Young Indian scientists want Modi govt to take steps to stop ‘brain drain’, boost research funding

As a large number of qualified Indians continue to go abroad for better opportunities, the country’s generation-next scientists have urged the govt to take immediate steps to stop this ‘brain drain’

Representative Image (social media)
Representative Image (social media)

PTI

As a large number of qualified Indians continue to go abroad for better opportunities, the country's generation-next scientists have urged the government to take immediate steps to stop this 'brain drain'.

Scientists also said that increasing funding for research could help curb this phenomenon and hoped that the Narendra Modi government's budget on Friday will take steps in that direction.

PTI caught up with scientists on the sidelines of the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureates meet to discuss their expectations from the budget and their views on the current situation of scientific research in the country. While most of them said that they expected increased funding for research, many also expressed their grouse with recent "scientific claims" by the government that have "no basis in science".

"I hope that the upcoming budget has more funding for research than last year or at least not reduce it. For a country of second largest population in the world, we have many talented and brilliant people who can contribute to the world of science," said Jalpa Soni, Marie Curie Post Doctoral fellow University of Gothenburg Sweden.

Soni is a part of a strong contingent of 44 young Indian and Indian origin scientists who have gathered here on the banks of the Lake Constance for extensive discussions with 39 Nobel Laureates from around the world to share their vision.

Sounak Mukherjee, a researcher at Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata, agreed with Soni.

"The biggest issue for research in India is lack of funding. Indians are great with ideas, especially in achieving goals in an easier and cheaper way, exemplary of which are our space programmes," said Mukherjee.

Mukherjee, however, added that the government is focused on promoting technological fields, but not basic science. "An overall lack of awareness of science makes our political leaders ignore climate change or be obsessed with fictional claims about Vedic Science," said Mukherjee.

Swastika Banerjee, postdoctoral candidate at University of California, San Diego in the US, said that focus should be on actual research and not claims about what occurred in the past.

"Research is very dynamic so we should always innovate and find new ideas rather than just borrowing from the past," said Banerjee.

Meanwhile, Mukherjee noted that unless the focus goes into fundamental research in this modern era, India would suffer more of "brain drain".

Brain drain largely takes place due to the migration of highly-trained personnel in search of the better standards of research and higher salaries, and access to advanced technology and more stable political conditions in different places worldwide.

"The so-called brain drain significantly decreases the quality of research with the brightest minds going abroad for research where they have more work satisfaction as well as financial satisfaction," Mukherjee said.

"There are various schemes in the government to attract young scientists, but because of political scams and without proper administrative support, they go into vain. I would expect the Indian Government to take more initiatives to support basic science for the future of young scientists and for the progress of the nation," he added.

According to a 2015 report by US National Science Foundation, migration of Indian scientists and engineers to the US increased by 85 per cent in 10 years since 2003.

India was the top country of birth for immigrant scientists and engineers, with 9,50,000 out of Asia's total 2.96 million, the report said.

"I expect more support from the government for basic science and not just engineering. It will be nice to see more money and more infrastructure being built and at the same time, the govt should make new policies," Lakshmi Balakrishnan, who is pursuing PHD in Paris, France told PTI.

Balakrishnan believes that the government should consult the young scientists and not just senior scientists while formulating research policies.

"One way to reduce, if not stop, the brain drain should be to provide quality infrastructure to encourage people to come back," she said, adding that religious claims should be backed by scientific evidence before they are popularized.

Megha Jain, who is pursuing PhD in material science from Punjabi University, Patiala believes that there is an urgent need to expand schemes to a large section of researchers.

"Since government is running many schemes to stimulate research under different categories say for women in rural areas, yet these schemes are known only to some.

"So, there is a need to give these schemes a louder applause so that each and every corner of India should get benefitted from them. Government is already doing and must do more in bringing research projects from abroad," said Jain.

"I would expect the new research budget to be higher for scientific development of the country and infrastructure. More money should be especially allocated to health and energy research. These things are important to cater to a huge population of the country," Banerjee added.

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