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India's R&D: Reaching for the Top

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Science  04 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5714, pp. 1415-1417
DOI: 10.1126/science.1110729

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Signs are accumulating that India is on course to becoming one of the world's scientific and technological leaders. Rather than fleeing the country, often for good, more and more young scientists now are opting to stay or at least return to India. Not only are living conditions improving, but opportunities for exciting work are exploding owing to a growing roster of research and development (R&D) centers that multinational companies have been establishing there in recent years. Moreover, India's indigenous R&D culture is shifting from one of emulation to one of innovation across categories ranging from biopharmaceuticals to automotive engineering, according to Raghunath A. Mashelkar, director general of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), a chain of 38 publicly funded industrial R&D institutions in India. A "returnee" himself years ago even as his peers were leaving India, he argues that a positive-feedback dynamic--one that even might be abetted by pedagogical innovations that could quickly shrink the country's illiteracy problem--has set in, opening the possibility that India, a country of 1 billion people, could become the world's top center of knowledge production by 2020.

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