TRUE PICTURE OF SCIENCE IN INDIA
M.A.Padmanabha Rao, PhD (AIIMS)
Science education in our colleges and Universities have come up within the last 150 to 200 years. The current system fails to give importance on practical knowledge.Studentslearn radioactivity without knowing how a radioisotope like metallic 60-Cobalt looks like. Student’s ability is tested based on right answers to the questions asked.No opportunity is given for thinking how to solve problems that we face commonly in society, say how to save lives from floods. High school students should preferably learn what to do in case of fire accidents at home. Knowledge how to dress a wound of brother or sister helps better than learning how intestines work. Knowledge how to test eye sight helps more than learning on convex mirror etc.
Our researchers in medical sciences are unable to publish original papers because of taking up a topic from foreign journals and applying in Indian patients so that research work can be completed in the given time and also helps them to get a degree. Country needs revolutionary breakthroughs like drug discovery. Government of India may have to allocate funds to tackle national problems for developing quick and reliable diagnostic tests and better means of treatment of diabetes, tuberculosis, and cancer. When MD, ME, and PhD students take up a thesis topic on local issues, the work done would be of immediate use to the nation. Biomedical engineering students can help in developing ambulance with modern amenities that helps to transport patients from home to a nearby hospital. Engineering students can easily develop floating cars, which can go on roads and equally well on water that helps in the case of floods, as seen recently in Chennai. Civil engineering students have to develop better building materials and houses at low cost and to be safe enough from floods. Electrical and electronic engineering students need to develop Drones in India that help in situations like natural calamities. Fast flowing waters of Ganga and Yamuna rivers can be made use in generating electricity with the simple techniques like wind mill. Enough electricity can be generated while applying breaks to speedy cars and trains, using simple generators near wheels. We have excellent Civil engineers who can help in making better foot paths as seen in USA and other countries. Our food scarcity can be solved by planting fruit yielding plants in every inch in barren lands and gardens.
A single innovation or discovery can fetch a Nobel Prize. Therefore, every advanced nation eagerly awaits for October to hear the news whether it could get any Nobel Prize. Research papers published with little modifications from previously published work do not help to get a Nobel Prize. There is a need for the government to assess whether any innovation or discovery is reported in nearly 15,000 research papers presented in the recent Indian science Congress held at Mysuru. If government spends nearly 75 lakhs of Rupees on a scientist in 5 years, value of contributions including published papers during that period should be of value more than 75 lakhs. Indian government should discourage scientists from doing research on a topic which does not help India in any way. Instead, researchers should be advised to take up national issues as a priority that brings immediate benefit.
Better facilities, demanded on the plea of doing original research, are often misused to duplicate the work done by others. For a serious investigator delving deeply into previously unexplored areas of research, a need arises to develop entirely new techniques with novel concepts with the existing equipment. That is how discoveries were made. Scientific discovery is rarest of rare event in science, so cannot be achieved by every scientist or nation. In most difficult times, C.V. Raman showed to the world that big institutions and better research facilities are not absolutely necessary to do a scientific discovery. Raman was not trained abroad, did not use very expensive imported equipment, yet was able to discover Raman Effect while working in India, for which Nobel Prize was awarded in 1930. Strong conviction to science missing in Indian scientists is the root cause why India is unable to get Nobel Prize in any branch of science in the last 85 years. Internationally, our top institutions are rated low. Truly speaking buildings cannot be rated high or low, and scientists cannot be rated purely on geographical locations alone.
Scientific innovations brought comforts to everyday life. Best part of time is devoted by scientists in doing research how to get an early promotion with minimum efforts. Giving prime importance to rank neglecting scientific contribution became a major setback to science in India. Evidently, profile of our scientists highlights positions occupied, fellowships, and members of scientific bodies and list of research papers published, but not a few lines on innovations or breakthroughs done, if any.
PhD students bank on guidance from Professors. Unless they have an aptitude and capability of doing independent research, it is difficult for them to bring out original research later in life. Both students and guides take up a previously known research topic so that the thesis can be completed in 3 years. Secondly, young Indians race to foreign countries for obtaining degrees, so that they can get senior positions in big institutions on return. But they continue to work and guide students in the same field in which they worked abroad. If hundreds of research papers are already published on the same topic, nothing original is expected by extending the research in India. Important lacuna in our papers is that most papers are authored by five and more authors in India. Some names are added as an obligation. When a researcher becomes a Professor, it advisable to switch on breakthrough research. They can afford to spend few years of time on that. Publishing breakthrough papers authored by one or two is wise thing to do.
Ideally, Department of Science and Technology may be the right one to monitor, maintain the records and report innovations and breakthroughs to the press. Indian Dailies should devote considerable space to cover progress in science in India. The news on recent Indian Science Congress did not mention breakthroughs done, if any. In the absence of information, we often see comments made by scientists in press as nothing significant has happened in science in India. This is not factual. The true picture of science in India is entirely different from the news in media.
Incredibly, fundamental discoveries were reported in physics as many as nine in five subjects of physics: nuclear physics, X-ray physics, atomic spectroscopy, solar physics and special theory of relativity in 4 research papers in 2010 and 2013. Experimental research done with radioisotopes for 9 years during 1988 to 1997 at the Defence laboratory under DRDO at Jodhpur in Rajasthan led to six fundamental physics discoveries. The discovery of ‘new atomic phenomenon from radioisotopes’ was officially released as Technical Report in 1997. In April 1997, Indian Dailies published PTI news on the ‘discovery of light emission from radioisotopes’ by a Defence Laboratory scientist. After retirement of the scientist in 1997, research work continued from residence at Delhi from 1998 onwards till today.
Ultimately the research work claiming six fundamental physics discoveries was published as a research paper with the title ‘UV dominant optical emission newly detected from radioisotopes and XRF sources’ in Brazilian Journal of physics in March 2010. Validity of the research work done can be evident from the following citation. “The phenomenon of optical emission predominantly in the UV, which accompanies the emission of X-rays, gamma rays, and beta radiation from radioisotope sources and X-ray tubes was investigated by Rao. It was the first work in which the emission of UV radiation was confirmed experimentally and a possible explanation for the mechanism of the UV emission was given by the author”. Reference: Margaret West et al, Atomic spectrometry update-X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2011, 26, 1919.
India’s spectacular progress further in 2013 & 2015 in solar physics, atmospheric sciences can be evident from further publications: (1) Bharat radiation predicted from radioisotopes and XRF sources in Brazilian Journal of physics (2010) reported to have discovered in solar spectrum from 12.87 to 31 nm in the paper, ‘Discovery of Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission causing Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) and UV dominant optical radiation’ in the IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), March 2013. (2) Against the traditional wisdom that fusion causes sunlight, fission causing Sunlight was published in the paper,Discovery of Self-Sustained 235-U Fission Causing Sunlight by Padmanabha Rao Effect, in IOSR-JAP, July 2013. (3) For the first time, X-rays travelling at superluminal velocities was reported in the paper, Discovery of superluminal velocities of X-rays and Bharat Radiation challenging the validity of Einstein’s formula E= mc^2, in IOSR-JAP, Sept 2013. The following two are breakthrough papers in atmospheric sciences. (4). All the Sunlight that Earth Receives is not directly from Sun, International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology, November 2015. (5) Discovery of Padmanabha Rao Effect controlling planetary temperatures, International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology, December 2015.
In nutshell, the research work accounting to six fundamental physics discoveries was done at the Defence Laboratory, Jodhpur and the rest were done after retirement of the scientist from residence at Delhi.
The author was former professor of Medical Physics at Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences, near Dehradun, and former Deputy Director, Defence Laboratory, Jodhpur.