IISc Bangalore Prof. on Harsh Reality of Indian Science | Arindam Ghosh on Abhijit Chavda Podcast 31 | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "IISc Bangalore Prof. on Harsh Reality of Indian Science | Arindam Ghosh on Abhijit Chavda Podcast 31".


Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.


Intro (00:00)

And this is one of the reasons our ranking goes down. Today, people are talking about rankings and things like ISE is nowhere in why, in spite of being one of one of the best institutions in the country. Now, what I do is that I go down to individual building blocks of these individual materials. I put them together and then I try to extract the best of all worlds. Doing science and doing other kinds of professional areas are different because science is a generation of knowledge in comparison to what doesn't exist. This is where the research in DRDO is important as much as in an academic institution outside because the technology is continuously improving in all aspects. The following is a conversation with Dr. Aryendam Ghosh. Dr. Ghosh is a physicist and a professor at IISC Bangalore. Please subscribe and enjoy the podcast. Dr. Aryendam Ghosh, welcome to the Abhijit Chawada podcast. Thank you very much for agreeing to do this. Thank you. So we last met in Pondicherry a few months ago and we had a couple of interesting conversations. You spoke about the state of affairs in science in India and clearly we have problems in India. And we are a nation with so much talent, so much potential. And we are sitting here in the Indian Institute of Science, the topmost institute in India where the best students come. So I would like to understand from you, I would like to get the landscape from you as to what are the issues that plague India that have been hampering us for so many years. And what we can do about this.

Challenges And Issues In India'S Science And Research Field

Budget Limited Fundamental Abuses (01:32)

First of all, you do research experimentally, correct? Right. So what issues do you face? So I mean, there are issues at various fronts. I mean, it's and I think every country has issues when it comes to research and development. India has its own issues and India has issues which are very specific to India's ecosystem, which is not disconnected from India society. India, how we grow, how do we educate ourselves, our primary education, secondary education, and that becomes a higher education. On top of that, there are issues connected to our political and, you know, administrative structures, which affects us as well, research. So this is not uncommon. And one has to still do and try to see how we can make ourselves better.

Why Science is A Complicated Question (02:31)

Now, there are issues which need to be solved if we have to become one of the most leading nations when it comes to generation of knowledge, science and technology and research in general. Any field research is about generation of knowledge, not assimilation only. So we need to bridge certain crucial gaps. And if you ask me, academic front, what are the crucial gaps? I would first say bridge the gap between research institutions and the universities. For example, today, most of the universities are where teaching is done. Whereas the research is done in the research institutions where the number of undergraduate students are extremely small. So really, if you look at in India, this landscape, there are about 40,000 institutions of higher education. Less than 1% of these institutions have research in it. Indeed. Yes. Okay. So that's a huge problem. So what you are doing is that you are not exposing the people when in their undergraduate after class 12 or something of that sort, when they're doing bachelor's in any branch of science and technology, you are not giving them any glimpse of what's the cutting edges. Yes. As a result, they are essentially mugging up, they're just reading something because they have to get a degree at the end of it. But the whole idea of what's the rewards of actually being at the cutting edge and try to extend the cutting edge by doing research is not apparent to them. There is another very important effect of this. It also makes people not ask questions beyond their textbooks. Indeed. We don't ask questions. We are discouraged from asking questions. We are discouraged from asking questions because all we have to do is say that, okay, that's written in your textbook. You just read it properly, make sure you understand what's going on there. And that will help you to get good marks in your exams. We never ask questions, okay, is what is written in the textbook enough? Indeed. Because that's where the research starts. Otherwise, why would I do research? Exactly. Correct. So that makes a very large number of students come out of our higher education institutions without the training to ask questions beyond what's being told to them.

Theres a Big Issue With Tech Not Being Present In The Country (05:04)

Yes. And this is a massive problem. It's a massive problem. A massive problem. You are not excited by something which is not written, of which answer is not known. That's research. Yes. Correct. So this is a problem and this problem needs to be sorted, not just for the higher education and research, but the society in general to become a skilled society in the longer run. Because of this, what has happened is that we do not have students who would like to take up research oriented development, like high tech manufacturing and similar kind of structures are simply absent in India. Yes. Today, the government is coming with Atman, Ivar Bharat and various other schemes. But where will those people come from if you do not have a structure which will allow high tech industry to come up? Yes. Right. So we don't have absorption power. Today, there are new schemes. Quantum technologies is the scheme. National Research Foundation is the scheme. The government is trying to put in a lot of money in terms of thousands of crores. But it is not clear how we will absorb them in the system because there are very few takers. India has a subcritical number of researchers. Only 250 people per million of Indian population is doing research. Okay. Look at, okay, you say that, okay, we have got such a large country. Look at China. China is 2000. 2000 per million. You can go to European countries. There are countries which are got, which are Korea, five to 6000 people per million population are doing research on Indian. So this is actually a worry. This is a worry and I feel that this is connected to the way our education system has developed over the past few decades. Absolutely. Okay. So we simply are not inspiring enough people to do research. Yeah. So this is a social impediment that we would like to solve. Okay. The second question is the critical number question, which is connected to the governments and bureaucratic situation.

Issues with Hiring People In research (07:13)

We have reasons to be very vigilant on various aspects because of our safety, security issues. And as a result, there are lots of red bottlenecks and red tapes in hiring people from not just India, but all over the world. Right. Right. So what it makes is that our workforce is extremely localized. It's very difficult to get diversity. Yes. And diversity in research is the key to research. It's the key to research. Absolutely. Yeah. If you look at the number of institutions, the number of students from outside in the topmost institution like IIC, you will have 10 people who are doing out of 5,000, 6,000 members of Indians of Science, which is Abhishman. That's Abhishman. Abhishman. Yes. And this is one of the reasons our ranking goes down. Today, people are talking about rankings and things that IIC is nowhere in why, in spite of being one of the best institutions in the country, why we don't have ranking above 50 or below 50. Okay. Right. There's a reason behind it is because we do not simply qualify in certain directions. So diversity of workforce, scientific workforce is one of the key elements. There are others, there are others, but for example, both in faculty and students. So diversity as in what? Diversity in workforce. Diversity as this means the, in our scientific ecosystem, what are the kind of, what are the different slabs? We have faculty members, we have the students, we have got project students, we have got support administrative staff. We have no diversity. It's only a very specific, okay, you can, whether having someone from Calcutta and having someone from Manipur and someone from Tamil Nadu is not really a diversity we're talking about. We are talking about diversity in terms of ethnic diversity. We are talking about geographic nationality. Okay. Right. Diversity, gender diversity. Right.

The Pain They Experience Is May Be Unequal (09:28)

So I think Indian institutions strongly lack diversity and part of those reasons are the bureaucratic bottlenecks that are imposed because of other reasons which are beyond our control. Okay.

The Gap Between Academics And Research Institutions Is A Big Story In India (09:42)

So some of those need to be done. I mean, there is another point also because for example, in India, the financial remunerations are not at the same abroad. Even within India, the corporate and the academic sector, there is a very large gap in the financial remunerations. Actually, in the corporate, there are more number of diversity than this. So one has to bridge those gaps as well. I would finally say that there is one aspect that is right now is one of the burning issues and that's called the ease of doing science. Ease of doing science. Yeah. This is the third one and I feel that these three are the most important. The ease of doing science or research in India is one of the most critical aspect that is becoming more and more of concern of it. Because the bureaucracy has made, this is science is about freedom where you do not want to restrict a scientist or researcher to think about bureaucratic bottlenecks, for example, in the purchase processes, in getting the funds released on time, in getting the reports done. So there are a huge amount of non-essential time taking processes that in India, the faculty members and the researchers will have to do.

3 Things That Are Important & Poisonous (11:04)

That takes away valuable time. As a result, the ease of doing research is something which needs to have a serious look into and a complete overhauling of the system. So I would say that if these three areas can be looked into, connecting Indian research institutions to universities, creating bureaucratic efficient ecosystem which allows diversity in the scientific workforce and looking at ease of doing research by looking at the internal governance of the scientific ecosystem.

Fixing our Education System (11:44)

These three are the most important points in my view in getting to propelling our research to the international standard. Right. So you spoke about the fact that we are not allowed, our kids are not allowed to question the teacher, right? And this is something that's ingrained into you since day one, since kindergarten. You're not allowed to ask questions. You have this kid who is full of curiosity, full of passion about various things, intelligent kids, and that curiosity is smashed out of them year after year after year. And that's what happens. So how do we fix this? We'll have to fix the education system. Correct. I mean, the way kids are educated, which means we have to fix the teachers. Right. So how do we do this? Right. So you see, this is where the teachers are more important than the kids. Indeed, yes. Because the teachers will have to have themselves allowed to ask questions. Okay. And teachers should know how questions should be encouraged. Yes. Right. So I, there has been lots of debates on this. For example, in UGCs, the questions whether if you want to get a job in colleges today, whether a PhD is essential, because often PhD, not always, I have to be careful there, not always, but often, one of the important aspects of doing PhD is, can you ask a question which is beyond what is there as a state of the knowledge, state of the art. So that naturally makes people ask questions. Yes. But there are other ways also, it's not that the masters don't ask questions, of course they do, or the bachelors, of course they do, but that's the PhD essentially teaches somebody that's the mandate of a PhD. Okay. So the question is, if the teachers are trained how to ask questions, and for that, whether even at the lower, at the lower level of high school or primary school, if the teachers are having that background, probably that's going to help. Okay. You allow students to ask questions, allows kids to ask questions, because you are comfortable with it. Yes. Right. So most of these cases, the teachers are not comfortable themselves. They can't handle the question. They can't handle the question. Yes. They can't handle, even worse, I would say Abhijit is, is when teachers take this as an attack to their intellect. Indeed. Yes. Yes. Asking questions is, say, suppose somebody asks a question, I said good question. The student is very happy. Yeah. Now people don't know what is meant by that good question. When I, when I ask a question to you, and it's a good question, you say good question, because you already have the answer, you have thought about it. If the student essentially sits and says, the teacher essentially doesn't respond, or starts thinking that should not become an, an evidence of the teacher's lack of knowledge. Yes. Right. So what we have to do is make sure that when the students ask questions and teacher doesn't know it, think aloud. Think aloud. Yes. That's right. Try and solve it on the spot. And, and try to keep a discussion going with the students. Exactly. So that, okay, it's interesting that you've thought about it. Go back to first principle. Let's go to first principle. And then, because it is not about, you ask question and I have the answer. Yeah. Right. Yes. So this is something which I do whenever a student comes for PhD in my group. So first thing I tell them that, look, first of all, if you have thought that I'll give you a problem, you solve it, and then you go home and with PhD, you are seriously mistaken. Right. If I had known the answer, then I wouldn't have given you the problem for a PhD. Yes. So don't expect answers from me. You and I will work together. So that's, that's the culture that needs to be instilled at the earliest stage. Right. But the student should be allowed and encouraged to ask questions. And if the teacher knows the answer is great, if the doesn't know the answer, engage with the student and try and solve together. Yes. Rather than taking it as an ego. So I think we will have to re-educate the teachers. Who's going to be doing the re-educating? We've got, I don't know, hundreds of millions of, I know, millions of teachers for sure. Yeah. This is a question which is probably, I think the government needs to take this up and find a solution. This is where the, our new education policies and are required about how to restructure the schools and college systems. But at the end of the day, we have to go back to the board and start educating teachers. That's what needs to happen. That's what needs to happen. What do you make of the new education policy? Well, I mean, then there is certainly a lot of new areas, which I have to say that, that there are details of the new education policies, which are beyond my jurisdiction or my understanding or my areas of expertise to comment on. But there are, there are recommendations like the NRFs, for example, this is one of the key recommendations of the new education policy, which are of the right direction. Okay. So new education policies are being implemented at different colleges. There's no doubt about it in terms of hiring, in terms of what is expected of the teachers and educators. So I will not be able to give you very strong details of that, but I can tell you that overall this new education policy was required, but the implementation needs to be honest. You know, you can make the best policy on paper. You can make a best policy, but it will not work if you want. Your implementation must be honest. Implementation must be in based on, you know, the spirit in which the new education policy was given.

Empirically set promotional (17:58)

Yes. Rather than, rather than this coding some points, how much area you need for student, how many teachers per student, and so on, so forth. But one has to be meticulous in the spirit of the new education policies. Right. You spoke about connecting research institutes to universities. Correct. Why can't universities themselves become research institutes? Why can't every professor be required to do a certain amount of research? Correct. Per year or in five years or whatever. Why can't we do that? Well, I mean, there are such requirements now. Okay. Because of, you know, I mean, including new education policies and other promotional requirements, teachers need to engage in some form of research for promotion. That is required. That is essential. Okay. But the problem is, this is what I said about implementation needs to be honest. Because now what the teachers do, they have to somehow get five or a few publications. Well, there are ways to do that. There is always to do that. And one of the big problems of that. It's an emerging problem. It's a massive emerging problem. Predatory journals. Yes. Is an immediate outcome of this. Yes. And why are this happening is because the teachers simply have to show that there is research component in my performance and hence I'm eligible for promotion. We cannot, we cannot have this kind of a situation system. We can't. Right. So what's the way out? Yeah. This. Now, the way out will have to be making research as a key element of your promotion and providing quality as much as this quantity. See right now, the promotions for most universities and colleges are based on numbers. Numbers. Not particularly worried about where you are publishing. Okay. So if you make quality as a requirement, then naturally it will not be as easy to just get something done. Yes. And as opposed to actually thinking and strategizing and carrying out the research. Now, the problem in that is that it's very easy for me to sit here in IIC and say, okay, that university over there will have to have three publications in this high impact journals. That's easy for me to say here, but where is the infrastructure for that? It's not easy. You have to create the infrastructure. It's a check and a like problem. You need to create an infrastructure to demand performance from your from your resources, human resources, right? So I guess now with this NRF and various other processes that we will be able to create infrastructure, at least partially to the level that can give a launching pad. Okay. This for the local human resource and say, okay, fine, start with this. So we have to ask quality. Now is the time that we have to ask quality. There is no other way out. We have to raise our standards. We have to raise our standard at the grassroots level. At the grassroots level, bottom up, bottom up. It has to be. Yes. Now there is a, we spoke about research. What do you make of the quality of the PhDs in India? I mean, everybody, lots and lots of PhDs are churned out every year. What do you make of the quality? Is each PhD worth the same? No, of course not. Like the diversity, we have a diversity in the quality. There's a massive, massive range in the quality of PhDs that come out of India from different institutions. There is no doubt about it. There are premier institutions, tier one institutions where you have a very strong, you know, you can, you can, you can be certain that the PhDs are of dependable quality. The moment you go away, it becomes very fluctuating, very PI dependent. Okay. And the quality control is very poor. For example, who checks your thesis? Indeed. Yes. Right. Who gives that certification? Yes. That this thesis is a internationally acceptable thesis. Yes. Now we require a countrywide common minimum platform on which the thesis must be evaluated. Yes. Again, this will require the standard to be of that level. Yes. And infrastructure to be the common minimum also to demand such kinds of, you know, this output. It has to happen organically. It's not a one day job. But I think what's needed here is both the government has to give this, give the seed funding. And there needs to be people from the private and the industrial front to come. And then augment that and supplement that to raise the bar everywhere. Right. Right now, places like I see, I it is, etc. You can close your eyes and say that, okay, these are very good quality students and they will come out with a very good quality training. But that's not the case when you go to tier two or even lower. Right. It's not. Yeah. Now, about promotions, what's the process of promotion in India?

Promotional tenureship (23:02)

Is it based on seniorities? Is it based on the number of papers you published? What's the requirement to be promoted? Right. So, so one good thing that has happened in India over the last, I would say, five to 10 years, five years to six years, I would say more accurately is that in promotion is now becoming connected strongly to tenureship. Now, if you're if you're a faculty member in an institution, at least I can tell you that in IITs, IICs for sure, that the tenureship is something which is taken very seriously. Okay. That is you become permanent. And first, the tenureship confirmation is taken as a first promotion to assistant associate on other systems will have different promotional slaps. But okay, once you are associated to a professor, there's usually much less, I would say, evaluation. Okay. But the first stage of evaluation at a younger level, from a tenure confirmation to assistant associate professor is usually taken very seriously. Okay. I keep on getting a large number of applications for the evaluation of promotions. And I look at different institutions. There are certain expectations and that expectation needs to be continuously increased. There are there are usually a guideline given to us as evaluators. All right. Do you think this person has produced high quality research during his or her five years of assistant professorship? And how do you evaluate the impact of research? Yes, correct. Usually, if you have impacted, it deflects in good quality journals where you publish your results or, or patent and things like that.

Distinguish between research and teaching pursuits (24:52)

Now, we find that that bar is very institution specific. Okay. And this is also where a common minimum probably as though it's difficult needs to be created. So, I think I think it's improving the premium institutions like IIC, for example, it's hard. Okay. And it's the expectations are very high. But that's not the case as you go to other institutions tattoo and as well. And also the there is a question that is not always clear. It's you have to make people very clear about what they believe their output should be. Now, some people, for example, would come with an idea that they would like to solve a big problem. Okay. So, that means you will have to give devote a lot of time and effort to come with something which will be which will be a very large impact, but it may not have an obvious output in the next five years. Yes, right. There would be other people who will come and say that, okay, I'm working in this infield or in this very hot field. And I'm going to continuously churn out papers. Okay. Now, how do you accommodate both of them? Yes. In the same evaluation criteria, you really can't, right? You cannot. You cannot. So, this is where this is where evaluation or serious evaluation of promotion that comes into. Yes. Okay. So, one has to one has to accommodate such kind of fluctuations. Last point I would like to add is there is also confusion that how much of weightage that teaching should be when you are evaluating scientists, because you have to clear about your mandate. You are teaching, you are doing research, you are doing administrative support type of things. For example, there are committees and you have to say, okay, so there are these kind of outreach kind of jobs as well. So, what's the right parameter with which you evaluate. Again, there is a very large diversity of among the institutions in India, where these criteria are evaluated. So, different weightages. They are giving different weightages. So, for example, in some places as teaching, if you've got good teaching, your teacher school, student feedback is sufficient. Is that enough for a promotion as to the associate professorship or beyond the entry level? If you are a research institution, it should not be. But again, you should not completely say that, okay, you are teaching, but that is not going to go into your into your promotion evaluation or tenuorship application. So, one has to have a proper criteria settled, which should be clear from when a faculty member joins. Right. And then you evaluate after five years that, okay, have you performed or not? So, how would you compare somebody like Ramamurthy Shankar with someone like Richard Feynman, very different people. One was completely focused on teaching Shankar, writing books, Feynman, pure researcher. How do you compare people like that? Right. So, this is hard, but at the end of the day, you have to consider both of them and the impact they had. That's very important to have. Like if you have Ramamurthy Shankar, who has taught a bunch of fantastic students. Absolutely. Right. Yes. Because of his ability to inspire students in the field. Yes. He is going to be as important as Feynman, who has done fantastic innovative work and produced new knowledge. Yes. And showed the world how it can lead to a quantum computer. Yes. Right. So, I think it's a very hard question.

Impact (28:39)

I think the key criterion is impact. Key criterion is impact. Yes. Impact in view from the perspective of a peer. Yes. You got to go outside and this is very important. You evaluate impact of a person's work, but you get it evaluated by a set of neutral people who are knowledgeable in the domain. You should be able to, there should be impartiality in evaluation of the institution. Absolutely. And this is something which is not always the case. It's lacking, I'm sure, in the system here. Right. Yeah. So, this is a crucial impact point here. Right. So, in India, how long does it take typically for someone to become a full professor? Very dependent on institutions. Once again. Actually, IITs. Yeah. Very much so. Because IITs and IICs is very different. Even IITs and IICs are different. Okay. For example, in IITs, I've seen people get a promotion in four years because of the, you have to admit that in IITs, often the teaching load per se is much more. Whereas, IICs relatively less, although that's increasing now. Whereas, in IIC, the typical assist entry level to the full professorship takes about 14 years. 14 years. Yeah. Because it's seven years roughly. Okay. After six years, you probably give the papers and then you get, yeah, you get it evaluated, it takes about another year and after about six to seven years, you get a promotion. So, you typically come in as a postdoc. You typically finish your postdoc and come. Okay. That's the entry point. Okay. Usually, we look for about three years of postdoc. Okay. At least. So, a person is typically 27, 28 by the time they come in? No, no. I would say early 30s. Early 30s. Yeah. So, you're in your mid-40s by the time you become a professor. Yeah. Yeah. I mean 45 is for the median age. I see. But when you go back to the birth of the quantum theory, where people like Boha who became full professors and heads of department by the age of 30. Okay. You know, so they, at that time when the, when quantum theory was being created, you know, they were promoting people based on the research they were doing and the impact it was having. Right. So, is that not a good thing? Or do you need to go through the process? Well, I've got other examples where people haven't become, who eventually went on to win the Nobel prize and become a professor at the age of 50. Okay. The reason behind it is that, okay, these are specific cases. Specific cases. Right. And, and we also have cases where students who did extremely quickly, finished extremely quickly and became a faculty member at the age of 25, 28. Okay. For example, there are, there are cases. It's not that they are not there. So, if they stick to the system, then by the end of, by late 30s, they will become full professor. Okay. Right. So, but there are such exceptions, but in general, given the fact that you finish PhD at the age of 20, you finish your master's at the age of 23. Yes. That's the standard. Typically 23. You take five years for a PhD. 28. You go for three years of post-op. 31. 31. So, you join in early 30s, 31, 32. And, you know, by and large, that's the standard. That's the standard. Right. Do you think there's enough incentive to do really high quality research? For instance, in China, they have a thousand tyrants per hour. Correct. They have all these things, but they gave incredible amounts of money for doing really high quality cutting edge work. And they will bring in people from all over the world. Right. Do we need something like that? Right. So, this is where there is absolutely certain there is a need for such schemes in India. And the scientists must be rewarded and appreciated by the system because doing science and doing other kinds of professional areas are different because science is generation of knowledge in comparison to what doesn't exist. Yes. And it's always a global comparison that comes in. Always. It needs a very different faculty of mind. Yes. Whereas, you cannot club scientists with other kinds of professions. Engineers, for example. Engineers are also doing research at some point. Okay. I'm talking about other spheres. Say an economist who is going there and going to an office on a regular nine to five job is different. Right. They deal, they do hard work too, but it's different in core concept. So, in order to appreciate that, okay, you have demonstrated ability of mind that is unique in the world and you have performed and made our lives better, requires an appreciation. Otherwise, younger people will simply get disheartened that, okay, I'm doing exactly the same job. I'm, you know, I'm getting exactly the same amount of appreciation, but I'm doing so much better, visibly better because today it is very easy to evaluate the quality of your science. And if you and I are earning same money and same resources, using the same resources, whereas you are producing visibly higher quality work and we are being applauded by a large number of people all over the globe. Whereas, I'm being incremental work, coming every day and going back by five o'clock and then switching off and doing something else. Tomorrow, you will ask yourself, what am I doing? Because I am doing much better than my colleague. Why is my system not appreciating? It's disheartening. So, we should have systems, we should have structures, we should appreciate this performance because if you are performer, you are going to help me, you are going to have the society far more than a person who is not performing. Exactly. So, this system must allow that kind of flexibility to make performers visible. Whether a thousand talent program or something like that can work, answer is yes, it will work. And although not in exactly same form because there's a lot of things that can happen in China that is difficult to happen in India because in China, you just take people there and then you pay them in the manner that they are, they were in their host institutions and you give them enough resources to start something. In India, this will have to develop in an organic manner with a structure that comes here. We should not be having disparity because that will create a non-equilibrium system and that's never sustainable. Even in China, thousand talent program, while it is very successful initially, but you know there are now concerns of various types and there are issues which needs to be sorted. But I think what India needs to do is to increase the number of people in research. Internally, they should do this university and institutional connection, but also now there are schemes like VIVEHAB. What is that? VIVEHAB is a scheme in which you reach out to India in diaspora and let them come over to India, collaborate and give them fellowships to stay and spend time in India. This is a highly skilled workforce, the hoochies of Indian origin and distributed all over the world.

Global Influence And Aspirations In Research

Vivehav- CUNY Reach Out (36:05)

We need their help, seriously, we need their help. We need their help to teaching our students, we need their help to help our research because these are high quality people. So we need to create such structures and slowly we need to go from India in diaspora to everybody. We should be able to engage with the world and India has been to certain extent, this was the case with China 30 years ago or something. India needs an engagement with the outer world and we need to devise schemes which doesn't look out of equilibrium from the system, but we engage with the world, use the expertise around us to improve ourselves and at the same time allow other people to get enriched by interacting with us.

Focus on China (36:51)

It needs to be a give and take. Yeah, give and take, mutual benefit thing. China in the 1980s started a program, a bunch of programs, a series of sequential programs aimed at revamping their education system, the quality of the universities, the research, the kind of research that's done there and they have probably invested more than a trillion dollars in this and it's showing results. Does India need to take, learn from China and try to do something similar over here, maybe over a 30 year time scale? Well, I mean, as I said, India needs to do something which will improve India's visibility and engagement outside. Question is whether it should do exactly what China has done. Something tailored to India? No, I mean something, correct. So India needs to do something that suits India's system and the psyche of the people and the system that is prevalent in India. It is hard to say that, okay, you cannot tomorrow get a lot of people. Russia has done that sometime back and they started skaltake and essentially creating isolated centers of very high quality people, paid them huge amount of money.

Creating world-class research infrastructure (37:59)

Question is whether that kind of model will work in India. I personally feel that it will be difficult to create non-equilibrium structures. Okay. You need to devise structures which makes high quality people come in and not feel that they are compromising their financial and other scientific ambition.

The challenges of building a science culture abroad (38:29)

But at the same time, we should make sure that the system welcomes them and integrates them within itself. So I think this is an administrative challenge as much as anything else. Okay. There are ideas and we need to develop them and we need to make sure that we create a very integrated structure. And China, I think is not the right model. What's the right model? The right model will be to create infrastructure. First, you give people the satisfaction of doing science. Yes. So you cannot have just, you know, tell people, okay, I'm going to give you $1000 and tell them, okay, you come and stay in India. It's not working. I mean, some people with the family connection might come, but you want best quality people. Yes. So you want people to feel that they are able to do science to the extent that they feel they can, they're able to. So for that infrastructure building is necessary. Yes. That's number one. The second is you have to also be aware of their financial and professional benefits. Yes. Now for professional benefits, doing science is one thing. Other thing is engagement with the world. So you have to make sure that there is sufficient amount of resources that's available for them to go for conferences, attend meetings and various other professional activities. Yes. Outreach so that they feel that they are scientific and professional ambitions are being satisfied. I would say that is at least 50 to 60% of what is required. And then comes their financial and quality of life issues. That's very important. That's extremely important. Yes. I mean, I think low living, high thinking is a good point to say. Theoretically. But I think when it comes to realistic situations, if you tomorrow you give somebody one third the salary the person deserves and say that, okay, now you do great science, it's not going to work. So we have to be mindful of that. Yes. So then you have this is where private and public partnership becomes so important. And because there are certain limitations within the government that we cannot go out of equilibrium. There's a structure. Yes. And the economy is going up. Our salaries, our financial limitations are going up as a whole. Okay. But it's still not at the global level. It's not particularly with the developed countries. Yes. So how can we still able to make certain cases so that we can get the best people? This is where private partners must come into play. And I think if the private partners come, then we will solve this problem significantly, where we can create new fellowships, where we can make create named fellowship, named fellowship, named chair, chair positions, named professors positions, named postdoctoral positions. And then we can tell people, okay, you are, if you have demonstrated qualities, we will be able to, you know, absorb in the system without you feeling compromising anything in, in your professional or financial directions. Now, one of the ways science progresses fast is through conferences. You meet different people, you discuss the combination of ideas, you collaborate. Are there enough high quality conferences happening in India? Yes. It has, it has increased in time. But let me tell you the problems. The conferences are happening. There are large conferences. But in scientific ecosystem, science and technology, what we really now need is India becoming one of the regular, regular destinations for very large conferences. For example, conferences like American Physical Society Conference, which is the biggest conference as far as the physicist is concerned, very well, it's held in America, so six to 7000 people every year. Right. Right. Now in India, there are very, very few places where such conferences can happen. It's not that we cannot, there are this, there is lack of interest in from people come to India. The problem is the number of infrastructure for such conferences is low. It's now happening, it's starting to increase. Okay, it's now happening. So I think what we need is to build infrastructure for high quality global standard infrastructure for running conferences. And this needs to happen not just in foreign metropolitan cities. Yes. It needs to go beyond the metropolitan cities where you can have 3000, 4000 people conferences. And at the same time, give a flavor of India's surroundings beauty. I think we did something similar with the G20 thing. Yes. We held it all over the country. Correct. Yes. But that's a small number. That's a small number. Yeah. But imagine now we would like, say for example, in America, even a city like Baltimore, can have 6000, 7000 people conference. Definitely. Right. Yeah. Now, I don't think that's going to happen if you want to go to Kanpur. Won't happen. For sure. Right. We don't have that infrastructure. Yes. Even though we have fantastic IIT. So this is a problem that needs to be sorted. It's a problem that will hopefully get naturally solved once the economic condition improves. But that's required. So we need infrastructure to host very large conferences. The second I would point in this context, I would like to add is that India's presence in overseas conferences is very poor too. Poor. Okay. Yes. It's a two way street. You cannot expect a lot of people to come to India tomorrow suddenly. If you don't go out there and present yourself. Right. Yes. And it's a problem because it's a problem where India's presence in very large conferences are lower because of the lack of overseas funding, travel funding. Okay. And this is where we need to change the funding ecosystem and we need to integrate overseas funding in our standard projects. Okay. So that's so that a faculty can plan that okay, once I'm once I've done this research, I should be able to present it in any conference all over the world. Right. So this is something which needs to be so this is how conferences and our engagement and our visibility to the outer world needs to be improved without any doubt. Right. What do you make of this state of applied research in India, like organizations like DRDO, etc. What do you think is happening there? Because the best numbers that I have is that DRDO, the funding, the budget is about half of that of DARPA, roughly half, not an order of magnitude, but it's just half and DARPA has about 250 people on its payroll at any given point in time. DRDO has 30,000 people out of that 5,000 are scientists.

Indias quantum computing ambitions (45:15)

So who are the remaining 25,000 people and what are they doing? Right. I mean, I, okay, so I do, I do interact with DRDO, but I do interact with your scientists. So, you see, DRDO is a very large organization. And, and I think I would be, I would be unwise if I am to comment on what the other 25,000 people are doing. Okay. Because that's not something that I'm aware of. But I can certainly say that DRDO's mandate in science is very focused. Okay. Right. I mean, they need certain technologies to be developed in house. Yes. Okay. And, and, and, and this is where, this is where the research in DRDO is important as much as in an academic institution outside because the technology is continuously improving in all aspects, whether it is quantum technology, or whether it is submarine technology, whether it's missile technology, there is a continuous evolution of technologies. Right. Right. And, and many of these technologies are not available to DRDO from outside. They won't be available because they're all under sanctioned. Yes. They will simply not be given to us. Yes. So those technologies need to be developed within the country. And this is something which needs to be developed in DRDO environment where there is a significant amount of strategic interest and strategic secrecy that's going to be involved. So I'm quite sure, I'm quite sure DRDO recognizes the importance of next generation. I know this because DRDO is funding in futuristic technologies. Right. Right. Including quantum technology. Quantum technology. Right. Correct. So I think, you know, and, and what is even good sign, I would say is that they're engaging with academic institutions. Okay. So it's a win-win situation for both. Okay. Right. So I think, I think DARPA and DRDO are two different organizations and, and we work with different set of restrictions. We need to acknowledge that and try and do best we can. Right. You spoke about quantum technologies.

Quantum Computing (47:39)

What's the state of quantum computing research in India? Are we funding that out? Is anyone doing it? Yes, of course, they're doing it. Do we have a quantum computer in India? It depends upon what you, yeah, I mean, there are, there are the structure, there are four qubits, quantum computation. Four qubits? Yeah. Okay. In this department itself. I see. Yeah. Yeah. So this was originally started by the Ministry of Education and Information Technology, Center of Excellence in Quantum Technologies. I'm a part of it as well. Now, the question is, is the government funding quantum technologies? Yes. You know, the quantum, national quantum mission has just started with a key of about $750 million for about eight years, five, five years plus three years. I see. Right. Thing to do. And it's, it hopes to, to build a quantum ecosystem in India. Okay. But when you say quantum technologies, what people make the mistake of is that, okay, that's quantum computer. Quantum technology is much bigger. Yes. So today, quantum computer is one of the reasons why the government has funded it because everybody's scared that your bank account will be hacked tomorrow. But that's not really the worry, but quantum computers can probably do a lot of things which we simply are not aware of today. Yes. So that's why we must build it. Yes. Right. It's the same thing that people build, bring a parallel to the original classical computer. Yes. At some point of time, people didn't know what to do. Today, you know, what they're doing. So tomorrow, the same thing, probably with quantum computer. And so we must make it. Right. We must do it. Right. Okay. There are certain cases that will be possible, but where, where it will certainly help, where it is drug design, financial fluctuations, for fluctuations in the financial market, then various other solve, solving some difficult problems. Modeling quantum systems. Modeling quantum simulation, that is, one modeling quantum systems, search algorithms of these types. Right. So those things are known cases which are, but it may be once you have them, then you probably will figure out some, some more stuff to do with it. Yes. But then while doing some that we are now generating materials, we are making devices and we are making an ecosystem that will probably do much more than computation. Quantum sensing is one example. Quantum sensing means that you are now making devices which can measure various parameters like electric field, magnetic field, like temperature in or with a sensitivity that is beyond the classical state. Okay. So for example, the quantum enabled detectors, one of the goals of the hour quantum mission is to make nano G detectors, you know, detectors of gravimeters, for example. Gravimeters. Right. So essentially means that if you have the acceleration due to gravity, you will be able to measure the fluctuations in the, in that number with a accuracy of one part per billion. Okay. Now for this, you have a very different type of structure. There is very, there are very little hope that any classical technology will ever be able to do this. Okay. Whereas if you have quantum systems like the atoms, for example, there are ways in which such kind of extremely small fluctuations in acceleration due to gravity can be measured. Then you ask the question, what the hell, why should I do this? Why I need a fluctuation in the G? The answer is that, okay, what about plate tectonics, movements of plates, glintered plates? When you have that, then you have fluctuations. So can this be used to predict tsunamis, earthquakes, any kind of natural phenomena? Okay. So these questions can naturally arise. Or oil and gas natural exploration. If you have got exploration of oil and gas, there are fluctuations underneath the earth crust. And you can start using these kinds of gravimeters and these kinds of measurements of continental or acceleration due to gravity from there. So this is just one example. Right. Now the structure that is required is very much connected to the quantum, quantum enabled devices. Okay. The same enabled devices which will make quantum computation for you will also be at the core of making this quantum sensors. So you see, the goal is one thing, but the outcomes could be massive. Exactly what happened in CERN. So a lot of things happen in the particle colliders have led to so many companies, startups, spin-offs around it, which has got nothing to do with the accelerator or per se. But that's exactly what we are looking for. Right. So it's good that the government is funding this. What's the deal with LIGO India?

Advanced Research Topics

LIGO India (52:48)

I mean, it was sanctioned in 2015 or so, we're in 2023. Is there any progress? Well, I mean, I think there are other people who are more knowledgeable about this. But answer to that question is yes. There's been recently an approval and the sanction and there are a lot of the people like Astro's physicists and many other high energy colleagues of mine are quite excited. There is there's movements going on there. I see. So it moves at a certain pace. Yeah. Well, I mean, it took a lot of time, but it has been done.

Research (53:22)

Okay. I'm glad to know that. Yes. So when do you, I mean, I know that you're not involved in it, but no, when do you think when do you expect it to be ready? Well, I don't know. This is, this is something which is anybody's guess. I mean, I don't think I'm educated enough to talk about it. So what's the research that you're doing in the department? I am a quantum physicist. I work on anything that has got Planck's constant involved in it. You know, without that, I'm, I'm gone. If H is zero, then I don't exist. How about H is one? Well, very good. Yes. No, I work on various aspects of quantum mechanics. I look at materials with non-trivial quantum properties, which can lead to new phases of matter, electron-electron interaction at low temperatures. I look at electron-phonon interaction, which leads to superconductivity and how to engineer them. So one aspect of my work is, if you, if you summarize it is about emulating bottom-up interactions in nature to make new materials or artificial materials. So what I do is that I, I take, I take individual building blocks and then I make them interact with each other in a manner that I wish them to. And then see if it creates a property that will, you know, at the end of it, that is functionally much more superior. Okay. Okay. The reason is that when nature comes, nature gives you a certain set of systems. Okay. Hair is gold. It has got fantastic electrical conductivity. Yes. Hair is graphite. It has got a great thermal conductivity. Right? Hair is semiconductor. It can absorb light wonderfully. Now, what I do is that I go down to individual building blocks of these individual materials. Yes. I put them together and then I try to extract the best of all worlds. Okay. So I want to have a fantastic optical absorbance like a semiconductor with an electrical conductivity like gold. Okay. Okay. So that's the, that's my work. Okay. And similarly, this is, I'm talking about light and matter. Yes. But I can do all these things, light and heat, for example. Okay. I can do it light and flux vibrations. So I, or electrical, electron and phonons, electrons and vibrations of lattice. So I can do all sorts of fun things with the fundamental interactions can be emulated in artificial manner and I couple them together. So that's my research. Okay. And using that, I have found out that you can make fantastic optoelectronic detectors.

Whole Different Type of Memory (56:03)

Then right now we have optoelectronic systems, which is the most sensitive in the world because we have been able to couple very high absorbance and very high electrical conductivity together. Okay. The efficiency of electrical light and efficiency of electronic conduction can put together and we've been able to get the best of all which naturally doesn't exist. Okay. So similarly, I have, I have used them as memories. I've used them in thermal management, you know, as memories. How? Memories are usually where, you know, one of our, some of our work are connected to a neuromorphic computing. Okay. In which you try to make memories which will not only store information, but also process information. Okay. So this is one of the biggest, biggest areas of research in the world now, that people are looking for onsite calculations. Okay. So this is original von Neumann model. Yes. Essentially you take information, you store it and that's called RAM. Yes. ROM. Yes. And then you take it to RAM, where you, you process them and put it back to them. You page it and all of it. Yeah. You page it. Yeah. Right. So you need two different areas. Yes. Now that is time and energy and all sorts. Yes. It takes time. It takes time and not some energy as well. So now the neuromorphic computing comes up, which essentially does both at the same place. Okay. Okay. Where you process the information and store at the same place.

Running Simultaneously (57:44)

Okay. So this, there is a whole different type of memory to do that purpose. Okay. And those memories can be very different. It can be a molecule based memory. Okay. It can be ions in a channel which can, whose configuration will be the memory. For example, you change the configuration a little bit. It goes to a different state. That's like a memory. That's like a state. Okay. You, you put another pulse of light from somewhere or pulse of electric field from somewhere. It becomes a different configuration. That's another state where it stores information and you can make it go within these two states. Okay. One, two. So you are storing the configuration, which is the information and you are changing it on site using external pulses, which is like computation. Okay. So you can use this idea and what from the brain. So from the brain, from the brain, essentially you have got these neurons, which are connected at places, which are called a synapses synapses. Now synapses are very interesting. Please it synapse increases the trans is essentially through which the information goes from one neuron to the other. Now, if you don't want certain neurons to be active, because you have trained, this is the training of the brain, you switch them off. But if you want other neurons to be, to do that, do the job, you make the synapse conducting so that information can flow in the right path. So when we teach ourselves, we essentially configure our neurons based on which neuron is taking information, which neurons, which set of neurons are not doing so. So now the training of a synapse, whether it's the right synapse, whether it should carry information or it should block information is something which you can make electronically. Yes. So one of our work is essentially to create such kind of artificial electronic elements, which by application of external stimuli can either block information or carry information. So how do you create this? Using electronic devices. Electronic devices. Yeah. Like there are memories, there are, we use what a platform called 2D materials in which we create, we create a, like a semiconducting channel and near that we create a store of charge and we make charge flow in and out by external electrical pulses. And the amount of charge that is stored near the semiconducting channel determines how much current flows in the semiconductor channel. So I can store this amount of charge with my fantastic control. So the current through this is exactly controlled by the amount of charge that is stored nearby. So this is like a storage and the current is like a computation. Okay. Okay. So in the same device, we have got storage and the computations running simultaneously. So how long does the memory process? The moment it switch off the, no, it's a non-volatile memory. It's non-volatile. Okay. So there are various type of memories, both volatile and non-volatile memory have their own usage. Yes. This one is a non-volatile memory, but I can use with the same platform volatile memory as well. So which we have much shorter span by which the charge will go away because that's very important too for many applications. Yes. You need charge to travel. Yes. Make charges stay all the time, then resetting information is very difficult. Yes. Yes. Right. So what's the application of this? Can you create an artificial brain? Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, there are people who are doing it. Okay. Artificial brain is a very different. I mean, very basic. Yeah. I mean, if you think about the fact that if you want to mimic the brain with existing electronics, you know, the brain takes. The brain of a fruit fly, for instance. Yeah, brain of fruit. Okay. I'm talking about human fruit fly probably. For example, if you take human brain, it, it's about consumes 20 watt. Yeah. Right. And if you take artificial electronic systems to emulate everything that the brain does, it will cost you one megawatt. Yes. Right. So there is no way the existing literature will ever be able to emulate the brain. Yes. So that is why all these neomorphic directions are happening. There are very interesting directions. A lot of work happening in ISC as well.

Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics (01:02:05)

Now the, whether fruit flies brain can be emulated. I don't know, maybe. Right. So you're an experimentalist, but let me ask you a theoretical question. We are speaking about neural, neural, neuroscience, emulating the brain and all that. What do you think of consciousness? What do you think it is? Is it something that emerges out of the complexity of the brain? Well, I mean, like everybody, I keep on reading about it. I keep on thinking about it, but consciousness is something which is now, it's interesting to know that consciousness is a, a topic of physics research. It is. It's not, you know, it's not philosophical anymore. Yes. Right. I don't know. I mean, I don't even have a definition. We don't have a definition of consciousness. Yes. I mean, you know more than me on this. So I don't know. I mean, I believe the understanding of consciousness is going to require a very different design of experiments and tools. You know, I mean, it's very similar in many ways of quantum entanglement. I think quantum entanglement is, is at the basic of quantum technologies, but we really don't understand what one entanglement is. Yes. It's, it's not very different from consciousness in many ways. Right. How do you tell to, you know, once you entangled one, one pair of particles that, you know, it's, you know, the other, if you measure the measure this one, the state of the other, if you measure the state of the one another, how do you even fathom the consciousness, the concept of measurement in quantum mechanics? Yes. Right. Right. If something is not there, it may or may not exist. Yes. If you are not measuring it, I find that's as philosophical as science. Well, that's why we have a quantum mechanics. Right. Yeah. Correct. Yeah. So I think one has to, one has to take consciousness in that spirit. That is also, also a branch of, I would even take my neck out and say science. Okay. Which probably will have to one day be used in technology. I don't know. That's interesting. Yeah. Right. We have taken hundred years to use the weirdity of quantum mechanics. Maybe give us, take another hundred years, we will use consciousness in, in making new devices, which doesn't exist today. I don't know. Maybe. Who knows? Which interpretation makes the most sense to you? Interpretation of quantum mechanics. Makes the most sense to you. I don't know. I mean, okay. Yes. The spirit of the question is not clear, but, but let me start. There are so many different interpretations of many worlds interpretation, the Copenhagen interpretation, the Bowman mechanics, interpretation, so on, so forth, pilot wave theory, which, which interpretation makes sense to you? Well, I mean, all of them have got their own positives and negatives. So I don't think we should, I mean, I personally don't distinguish within any of them. Okay. And I take quantum mechanics as a, as a branch of science, which is, which has its own understanding, own interpretations. And you have to look at, you have to look at its totality rather than individual interpretations, per se. So I, I, you know, I, I don't think there's a point in, in delving on that matter. Okay. Right. What advances in physics excite you the most right now? And what questions interest you the most? There are lots of unsolved unanswered questions in physics. Of course, I mean, there are, there are some grand scientific challenges. And these grand scientific challenges are from understanding collective nature of the world. For example, waves, for example, flocking of birds to more technological challenges like room temperature, superconductivity, like quantum entanglement understanding is one thing. In high energy physics, there's detection of axions. There's a huge number of grand challenges, which I'm sure once understood it will, it will give us a whole new perspective to our existence. And hence in future technology. So I think, I think the fact that the more we learn, the bigger the questions become, yes, is the most fascinating aspects.

Nuclear Fusion (01:06:45)

It is, it is. What do you think of nuclear fusion? Do you think we can achieve it soon? You know that all these new claims and I'm sure there's now, now a positive energy result. So I hope it will take a lot of time, but I hope something will come out in the next few decades. Are we doing anything about it? I mean, Tokamaks or whatever. The Chinese have their own thing. Yeah, I'm sure there are people who are doing this. Okay. In India? I don't know of any in that. At least I'm not aware of. Okay. Yeah. In India. Right. Because one of the reasons why we want to go to the moon is because we have helium three there, which is going to be a great fuel for the reactors. That's right. So shouldn't we be doing something about it? I mean, we need helium three seriously because everything has now become sanctioned because they come from nuclear reactors, right? Nuclear waste and all that. Nuclear waste. What do you make of nuclear energy? I mean, there's this very strong sentiment against nuclear energy right now among political circles in certain parts of the world. Correct. They're shutting down nuclear reactors. Right. Do you think nuclear energy is dangerous or do you think it's a great thing? Nuclear energy is, I mean, I completely agree with what most people believe about. I mean, nuclear energy is great as long as it's safe. But I think given Chernobyl and other disasters. Fukushima. Yeah, exactly. It's a devil that needs to be tamed and that's not very easy to do. That's not very easy to do. No, that's not. So in that sense, I mean, if you're looking at alternative energy sources, I think hydrogen and- Yes. These kind of chemical sources of energy will probably be more useful, particularly the better batteries. And if you tomorrow have solar, I mean, with perovskite solar cells, that the way the whole field is moving in such rapid speed, I think we will solve the energy issues faster with this direction than it appears to be to be of the nuclear. I mean, fusion may work. I mean, if fusion works, it's great. Fusion works as well. It's the ideal thing to have. Yes, that's right. But I think that's going to take time. And fusion is going to take time, in my opinion. Yeah, I completely agree. Fusion is going to take time. But before that, I think the solid state energy sources will become more prevalent.

Future Of Science And Education In India

Modisms future of Indian Science and Education (01:09:19)

Right. We will achieve very high efficiencies. Do you have any idea of the state of the Indian Thorium nuclear program? No, I don't have. I mean, I know this is going on because we have plenty of thorium. We have plenty of thorium. We have plenty of thorium. Huge, particularly all the Kerala, the motor sites, and that's right. But no, I mean, I think there's a lot of work going on by the way. I know BRC and other places, there's a lot of work going on in that direction. But I think that's something which is classified in their own right. I'm sure it is. Yeah. Are you optimistic about the future for Indian science? Where do you see us being? Oh, absolutely. I mean, there is no doubt about it. I can, when I'm going to tweet about it very soon. I mean, looking at looking at the, you see, I'll tell you, sir, I'll tell you the I have seen Indian science of 30 years, as a student, and then as a young faculty, then as a senior faculty now. And, and I find that that there is an ambition of doing science and attain high impact that is increasing at, I would say, exponential rate now. Okay. I think it is connected strongly with the economic progress. Yes. As well. Yes. But the, the wish to do science and you have to have a population that wants to make an impact and do fantastic science of the highest quality. And what I'm particularly optimistic by is that population is increasing. And if that population increases, government has to respond. Right. See, the government is us. Yeah. Right. At the end of the day. And if that population increases, government will. So, and it is happening. It's happening in various ways. Sometimes something that you agree, some things we don't agree, but that's a different question. But what I'm certainly extremely excited by is the progress over the last, I would say that the, in last five years had been my most exciting time. Okay. As a faculty member, before, 10 years before I was growing, I was watching. Last five years, I could see the, the, the momentum. Okay. Getting bigger. I see. And I'm, I'm reasonably certain that given a third five years, I think we will, we will be at the, at the very highest in the, in the, among the scientific relations.

Government'S Attitude Towards Science

Manga Governments Poor Ideology towards Science (01:11:38)

Fantastic. So let's end on that very optimistic note. Thank you so much. You're welcome. Thank you. Very nice talking to you. Likewise. Thank you. So that was the conversation. Hope you liked it. If you enjoyed this, please share this on WhatsApp and other media. Thank you very much. And I'll see you soon.

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