Imparting direction to science in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Fifth Science Policy

The article elaborates on the various aspect of the 5th Science Policy.

Scientific publication from India and issues with it

  • From the report published by the National Science Foundation of the U.S. in December 2019, India was the third-largest publisher of peer-reviewed science and engineering journal articles and conference papers, with 135,788 articles in 2018.
  • This milestone was achieved through an average yearly growth rate of 10.73% from 2008, which was greater than China’s 7.81%.
  • However, China and the United States had about thrice and twice the number, respectively, of India’s publications.
  • Also, the publications from India are not impactful.
  • From the report, in the top 1% of the most cited publications from 2016 (called HCA, or Highly Cited Articles), India’s index score of 0.7 is lower than that of the U.S., China and the European Union.
  • An index score of 1 or more is considered good.
  • The inference for India is that the impact, and hence the citation of publications from India, should improve.

Patents filed by India

  • The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) through their Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is the primary channel of filing international patent applications.
  • In its report for 2019, WIPO says India filed a modest number of 2,053 patent applications.
  • Compared to the 58,990 applications filed by China and 57,840 by the U.S., India has a long way to go.
  • The Indian Government put in place the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy in 2016 to “stimulate a dynamic, vibrant and balanced intellectual property rights system”.
  • One of the objectives is human capital development.
  • The mission to foster innovation, replicate it at scale and commercialise it is a work in progress consequent to the policy.

India’s Science Policies

  • There have been four science policies till now, after 1947, with the draft of the fifth policy having been released recently.
  • India’s first science policy adopted in 1958.
  • It led to the establishment of many research institutes and national laboratories, and by 1980.
  • The focus in the second science policy, Technology Policy Statement, in 1983, was technological self-reliance and to use technology to benefit all sections of the society.
  • The Science and Technology Policy 2003, the first science policy after the economic liberalisation of 1991, aimed to increase investment in research and development and brought it to 0.7%.
  • The Scientific and Engineering Research Board (SERB) was established to promote research.
  • In 2013, India’s science policy included Innovation in its scope and was called Science, Technology and Innovation Policy.
  • The focus was to be one of the top five global scientific leaders, which India achieved.

What 5th science policy seeks to achieve

  • The draft of the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2020 (STIP2020)  has an ambitious vision to “double the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers, Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) and private sector contribution to the GERD every 5 years” .
  • It also aims to “position India among the top three scientific superpowers in the next decade”.
  • It also defines strategies to improve funding for and participation in research. India’s Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) is currently around 0.6% of GDP.
  • This is quite low when compared to the investments by the U.S. and China which are greater than 2% and Israel’s GERD is more than 4%.
  • The policy seeks to define strategies that are “decentralized, evidence-informed, bottom-up, experts-driven, and inclusive”.

Solutions to improve funding

  • STIP2020 defines solutions to improve funding thus: all States to fund research, multinational corporations to participate in research, fiscal incentives and support for innovation in medium and small scale enterprises.
  • The new measures should not become a pretext to absolve the Union and State governments of their primacy in funding research; the government should invest more into research.

Other critical focus areas

  • 1) Other critical focal areas ar inclusion of under-represented groups of people in research.
  • 2) Support for indigenous knowledge systems.
  • 3) Using artificial intelligence.
  • 4) Reaching out to the Indian scientific diaspora for collaboration.
  • 5) Science diplomacy with partner countries.
  • 6) Setting up a strategic technology development fund to give impetus to research.


More specific directives and implementation with a scientific temper without engaging in hyperbole will be key to the policy’s success; and its success is important to us because, as Carl Sagan said, “we can do science, and with it we can improve our lives”.

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