Innovation Ecosystem in India

The wrong cooks spoiling the scientific broth


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: a shift in the approach of Indian scientists towards addressing real-life problems

Beautiful minds: How these scientists are getting science out of  laboratories and into daily lives - The Economic Times

Central Idea:

The article argues for a shift in the approach of Indian scientists towards addressing real-life problems by integrating knowledge from various disciplines, including the humanities. It emphasizes the need for scientists to engage with societal issues, collaborate across disciplines, and embrace diverse forms of knowledge to find holistic solutions.

Key Highlights:

  • Critique of the current scientific paradigm in India, where pursuit of quick rewards and adherence to disciplinary boundaries hinder problem-solving.
  • Advocacy for a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates insights from the humanities and social sciences.
  • Emphasis on the importance of understanding human complexities and societal context in scientific endeavors.
  • Proposal for scientists to engage with communities, embrace humility, and recognize diverse forms of knowledge.
  • Criticism of the hierarchical and reductionist tendencies within the scientific community.
  • Assertion that addressing complex problems requires creativity, flexibility, and integration of diverse perspectives.

Key Challenges:

  • Resistance from scientists accustomed to disciplinary silos and reductionist methodologies.
  • Lack of institutional support and incentives for interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Need for a shift in mindset among scientists to prioritize societal impact over academic achievements.
  • Overcoming entrenched power dynamics within the scientific community.
  • Bridging the gap between academic research and practical problem-solving.
  • Incorporating diverse forms of knowledge while ensuring rigor and reliability.

Main Terms:

  • Scientific temper
  • Reductionism
  • Multidisciplinary approach
  • Human sciences
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Social embeddedness
  • Empirical testing
  • Holistic understanding

Important Phrases:

  • “Science-society border”
  • “Climb down from the ivory tower”
  • “Human complexities”
  • “Tacit knowledge”
  • “Integration of knowledge”
  • “Extended peer community”
  • “Proper scientific temper”
  • “Cross-cultural conversation”


  • “While religion is a sacred cow that doubles up as a cash cow, science is a cash cow that can often double up as a sacred cow in India.”
  • “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
  • “Science leaves this kind of integration of knowledge from other sources out of the ‘scientific method’ altogether.”
  • “A traditional puzzle solver scientist is like the mediocre artist who starts with a clearly visualized picture in mind and ends up painting it without leaving any scope for growth and change during the process.”


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Useful Statements for mains value addition:

  • “The time has come for a large chunk of scientific forces to be re-deployed on the science-society border to scout for solutions to real-life problems.”
  • “The natural sciences then need to work in tandem with human sciences.”
  • “A variety of perspectives and methods from different disciplines need to be brought to bear on a complex real-life problem.”
  • “Philosophy has interacted fruitfully with business and medicine on issues of ethics and reproductive technologies.”
  • “Science must confront the uncomfortable prospect of dealing with human complexities.”

Examples and References for qauality enrichment:

  • The frothing Bellandur lake in Bengaluru vs. scholarly papers on the “giant gravity hole in the Indian Ocean.”
  • Collaborations between philosophy, business, and medicine on ethical issues.
  • Real-life problems such as human cloning, stem cell research, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with religious components.

Facts and Data:

  • Reference to Manu Rajan, a retired information scientist from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.
  • Mention of the threats posed by developments such as artificial intelligence.
  • Reference to the prevalence of disciplinary silos and reductionist approaches in Indian scientific institutions.

Critical Analysis:

The article provides a compelling critique of the current scientific paradigm in India, highlighting its limitations in addressing real-life problems. It emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and the integration of knowledge from the humanities and social sciences. However, it could provide more concrete examples of successful interdisciplinary efforts and practical strategies for fostering collaboration. Additionally, the article could address potential challenges in implementing its proposed changes, such as institutional resistance and resource constraints.

Way Forward:

  • Promote interdisciplinary research initiatives and provide incentives for collaboration.
  • Establish platforms for dialogue and knowledge exchange between scientists and diverse stakeholders.
  • Invest in education and training programs that emphasize holistic problem-solving skills.
  • Foster a culture of humility, curiosity, and openness to diverse perspectives within the scientific community.
  • Encourage partnerships between academic institutions, government agencies, and civil society organizations to address pressing societal challenges.

In conclusion, the article advocates for a paradigm shift in Indian science towards a more inclusive, interdisciplinary approach that prioritizes real-life problem-solving and societal impact. By embracing diverse forms of knowledge and collaborating across disciplines, scientists can better address the complex challenges facing society.

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