Funding for Science

By: NARA

No country is against the development of science and scientific research.

It has been recognized by everyone that without science there is no development.

Therefore, promotion of scientific research in all area is taken up seriously.

Research both in basic and applied sciences is essential to achieve national and international developments.

In fact, basic science is costly as compared to the applied science.

In a recent article on science for sustainable development published in Current Science (Curr. Sci.) Dr. I. P. Abrol mentioned that low level of funding is frequently cited as one of the major factors for the declining state of science in India.

Not only Dr. Abrol, many other Indian scientists used to tell the same 'low level funding' for the poor science in India.

It was the state of affair once, but now the situation is considerable improved.

All branches of science, agriculture, engineering, medicine, veterinary, biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology do not suffer from 'low level of funding' nowadays.

In fact, most of the research institutions are not able to spend the allocated fund for scientific research in time.

Anyway much of the fund goes for salaries, some for the upkeep of the building and other infrastructures and the rest only is used for scientific research.

In the name of research projects funded by various foreign agencies and also the Government of India itself, amounts to over funding sometimes.

I still remember some of the World Bank funded projects in Agricultural Sciences.

Crores of rupees allotted to Agricultural Universities and National Agricultural Research Institutes.

In addition to it large number of projects in the name of National Fellows and Professor of Eminence are also in place.

Plenty of money for science, but no one appears to appreciate these good days of science.

We are certainly well off as far as the funding position for science is concerned.
We all know that the project fund is mostly spent for buying costly equipments which are invariably imported from foreign countries.

These instruments cost lakhs of rupees.

So, there are series of procedures to be followed for buying these equipments.

Tenders are called, opened, compared, placed orders, credited the amount in a bank and finally received the instruments.

Sometimes the scientist who placed order forgets to include a small piece of accessory for operating or maintaining the instrument.

While the instrument is installed, such mistakes are found out and intimated to the scientist by the installing engineers of the Sales Company.

They start thinking about the mistake so late and make a representation to the funding agency to sanction additional amount required for the missed accessory.

It take awful lot of time to get a positive reply, till then the instrument remains as a dead elephant in a corner of the laboratory which are not generally rat-proof and not even air- conditioned.

By that time the sanction for the additional amount reaches, and the accessory bought, the main instrument is damaged by rats which are fond of the pleasant smell of the plastic wires and chips attached within the instrument.

What I describe here may look like a story, but it is really not a fiction, but a fact which is always untold, kept secret and hidden.

Generally, no one question our scientists because they are in a higher scale of pay and position enjoying the perquisites offered by the government.

By that time, the senior scientist either retires or gets transferred to another institute.

The poor equipment becomes an orphan and no one takes care of it in that non-working condition.

Thus the fund for science is wasted once for all.

These dreams are known to the administrative officers and the comptrollers.

They try to underestimate the credibility of the scientists.

But that is generally taken as professional jealousy.

Anyway this is one side of the whole affair.

In the other side, the allotted fund is not properly released to the scientist to spend for his project unless and until he meets the administrative rules for buying the equipment.

If the Director or the administrative officer does not like a particular scientist, then the story becomes very serious.

Thus the fund is not spent within the stipulated time of the famous March end.

Knowing such difficulties scientists try to spend the allotted fund urgently by placing orders for easily available items such as steel almyrahs, fans, air-conditioners, refrigerators, plastic chairs, hot plates, room heaters, computers etc., etc.,

When I was a student and later a staff I could see truck loads of steel almyrahs, book cases, and refrigerators unloaded in science departments towards the end of March every year.

It looked very strange to me, but later on I could understand the circumstances under which they are bought.

Funding science is done by every government every year.

Who looks into the spending aspects of the funds?

Also who looks into the scientific research results due to such levels of funding?

The spending aspect is always looked into by the auditors checking the bills, dates and the correctness of spending according to the government audit rules.

The scientific research based on the funding and the equipments are not strictly monitored, although it is said that there are many committees established for this sake.

The outcome of scientific findings should have a direct bearing on the fund spent and the scientific instruments used.

But invariably most of the scientific research ends up in reports and publications either in Indian journals or in few so called international journals which are very rarely read by other scientists.

Sustainable science activity is desired by retired scientists, but I doubt that is possible to achieve.

Most of the scientific researchers are fed up over time and their thinking is outmoded.

They started with a sharp thinking in handling problems basic or applied, but over time their thinking lose the sharpness.

If you talk to any senior or junior scientists today, they spend more time in discussing their administrative difficulties rather than their scientific output.

Even if they talk about their outputs which will be a repetitive work or some one's results confirmed.

These are facts every one of us - scientists - fully know.

Some of these facts are fashionably written in Curr. Sci. published by Indian Academy of Sciences.

When I read those comments, I feel very sad because this journal is found in libraries of almost all Universities of the world and also in the net free of cost.

The publishers of Curr. Sci. escapes cleverly saying that all articles published in Curr. Sci. especially editorials, opinions and commentaries, letters and book reviews are deemed to reflect the individual views of the authors and not the official points of view, either of the Current Science Association or of the Indian Academy Sciences.

Those who read Curr. Sci. journal knows very well the views of various scientists expressed in the 'Correspondence' section.

Exposing the setbacks in scientific world of India is a welcome step, but I do not know by doing so how many are rectified so far?

All the setbacks expressed make good reading, sometimes they are funny too.

The contents of the Correspondence section continue to be the same setbacks for the past decades and I hope it may be for the future decades too.

In a country like India, science and scientific research are not treated the way they have to be treated.

They are in the hands of the auditors who are not scientists but they count the money not the outcome of science.

In their eyes, whether one is scientist, business man or anybody - all are thieves.

Their job is only to find out the mistakes committed in spending the fund.

They do not know some of those mistakes are to be committed to carry out scientific research.

But who has to change the Government Secretariat administration which is still the same inherited from the British?

A new administration is absolutely needed for scientific institutions for better utilization of fund.

Indian science will remain with the same setbacks of the past decades forever if we follow the same set of account rules.

I feel it is an urgent matter the science administrators of Government of India have to look into seriously for the benefit of science in India.

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