Funding woes haunts Indian Science 

News: The Union Ministry of Science and Technology budgetary allocation in the current financial year (2022-23) has seen a drop from the last year. The 2022-2023 Union Budget has seen a drop of 3.9% from last year. 

What is the significance of science and tech? 

The purpose is to understand the world better. It is a highly competitive field among the nations.  

The funding of science and technology has often been touted as a marker of social advancement. 

Status of India’s R&D expenditure 

The research in India is primarily sustained by direct funding from the government. There is little participation from the private sector. 

India’s share in the global R&D expenditure is at 1-3% of the global total. However, the share of the U.S. and China is around 25% and 23% respectively.  

The proportion of qualified researchers is very low in India. In 2017, there were 255 researchers per million people in India in contrast to 8,342 per million in Israel, 7,597 in Sweden and 7,498 in South Korea.  

The budgetary allocations have shown a consistent downward trend over a last few years. It varied between 0.6 to 0.8% of GDP over a decade. It is way below the United States, China, Japan, the European Union countries and South Korea.  

There is a skewed distribution of funds. Most funding goes to DRDO, Department of Space and Atomic Energy. However, ICAT, CSIR, DST, DBT, MoES and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) received the rest of the 30 to 40% of the public funds.  

Despite, jump in the number of universities from 752 to 1,016, and the number of students doing doctoral degrees, the funding remained frozen between 2011 and 2018. 

Most of the country’s scientific research is being conducted by government laboratories and a few premier institutes.  The agency will lead to democratisation of the knowledge base. 

Some of the measures taken to boost scientific research funding in India  

In pursuance to the National Education Policy 2020, the government announced to establish a new funding agency called the National Research Foundation (NRF). It is expected to bring thousands of colleges and universities under its ambit, therefore to boost university science research and work in social sciences. The 2021-22 budget announced to offer ₹10,000 crore every year to this agency starting from 2021, over the next five years,  

The 2021 budget speech also expressed the intention of investing about ₹4,000 crore over five years for deep-ocean research and biodiversity conservation. 

The government has shown commitment to set up four centres for virological research and development of hydrogen energy. .  

Way Forward 

The scientific institutions need more autonomous, more participatory, and less bureaucratic functioning as well as a vibrant and responsive financial system to unleash the fullest potential of Indian science. 

India must choose to break the bureaucratic barriers that exist in the government departments and develop innovative ways to help basic research flourish. 

The government should release enough funds for scientific research. The R&D spending can be raised to at least 1% of the GDP.  

It is also important for the private sector to chip in. The government should incentivise the private players like tax breaks, etc.  

Further, the NRF should be set up. It should be independent of political interference, and the related financial commitment. In addition, the SERB (Science Engineering Research Board) can be upgraded.  

India can learn a lot from China as it has become a world leader in scientific research in a short span of time. 

Source: The post is based on article “Funding woes haunts Indian Science” published in The Hindu on 2nd May 2022 

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