve the integrity of all enterprise-research institutions, universities, publications, research priorities, and emphasis on education of creative and budding scientists in the generations to come, as well as those who are active in science. I personally believe that this will serve as a building block for the future of India, as a nation, as well as an emerging superpower. What do you think? Please share your thoughts below.