As a child, I too dreamed of becoming a great scientist, making revolutionary inventions to save the world and was truly inspired by the likes of Thomas Alva Edison, Albert Einstein or Sir Isaac Newton. I did my bachelors in Applied Sciences, and thought I might become successful, but fate had other plans for me, and in the long run, I ended up doing my masters in Computer Applications, and eventually became a Software Engineer. I might not have been successful therefore but the way my career went I have gained a number of acquaintances who are still following their dreams to become scientists. I have high regard for them and their work, and in this post, it is their sad story, that I wish to relate, a story completely interlinked with our country on the whole.
Recently we witnessed the twin failures of the GSLV satellite launch and the Agni – III missile. The scientific organizations behind these efforts reported that these were minor glitches and it would be an action of pessimism, if we were to read too much between the lines from these minor glitches and make conclusions about their work. They may be quite true, but still apprehensions are not cast away easily
My friends in several research organizations across the country have shared with me several experiences about how research in India is functioning and they are all passionate about their work, but all of them, I’m not generalizing here, but the discovery of a common pattern was too easy to be ignored, all of them have shared with me how difficult it is to work in an Indian Research organization, which is doing government funded scientific work. Their problems lie not in the lack of facilities, not in the lack of equipment, not in the lack of commendable salaries, but in the lack of a good workplace culture, a lack of teamwork, a lack of values at the workplace, a total neglect for teamwork towards a common objective and any key values and priorities to hold together these organizations.
The internal politics which is very explicit has scarred the image of a good career and achievement for many of them. One of my friends who works at a research establishment in Chennai tells me of how there, different people at different levels in the hierarchy used to assign him work and later used to admonish him for working for the other person. He used to lament about how he could not complain to anyone because he never used to know, when and how his words would get misinterpreted and used against him in a different situation elsewhere. How does one work like that?
Healthy competition is always a good thing and it may be argued that these things happen everywhere, but the main problem is that unlike other business organizations, where there is a definite business objective at the end and work has to get done ultimately and it therefore never goes unrecognized at least at the end of the day, it gets confusing, in a research organization, the outcome is not definite and depends a lot upon the dedication, commitment and the intellectual input of the people who work. There lies the biggest problem, because the workplace is not conducive to that effect.
Another of my friends who works in a research organization in Hyderabad tells me how she has to work a lot of times in projects for which she knows there will be no credit for her in the end. She worked on a project which was in existence for two years in a dormant state before she started working on it. She put in some real heart into the project and made it ready for publication. When the time came for submitting the paper, she found herself in the middle of a big controversy and was discredited from any work in the project. She tells me how she will have to take it silently, bear the brunt, the only consolation being that she learnt a good deal from the project. She laments about how she was in a situation of total helplessness, no one to complain to, no one who could be trusted.
If politics is one thing, sexual harassment is another. There have been instances of seniors in research organizations, making lewd gestures, asking for sexual favours and the like. The victims on the other hand take it silently knowing well that their work could very well be tampered with. I understand I may be guilty of painting a very vile picture of Indian research organizations, I understand that I may be knowingly or unknowingly bringing across a bad reputation for those few research organizations, where this is not the case, but this is not a mere personal rant. It is in consideration of improving the scientific contribution of
Though history is proof to the fact that
There are however many Indians who work abroad and gain recognition there. As my few friends also prepare to leave
Update : Prof. Subramanyam Chandrashekar won the nobel prize for Physics in the year 1983, fifty three years after Sir C.V.Raman. Two is still less a number I guess. My thanks to Rashmi for correcting me.