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Vol. LVII, No. 12
June 17, 2005

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Speaker Describes Life Sciences Research in India

India is rapidly expanding its research capability and was recently listed as one of the 24 countries that are scientifically proficient, using eight criteria established by the Rand Corp. Prof. D. Balasubramanian, currently director of research at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India, visited NIH recently to talk about life sciences research in India. The seminar was jointly sponsored by the Fogarty International Center and the National Eye Institute.

Prof. D. Balasubramanian  

Balasubramanian began with bit of history, expanding on the tradition of biological research and training in India, emphasizing the contribution of Indian science to the global scientific community. "The achievements of Indian science can be measured by the quality and quantity of its publications in a wide range of journals, including Nature, Science and Cell. For the period 1994 to 2004, India was ranked 13 out of 146 countries for the number of publications. For that same period, India ranked 21 for the number of papers cited. However, the number of citations per paper was approximately 3, giving India a ranking of only 117 out of 146 countries. This suggests that there is room for more improvement in the quality of Indian science."

Balasubramanian said that while India has been increasing its expenditure for research and development, less than 20 percent of the budget has been set aside for extramural research. "This presents a dilemma for Indian scientists who are currently training abroad, who depend on research grants to establish their foothold in Indian science. The traditional sources for research grants are typically government sources, with little funding from private sources, such as industry and from international sources such as the Wellcome Trust, Rockefeller Center and NIH," he said.

Balasubramanian said India is taking a step in the right direction by creating a new foundation known as the National Science and Engineering Foundation, and two new research institutes to create more employment and funding opportunities. Furthermore, a new initiative is set to increase scientific collaboration in vision research between India and the United States. Dr. Sheldon Miller, scientific director at NEI, has proposed the creation of an NIH Overseas Scholars Program for postdoctoral research training. A fundamental component of the program is the combined stimulation of career opportunities in India and the availability of NIH research support opportunities for returning scholars (via the Fogarty Global Research Initiatives Program, for example). The goal of the program is to identify talented Indian scientists, provide them with training at NIH, and once training is completed, help facilitate their return to academic and scientific jobs in India. The GRIP program and other FIC-sponsored award programs are intended to support the return of these NIH-trained investigators to help them build research infrastructure in their home countries.

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