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Advocating for science

© Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

A country's expenditure on research and the attitudes of its citizens towards science and technology are one of the leading parameters of development of a country. India spends about 0.65 % of its GDP (world bank data for 2015) on research and development, a number that has not changed much in two decades. The Indian educational system too on the other hand does not help in creating scientific temperament. The education is mostly a means to secure a job, any job, however far removed it might be from the field you've studied. 

These issues are even more apparent when you interact with people not related to the field. There is a lack of curiosity about science even among educated people. In fact, some are also of the view that it is a waste of the taxpayer's money. They go so far as to complain about the fact that their tax money is being used to fund PhD scholarships of students in Indian institutions. This, when the government's own defense and space research related programs make up for nearly 55% of the total R&D expenditure, while only 5.9% is used towards research at institutions which include the salaries and scholarships for Professors and students. It is to be noted though that these students are qualified folks who are accepted into institutions after having competed in nationwide exams for their field. The Professors too have got their position after having completed their PhD and several years of hard postdoctoral research on salaries that are barely above minimum wage. They are truly the best who are in it solely for their love of science. And still, it pains some to see them paid even a small stipend.

This attitude is clearly a result of our education system which emphasizes on rote learning and not on developing and nurturing a curious mind. Because, how can they appreciate research when they have never stopped to think about the theories in their textbooks. How can they ever hope to understand why basic science is important when they have never appreciated the way nature works, like a well oiled machine. Not everyone has to do do research, but everyone should get excited about new developments in the fields of science and technology. Our world today is so technology driven that one can't even imagine a life without it. But, who cares right, when it's much easier to just remain stupid and unaware. Here's hoping that attitudes change.



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