Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
In indirectly confessing that the Central Government had told a lie to the Supreme Court while moving for a vacation of stay imposed by the Orissa High Court on establishment of IISER at Kolkata till the offer given to Orissa was not fulfilled, Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh today admitted that the Central Government had in fact made the offer, though ‘promise’ was the word used to convey the meaning. He announced the setting up of National Institute of Science Education and Research at Bhubaneswar today.
Following is the text of his speech on the occasion:
“I am truly delighted to be here in Bhubaneshwar today at the Institute of Physics. I have great affection and regard for the people of Orissa whose contribution to the history, culture and economy of our nation are second to none. I am particularly delighted that my first visit to this State is associated with the announcement of the establishment of the National Institute of Science Education and Research. This is the fulfillment of a promise to the people of Orissa. Our Government is genuinely committed to the development of Orissa and to the educational empowerment of the people of Orissa. The National Institute of Science Education and Research will be a symbol of that commitment.
I share the concern being expressed by many of our scientists that our best minds are not turning to science, and those who do, do not remain in science. I am told that less than 3% of school children want to pursue a career in science. We must find ways of making these disciplines more attractive to children. We have to improve the quality of teaching of science and mathematics at the school level. Countries like China and South Korea are far ahead of us in investing in science and technology. We need to do much more in this vital area if we have to keep pace with the evolving global economy of the future.
We have to take urgent steps to prevent scientifically talented persons from moving away from careers in scientific research and development. This is happening at the 10+2 level and at the B.Tech. level. Most of our universities are performing sub-optimally. They lack good infrastructure and suffer from acute faculty shortage. There is not enough interaction between our academia and industry. Many technologies developed for our rural areas have not been delivered properly. We will need to address these on a war footing.
I am also concerned about the regional imbalance in science teaching and the development of science and technology in India. There was a time when the East was at the forefront. Today the East is lagging behind the South and the West. We need to redress this regional imbalance. It is to meet these challenges that we will be setting up the National Institute of Science Education and Research in Bhubaneswar.
As India moves up the technology ladder and improves its relative competitive status in the global domain, the need for capable innovative scientists will increase. Our higher education programs should empower young science students to engage not only in advanced research but also in domains which facilitate translation of research results into development of new technologies and their commercial deployment. This requires acquisition of necessary experimental skills and familiarity with the realities of practical world.
There is a strong synergy between research and higher education. Co-existence of both leads to higher excellence in both. It provides opportunities for students to be exposed to excitements in scientific research and benefit from teachers who are themselves engaged in expanding the horizons of knowledge. Such participation in teaching also benefits researchers by way of greater clarity of thought and availability of students to broaden support to research activity.
The National Institute of Science Education and Research will facilitate this synergy between research and higher education. The major strength of Institute of Physics is a strong emphasis on the quality of the faculty and its present pre-doctoral and doctoral programs are among the best in the country. The faculty is composed of all world-renowned scientists who are also established teachers. Association with the Institute of Physics will enable the National Institute of Science Education and Research to draw upon this outstanding tradition and expand it further to cater to a much larger pool of science students. NISER will be at par with the IISER being established in other places but will operate under the umbrella of DAE. It will undertake integrated 5-year Masters courses in core and emerging branches of science to provide world-class education to students after the 10+2 stage. It can also include an integrated M.Sc.–Ph.D. after graduation level.
The emphasis of education at NISER will be to generate scientific trained manpower of a very high quality which could directly find placement across the country. Greater emphasis will be on branches of science relevant to the Department of Atomic Energy and also catering to the better exploitation and utilization of Orissa’s regional natural resources. Orissa’s mineral and marine resources will be taken into consideration in designing training programs of students here.
While working within the DAE family and awarding degrees under the Homi Bhabha National Institute [HBNI], which is already a Deemed University for post-graduate studies, NISER will be an institute at par with the best in the country in terms of facilities and faculty. It will have a research to teaching load as practiced in the best universities in the world. This will ensure world class education and also attract the best researchers. It will have world-class experimental facilities in all the current and emerging branches of science including physics, chemistry, modern biology and environmental sciences. We will provide enough resources to DAE to convert this into reality within a very short time frame.
In order to attract bright young students to this integrated course, it is proposed to make the course challenging on a world-class level, give reasonable stipend to the students and also allow them time for research activities even during their student days. There will be campus interviews and placements at both research centers and in industry in order to make the course more attractive to the students in the present competitive environment of market forces which drives them to IT-related jobs.
I am told that this project will be quickly completed in two phases. In Phase-I, additional courses will be started immediately in 3 or 4 selected subjects like physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology with existing faculty and new faculty. In Phase-II, 200 acres of land will be acquired around Bhubaneswar and activities expanded on a larger scale. When completed, I am confident that the National Institute of Science Education and Research will become a Mecca for science just as TIFR and IISc are today.
With our recent unprecedented economic growth, I am optimistic that India will become a ‘developed country’ in the not too distant future. In this process, Science & Technology will continue to play a major role. Since independence, there has been a great deal of progress in our S&T system. This is evident from the success of the mission-oriented S&T agencies, like the family of DAE institutions, that have made our nation proud.
However, I am aware that we must increase our expenditure on Science & Technology. India’s expenditure on S&T is about 1% of our GDP. This is half of what developed countries are devoting to S & T. The Government is committed to increasing R&D funding. For the last few years, we have been allocating larger budgets for R&D. For example, last year, we increased it by 20%. We shall strive to reach the target of 2% in the 11th Plan. But I also expect the private sector to do more in this area. We also need more public- private partnership in R&D in all areas of S&T.
One way of making careers in science and technology attractive would be to improve remuneration and ensure the integrity of selection processes. It is well known that the initial starting salary for scientists with a PhD in India is often lower than those of Engineers, Doctors and Management graduates. It is obvious that if talented young people are to be retained in science, scientists have to be treated differently than other Government employees in service and salary matters.
The Government will be happy to provide career support for students talented in science for a reasonable period, including into their initial employment years, to attract such students to scientific research. There is also a need to develop a more productive interface between the National Laboratories and the University system. Proximate national laboratories could supplement the faculty both for undergraduate and post-graduate courses in universities and colleges. Private sector enterprises should also be able to create centres for their product innovation and development in proximate national laboratories and universities.
I would like to reaffirm our commitment to the growth and modernization of Indian science and technology institutions. The establishment of the National Institute of Science Education and Research in Bhubaneswar is one more symbol of this commitment. I hope this institution will emerge as a center of creative teaching and research and contribute to our national development. Orissa has produced many great scientists of India such as Jogesh Chandra Pati. I hope this institution will produce many more in the years to come. I wish you all the best in all your endeavours.”