‘India and China to be next hub of Nobel laureates in medicine’

Portrait of Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) by Gösta ...
Portrait of Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) by Gösta Florman (1831–1900). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Times of India

STOCKHOLM: India’s rising economic might will soon help produce a Nobel laureate in medicine, predicted the man who chairs the committee that picks Nobel laureates. 

The secretary general of the Nobel CommitteeGoran K Hannson told the TOI in an exclusive interview that his recent visit to India and China and having seen the backing for scientific research by the respective governments made him optimistic that a future Nobel laureate would come from these two countries. 

“India has had a strong tradition of science. But it takes time to build up infrastructure for biomedical research. Funding to back these projects also need to be based on merit, novelty and importance of the research. I was impressed with the backing scientific research was receiving in India and I predict it is not long before India produces a Nobel laureate in medicine,” Hannson told TOI. 

He however had a simple message for Indian youngsters. “In the end, individuals win Nobel prizes, not governments. Governments definitely play a major role in making things possible for an individual but it is ultimately upto a person to work towards a Nobel. It is time Indian youngsters started to dream of one,” Hannson said, 

Jan-Inge Henter, a highly influential member of the Nobel Committeewho was among the three top officials who announced the 2013 Nobel Prize for Medicine told TOI that an increase in India’s economic might will naturally lead to the strengthening of scientific and cultural might, ultimately producing Nobel laureates. 

Henter told TOI “Some countries like US and Germany have had a long tradition and strong history of research in medical science. This also makes top scientists move to these countries and win a Nobel. They have over the years built up tradition to do research. They have lot of science campuses which India should learn from. But I strongly believe that as India and China improves as an economic power, it will become strong as a place for scientific research”. 

According to Henter, India should identify scientific fields it is strong in and invest behind them. 

At a time when India is being looked at as the next big knowledge superpower, recent data on India’s position on backing scientific research has been shameful. 

Just 3.5% of global research output in 2010 was from India. In most disciplines, India’s share in global research output was much below this overall average count. 

For example, India’s share of world research output in clinical medicine was a paltry 1.9% in 2010, psychiatry (0.5%), neurosciences (1.4%), immunology (1.8%), molecular biology (2.1%) and environmental research (3.5%). 

In mathematics, India’s share of world output stood at around 2% in 2010, while it was 17% for China. 

In case of materials sciences, India’s share of world research was at 6.4% in 2010, while China’s stood at 26% — a rise from 5% in 1996. 

These are the findings of the study on India’s research output and collaboration conducted byThomson Reuters recently submitted to the department of science and technology. 

“India has been the sleeping giant of Asia. Research in the university sector, stagnant for at least two decades, is now accelerating but it will be a long haul to restore India as an Asian knowledge hub. Indian higher education is faced with powerful dilemmas and difficult choices – public/private, access/equity, uncertain regulation, different teaching standards and contested research quality,” the report said. 

So what would Hannson like to see scientists work on which is worth a Nobel? 

He told TOI “research into agriculture or life sciences to figure out how to feed the planet.” 

Interestingly the biggest declines in volume of research between 1981 and 2010 in India have been in the field of plant and animal sciences (-2.2%) and agricultural sciences (-1.6%). 

The report said “India has a long and distinguished history as a country of knowledge, learning and innovation. In the recent past, however, it has failed to realize its undoubted potential as a home for world class research. During the 1980s and 90s, the output of India’s research was almost static while other countries grew rapidly, particularly in Asia. China expanded with an intensity and drive that led it rapidly to overtake leading European countries in the volume of its research publications. India is just beginning on this gradient”.

Original article appeared in Times of India

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