Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

Jayant Narlikar, famous Indian astrophysicist, on Dr. Joseph's Nature article about Indian science policy problems

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Jayant Narlikar, famous Indian astrophysicist, on Dr. Joseph's Nature article about Indian science policy problems

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Jayant Narlikar is a revered icon of Indian science, Even during my Physics graduation days in the early 80s he was already well known as an astrophysicist. Some info. about him from his wiki page:

*) Narlikar received his Bachelor of Science degree from Banaras Hindu University in 1957. He then began his studies at Fitzwilliam House, Cambridge University in England, where he received a B.A. in mathematics in 1959 and was Senior Wrangler. From 'The Senior Wrangler is the top mathematics undergraduate at Cambridge University in England, a position once regarded as "the greatest intellectual achievement attainable in Britain"'

*) After receiving his Ph.D. in 1963 under the guidance of Fred Hoyle, he served as a Berry Ramsey Fellow at King's College in Cambridge and earned an M.A. in astronomy and astrophysics in 1964. He continued to work as a Fellow at King's College until 1972. In 1966, Fred Hoyle established the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in Cambridge, and Narlikar served as the founder staff member of the institute during 1966-72.

*) In 1972, Narlikar took up Professorship at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai, India. At the TIFR, he was in charge of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group. In 1988, the Indian University Grants Commission set up the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune, and Narlikar became the Founder-Director of IUCAA.

*) Narlikar is internationally known for his work in cosmology, especially in championing models alternative to the popular Big Bang model. During 1994-1997, he was the President of the Cosmology Commission of the International Astronomical Union. His research work has involved Mach’s Principle, quantum cosmology, and action-at-a-distance physics.

--- end Narlikar wiki extracts ---

Jayant Narlikar wrote an article recently titled, What ails Indian science?,, in The Asian Age. The Asian Age calls itself India's global newspaper,

Some comments on Narlikar's article:

*) Interesting view about making an inventory of Indian science output after independence - echoes Dr. Joseph's views, if I recall them correctly. [BTW here's my blog post on Dr. Joseph's article in Nature arguing for Indian science policy to be freed, including a link to the Nature article, Nature April 2014 article - Policy: Free Indian science by Dr. Mathai Joseph et al.] The sentence about awkward questions must be faced ..., is rather sceptical but that may have come from a long history of frustration with bureaucratic atmosphere in Indian science. The new 21st generation of Indian scientists surely have the capacity to bring in change in Indian science, like change has been brought in so many sectors in India in the past few decades.

*) It seems to me that Dr. Narlikar may have put his finger on the core problem in Indian science - bureaucracy and bureaucratic mindset of Indian science administrators. But then I am not a scientist and so I cannot be sure on this one.

*) About productive scientist to be given faster promotion: Seems like a straight-forward management no-brainer kind-of thing for me.

*) About the Space Department being an exception with young scientists being given important positions: So here's a proven model for excellence/decent performance in Indian science, which is fully government funded. Why can't that model be adopted, with minor adaptations where necessary, for most, if not all, of the rest of Indian science?

*) About the pioneer planners of science policy going for research only institutions without teaching and, so students: Very interesting view. Readers may be aware of my view that there should be research-intensive universities (which are the type of universities Narlikar refers to) which are expensive to run, and teaching-intensive universities which are more cost-efficient and more geared towards student objectives/needs from higher education.

*) About Narlikar being thrilled as a student to attend lectures by Dirac, Hoyle, Feynman etc. and the teacher conveying/not conveying the excitement of research to students: Fascinating and true, I think. Over three decades later, I still recall the enthusiasm with which Dr. Patel, the Physics Head of Department in the college I studied, Ruia college in Bombay/Mumbai, explained how revolutionary Quantum Physics was (as against Classical Physics). But most smart Indian youngsters of today want big-time money and so, no matter how enthusiastic the teachers, most will go to higher-paying industry jobs, IMHO. However, a few among the bright students may catch the research excitement from the teacher and go for a decently paid Indian science research (and teaching perhaps) career.

*) About will being required for action (change) in science policy - last paragraph of article: Those are concluding words. Hopefully words from such a big icon of Indian science in an Indian newspaper will stir up some change, or at least a rebuttal response from the 'mandarins', in case they have a very different view of what ails Indian science.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Hard Look at the Indian Scientific Establishment

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A correspondent who is a distinguished and veteran Indian and international CS & IT researcher, academic and industry person passed on this article, "Honours and Numbers",, published in Economic and Political Weekly issue dated December 14th 2013. The article takes a hard look at the current Indian scientific establishment. [Background for non Indian readers: CNR Rao is a leading scientist of India, Sachin Tendulkar is a (recently retired) leading cricketer of India, Both CNR Rao and Sachin Tendulkar were recently conferred the highest civilian award of India, the Bharat Ratna (Gem of India),]

A main part of the correspondent's comment on the above article was: "It's high time there was more analytical thinking about Indian science. The popular press seems to thrive on handouts and personalities, rarely going beyond that to examine the case for (and against) science in India."

I did not think that such articles challenging some of the practices and statements of the Indian (top) scientific establishment ever get written (publicly) in India.

I have noted that the author has chosen to be anonymous. Perhaps that was a very wise decision! A correspondent mentioned that the reason could be to ensure that the focus was on the content and did not get distracted (from it to the author's name and personality). I think this reason makes sense (though I had not viewed it that way earlier).

Not being a scientist myself (I am an industry trained and self-taught software technologist), I have had only a spectator view, though a long and close spectator view of around a decade, of the Indian scientific and academic establishment. But, to me, this article seems to be a very courageous truth-telling article about the Indian scientific establishment. I congratulate the author for this courageous and thought-provoking article.

However, some of what the article states may be flawed or incorrect. I am not saying there are flaws or errors - I simply don't know. I don't have the in-depth exposure to and top-level view of the Indian scientific establishment to affirm the veracity of all of the article's contents. I hope this article will have a rebuttal from some appropriate person in the Indian scientific establishment so that readers can see both sides of the coin.

BTW one distinguished US academic to whom I had sent the above link found the article interesting. He expressed concern at the state of affairs where number of papers and citations are given emphasis, and also noted that Peter Higgs would have lost out in this game and lost out so badly that he would not have had the chance to make the breakthrough that he did.

For more on Peter Higgs' view of (Western) academia today please see, "Peter Higgs: I wouldn't be productive enough for today's academic system",

Note: The Honours and Numbers article mentioned at the beginning of the post has the following reference which does not work, "2 See http: //www.geocities.corn/physics_plagiarism/ for a report on plagiarism by the vice-chancellor of an Indian university." (using .com instead of .corn also does not give the correct result). A correspondent provided this link,, which gives the correct page having details of the plagiarism as well as the list of Indian academics mostly from very well known and eminent Indian academic/scientific institutions who endorsed the webpage (Feb. 2003 seems to be the last update of the page). 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

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