The roots of R&D have to be Indian assumptions, environment-friendly methodologies and techniques which can work in the infrastructure available here

The quality of research by Indians is well recognised. It is equally true that path-breaking research in Indian institutions, in practically most domains of study, is few and far between. This includes science, technology, medicine, maritime studies and more. This poverty of range and depth is not always a factor of resources or autonomy. There are many factors which have contributed to it, not the least being the intellectual conditioning and orientation of an overwhelmingly large number of so-called ‘intellectual’ leaders. Oriented and bred in Anglo-Saxon scholastic traditions or traditions of US/Canadian Universities, these front line leaders have inherited a world view and academic orientation which they perpetuate through their choice of research themes and methodologies.

Most of the Central Government institutions with specific specialisation, such as science, technology, medicine and management are not short of money or talent. Yet somehow, the chemistry between the objectives of the institutions and the efforts of the personnel have not resulted in the alchemy, which makes for referable fundamental contribution to the chosen domain of knowledge. Nor does it, often enough, significantly, contribute to the Indian domain of application. Very often, an aspiring Indian academic, in an immigration mode, goes abroad and does significant work. But he chooses a field which is usually a subset of his supervisor’s domain of interest or a theme which puts the spotlight on the reprehensible conditions in post-colonial territories. In the academic and media network, rooted in the traditions of the English-speaking world, this is then universally disseminated and quoted. The issue is not simply of scholastic communication but it has serious ramification on the nature and terrain of research. Consider the canvas of recognition in Indian academic institutions. Almost universally a publication in a foreign journal is more appreciated and better rated than a publication in any Indian journal, even if it be refereed. The preposition is simple, in our dominant value, things foreign are by and large more desirable than anything Indian. The careers of significant quotable personalities in knowledge domain, or for that matter in any domain, are a testimony to the fact that, very often, recognition in India followed recognition abroad. Be it cinema (Satyajit Ray) literature and poetry (Rabindranath Tagore) or even renowned economists, they all made their careers through foreign recognition and reaped the harvest in India. This is even more common in the science and technology domain. Operationally the lateral entrants in these fields, like anywhere else, stand testimony to how careers shape up.

This is also true of several other Asian and African countries in areas of fundamental or applied research. The problem is, as noted above, linked with the methods used in research and sources selected for information. Obviously if research is to be carried out on Sal seeds and leaves or Neem seeds or Google or Nux Vomica or for that matter any other such produce, it cannot be on western assumption or western methodologies. The roots of research have to be Indian assumptions, environment-friendly methodologies and techniques which can work in the infrastructure available. The plain truth is, there is hardly any research on research methods. Further, it does not adequately establish a co-relation with the infrastructure available or the delivery mechanisms which enable laboratory results to be transferred to field conditions.

These are important concerns which cannot be overlooked while working on the theme of pushing the boundaries of knowledge and their application in India. The labour conditions which produce goods and services in various parts of the country are significantly different from what works elsewhere. Even on populist issues like gender equity, sloganeering is one thing, the reality can be different.

Women are very much apart of the productive process in Indian ethos. It is not only the woman who steps out of the house to earn, who can be termed productive. Even the person who runs the household is extremely productive because, irrespective of everything, somebody has to run the household. If the family person doesn’t run it, somebody has to be hired for it. That becomes a routine outgo. Hence, the assumption of some economists that only when one goes out of the household and earns is one productively employed, is an erroneous one. A person can be in the household and yet be of economic support to the family. Attributing value to certain modes of production, selectively, is not the scientific way forward. One has merely to look at the assumptions to check whether what is painted as “outcomes” are worthwhile or not. Reflecting on the assumptions is an essential pre-requisite for authenticating the veracity of the findings. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, social science research also has its moorings in Western ethos. Thus it is that the entire scientific method becomes topsy-turvy. Often convoluted conclusions are pandered generously in the name of research. This situation requires a priori examination.