Wednesday, March 09, 2005

India's R&D: Reaching for the Top

Science Magazine interviews Raghunath A. Mashelkar, director general of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research.

In 1926, the distribution of scientific productivity was analyzed by Alfred J. Lotka of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York. The result of his investigation, which remains largely valid, was an inverse square law of productivity, by which the number of people producing n papers is inversely proportional to n2. This means that for every 100 authors who produce, say, one paper in a given period of time, there are approximately 100/22, or 25 authors, who produce two papers and one author, who will produce 10 papers. Thirty years later, the same law was found to be applicable to patents.
Interesting. Not sure that number of papers published is the same thing as productivity, ie. it seems like some people publish a lot of crappy papers while some people just publish a couple of very good ones, but interesting way to look at the distribution of talent.
A recent report by the United Nations Development Programme* estimates that 100,000 Indian professionals leave the country every year to take up jobs in the United States. If one considers the potential economic gains, which these exceptionally talented people could have brought to India, one realizes that the economic losses due to this mass migration are enormous.
Not sure I completely agree that there is really that much loss when you consider the expatriated funds sent back and the fact that these people are able to take greater advantage of their talents with better labs and more capital available (though that is changing).
Using the data provided by Sir David King (chief scientific adviser to the UK government) for scientific publications in major, peer-reviewed journals (SCI publications), I calculated the number of journal publications per gross domestic product (GDP) per capita per year. The top three nations were India (31.7), China (23.32), and the United States (7.0).
What is that the "struggling scientist index"? Not sure if it implies lots of good research in India or lots of poverty holding down the GDP per capita.
Multinational companies are locating their R&D resources in India to create proprietary knowledge for private good--that is, for the stockholders--through private funding. However, my dream is to create a global knowledge pool for global good through global funding. Here, India can become an agent for change. This global-good perspective could become the case in diverse sectors ranging from biotechnology to information technology to space research.
I like this idea: "global knowledge pool for global good through global funding". I like his idea of creating faster wireless internet access, and better drugs and getting it to as many people as possible. Not so sure about his idea of trying to remove illiteracy using computers. I think this framework would also work well for trying to make more efficient crops.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.