Prof. Autar Singh Paintal
(24th Sept., 1925 _
25th Dec., 2004)
Founder President, Society for Scientific Values
Prof. Autar Singh Paintal in keen observation
In Professor Autar Singh Paintal's untimely death, the country has lost one of its most
eminent and active scientists. Till the end he was engaged in research on high altitude problems and
the responses and reflex effects of J-receptors, which produce breathlessness and muscle weakness.
Professor Paintal was born in 1925. He graduated at King George Medical College,
Lucknow and later on received his D. Sc. degree from Edinburgh in 1960. He had also been recipient of
D.Sc. (h.c.) from a number of universities. He had held several very important positions such
as Director and Professor of Physiology at Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, Delhi University,
Delhi (1964-90), Professor of Physiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
(1958-64) and Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Government of India (1985-90).
After his retirement, he continued his active research as Programme Director, D.S.T. Centre
for Visceral Mechanisms, V. P. Chest Institute, Delhi till his death. He had held several
important visiting professorial appointments at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, University
of Utah, U.S.A., Physiologisch Institute, and University of Gottingen, Gottingen, Germany etc.
Professor Paintal had been a Fellow of all the major academies of the country including
National Academy of Medical Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, as well as the Third
World Academy of Sciences, Physiological Society (U. K.), Royal Society of Edinburgh and Royal
Society of London. Amongst the numerous recognitions and awards, mention may be made of
the Shakuntala Devi Amir Chand Prize, Basanti Devi Amir Chand Prize, and Silver Jubilee Award
of the Medical Council of India, B. C. Roy Oration, Sharpey-Schafer Lecturership,
Edinburgh, Rameshwardas Birla National Award, Barclay Medal of the Asiatic Society, J. C. Bose
Award, First Jawaharlal Nehru Science Award of the Government of Madhya Pradesh, C. V. Raman
Medal of the Indian National Science Academy. He had been General President of the Indian
Science Congress Association and President of the Indian National Science Academy. He had also
been the recipient of second highest civilian honour of Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India.
Professor Paintal made significant contributions to the understanding of visceral
sensory mechanisms and their reflex effects, mechanism of stimulation of aortic chemoreceptors. He
is particularly known internationally for the discovery of the volume receptors of the atria and
J-receptors of the lungs and showed that the natural stimulus for the aortic chemoreceptors
was `oxygen availability'. In his most important contribution, Professor had named the receptor
as `juxta-pulmonary capillary receptor' but had agreed to the suggestion of the referee of the
paper to call it `J-receptor' since the long name would almost fill a line every time it was used.
In Edinburgh, Professor Paintal was always called Monty, which in English means a
mountain, an appropriate name for one who had scaled such heights. He had been an absolutely
transparent person and never hesitated to call spade a spade. Quite often he had not been appreciated
because of this but he never meant ill-will to any. He was a strong believer and follower of ethics in
science and in the fitness of things; he was the Founder President of the Society of Scientific Values
of India. The greatest tribute that this country could pay to him would be in supporting, following
and promoting the values and ethics of science.
Dr. P. N. Srivastava, Former Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and
Former Member, Planning Commission, Govt. of India and Former President, Society for Scientific Values.
Prof. Autar Singh Paintal at research
Dr. A. S. Paintal A Memoir
Dr. P.N. Tiwari*
My tendency to follow only the first part of the advice of the wise people, to
speak truth but only pleasant truth, brought me in contact with Dr. A. S. Paintal in 1983
turning deeper with time. Some of us working in Delhi, concerned with the breach of ethics
and norms of teaching, research and management in many scientific institutions of the
country formed a group in 1981 to promote integrity, objectivity and ethical value in pursuit
of science. The group could not do much except hold small meetings and discussions,
and an article by me on `Creating Healthy Environment of Research' that was published
and discussed. We were looking for a well known scientist of high integrity to lead us.
We approached Dr.A.N. Verma, the then Director, NPL who advised us to meet Dr. A. S.
Paintal the then Director, Patel Chest Institute, Delhi, a highly reputed scientist known for
integrity and outspokenness in scientific matters. Four of us who decided to go to him had not
met him before. Therefore we requested a well known very senior botanist to come with us
to give weight age to our request. When we entered Dr. Paintal's room, he was sitting
behind a study table loaded with journals and books. He greeted us and made us sit around
a low lying small table full of latest issues of scientific journals. He removed some of
them and went for a minute or two in the side room. After talking for a while with us, he
again went in the side room for somewhat longer time and brought tea for us. Later I learnt
that first he had gone to switch on the water heating and second time to make the tea for
us. We were with him for about one hour but did not see any so called class four
employees. Though he was quite informal, we had to do most of the speaking. He listened to us
keenly but did not commit anything except saying that he will consider our suggestion. He
took almost a year to accept our request. We were happy and did not mind the delay
because no man of repute will agree to such a request of a few unknown persons without
knowing them fully.
The activities of the group took a quantum leap within one month of Dr. Paintal
agreeing to lead it. Several scientists of repute and integrity joined the group. It got transformed
into The Society for Scientific Values with Dr. Paintal as President and me as secretary.
He set specific criteria of high integrity in research and publication for membership to the
society. Many such scientists became its members. The idea was to create awareness
among scientific community, from a sound moral base, about the need to strictly follow the
ethics and norms without which excellence in science cannot be achieved. Accordingly, the
first symposium of the society was on `Scientific Values and Excellence in Science'.
NATURE (vol.326, April 9, 1987) published a three-fourth page news about the formation of
the society under the title `Healthy Scientific Environment Promoted by Society in India',
with a photograph of Dr. Paintal. The society was the first of its kind in the world at that time.
Looking into the specific cases of breach was not a priority. However, it was
so pervasive that a specific case of breach of the norms of publication was brought to
the notice of the society in its first General Body meeting itself by a senior professor of
TIFR. He said that a group working at IISc has published four papers in a very competitive
area in the late issues of three journals, without the date of receipt and acceptance,
published by the Indian Academy of Sciences. Such an exception has been made only for these
four papers. Several members knew this case and the group head who had
considerable influence on the Academy. The papers were so published to get undue priority.
Everybody in the meeting looked at Dr. Paintal who, without any hesitation said that he will do all
that which should be done in the matter, and saw to it that all three journals corrected
the mistake. He set up very objective and transparent method of examining such cases.
Several cases of large scale plagiarism and outright fraud were brought to his notice in
quick succession by well known scientists. He took pains to take appropriate action in each
case including the well known case published both in Nature and Science, of
paleontological fraud by a professor of Punjab University.
Dr. Paintal was a very simple person, free from ego. He never imposed his will on
the society. A high level of objectivity was apparent in all the discussions of the society.
He insisted that the society should not have much funds, and no one without high
integrity should be made its member. He was perhaps, the only scientist in the country who
worked up to the last days of his life in his laboratory with a complex instrumental setup made
or assembled by him. He was so unassuming that a few times when he came to my
residence, the other visitors did not realize, unless they had known him before, that they are
talking to a great scientist whose discoveries are forming the basis of national and
international seminars and symposia and that he has been holding several high positions and that
he has been conferred many honors and awards including the General President
Science Congress, President of Indian National Science Academy, Fellow of Royal Society
and Padma Vibhushan.
* Former Project Director, Nuclear Research Laboratory, IARI and Founder Secretary, Society
for Scientific Values, B 65 SFS, Sheik Sarai, Phase I, New Delhi 110017
Autar Singh Paintal (1925-2004)*
Dr. Indira Nath**
The country lost Autar Singh Paintal, one of India's insightful scientists on 21
December 2004 in Delhi. He was not only a towering figure in the field of physiology, but also a
colourful and uncompromising personality in Indian science. He was born on 24 September 1925
in Mogok, in the then British Burma, where his father Man Singh was serving in the
British Medical Service. He came to Lahore at the age of fourteen to complete his
Matriculation. He studied for the Intermediate Examination at the Forman Christian College and later
joined his parents who chose to settle in Lucknow. He joined King George's Medical College
in 1943, with financial help from the Burmese Government.
That Paintal had an extraordinary intellect became evident even during his
undergraduate days when he was recipient of distinctions and gold medals, including the much
coveted Hewitt Gold medal given to the best graduate of the class. He was also unique in that
he chose to pursue research in a basic subject like physiology instead of equipping himself
to become a clinician. Those were the days when a `proper doctor' meant one who
treated patients and who did not `dabble' with test tubes or equipment in the laboratories.
Paintal started his research career during the M D course by studying the `electrical resistance
of the skin in normals and psychotics'. He not only built the equipment to measure
skin resistance himself, but also went on to collect 400 psychotic patients, which required
even greater ingenuity. He introduced a new index for evaluation of galvanic responses in
man, which came to be known as the Paintal index (1951) and was used by clinicians to
diagnose psychosis at a time when objective methods were not available. He continued in his
alma mater, where he was appointed as Lecturer to the Department of Physiology.
The next stage of his career began when he chose to join Whitteridge for a Ph
D programme in the Department of Physiology in the Medical School at Edinburgh.
Interestingly, he was supported by a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation, which is usually
given to pursue research in the United States and not in other countries. It was in Edinburgh
that the foundations for the later discovery of J-receptors were laid. At a time when
dissection of single nerve fibres was difficult, his innovative use of liquid paraffin to embed the
whole nerve and isolate the single fibres without impairing their activity, was a tremendous
boost for the measurement of single-fibre conduction velocities. At that time he also made
a discovery that is now considered an established fact. He showed that the receptors
(type B atrial receptors) which are now known to have a major role in fluid volume
regulation were located in the atrium (1953) and not in the great veins/pulmonary veins as his mentor Whitteridge had thought. Thus began his legendary journey into the world of
He returned to India in 1953 and joined the Defence Laboratories in Kanpur as
a Technical Officer. His innovativeness once again helped locate visceral receptors
(1954) by injecting chemicals to discover these `silent' receptors. Soon after, he described
the location of ventricular pressure receptors (1955).
In 1958 he moved to New Delhi as Research Professor in the Physiology
Department of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Six years later he became the
Director of V. P. Chest Hospital, a post he held till 1990. He later became the Director General
of the Indian Council for Medical Research even while continuing his research at the V.
P. Chest Institute. He continued his intellectual quest with support from the Department
of Science and Technology, New Delhi in modest surroundings in a two-roomed laboratory
in his favourite institute till his death.
Paintal is best known for the discovery of J-receptors (1955), which he went on to
study in great depth. He coined the name J-receptors to indicate their location in `juxta'
pulmonary capillaries in the lung. He introduced the concept of viscerosomatic inhibition by
showing that these receptors were responsible for the J-reflex, which acted as a feedback
mechanism to limit muscle activity during exercise.
Physiologists for long had sought to identify a particular event which would have
direct effect on the termination of exercise brought about by muscle fatigue. An intriguing
quest had been to find out which signals in cardiovascular, respiratory, neural or
metabolic pathways would determine continuation of exercise or its stoppage. The intracellular
changes that occur in muscles during exercise were well known; however, it was difficult to
identify a single or combination of events that would explain how muscle activity is terminated
during physical exercise. The lungs and the heart are richly supplied with unmyelinated fibres
which are capable of sending signals following chemical or mechanical changes in the
local surroundings. Paintal showed that the J-reflex is elicited when pulmonary flow increases
as a result of exercise, and this in turn sends a negative feedback signal to the muscles
to limit further activity. Some scientists believe that such a negative control is necessary
for protecting the muscles from toxic damage caused by the metabolites produced
during physical activity. It appears to be one of the earliest evolutionary reflexes as even fish
appear to have a similar mechanism. Paintal went on to also show that the J-reflex explained
the tachypnoea (fast heart rate), breathlessness (1969, 1970), dry cough and throat
sensations (1986) that are associated with such activity. The J-receptor activity would also
explain some of the symptoms associated with disease conditions as in left heart failure,
some lung diseases and blockage of major lung vessels due to blood clots (pulmonary
embolism), as these are associated with increase in pulmonary capillary pressure. He also
showed that J-receptor stimulation signalled increase in the permeability of pulmonary
capillaries, thus introducing a new method for measuring the
in vivo concentration of J-receptor
excitants (1991, 1993).
The J-receptors elicited worldwide excitement, whose impact is being felt even
today. As often happens in the history of science, Paintal's initial discovery was temporarily mired in controversy. Many workers, including his own earlier students, investigated the
J-receptors giving rise to a period of debate regarding their functions, the neural level at which
the negative control took place, etc. It was also debated as to whether these receptors
existed in a modified form in man compared to the cat, the animal used by Paintal in his
studies. Later workers even gave another name to this phenomenon and the current literature
uses the newer terminology of pulmonary C-fibres and J-receptors synonymously. But
Paintal's name became inextricably linked to the J-receptors. He viewed the respiratory effect
from the one associated with muscle activity as two different functions of these
receptors. Moreover, he felt that chemical stimulation of these receptors by drugs, etc. was
Thus the versatility of Paintal's intellect combined with his technical innovativeness
made measurement of single nerve fibre conduction velocities possible, and led to the
discovery of visceral receptors such as atrial receptors (1953), ventricular pressure receptors
(1955), stretch receptors in the stomach which explain the sensation of satiation after food
(1954) and pressurepain receptors of muscle (1960). His classic discovery that
non-medullated fibres are blocked at lower temperatures, has now become a routine tool to
distinguish medullated nerve fibres from non-medullated ones. Till his death, Paintal along with A.
Anand continued to pursue the varied dimensions of J-receptors, including in later years, high
altitude physiology and exertional breathlessness. The latter had implications for the
better acclimatization of Indian soldiers posted in the Himalayas.
Paintal's interest in science went beyond the esoteric. He became concerned with
ethical issues in the practice of science and founded the Society for Scientific Values (SSV). In
his opinion, his major contribution was the SSV. That it was the need of the day was
evidenced by the large number of young and old scientists who were attracted to it. He set
high standards for membership to the Society, which in itself antagonized some. Moreover,
as cases of malpractice were brought to his attention, the moral power of the Society
became one with his personal reputation. He and his team investigated such cases with vigour
and spent their time and often their own money in the pursuit of truth. Newsletters were
brought out and symposia held on important themes, with little finances and support. Today,
the SSV addresses both positive and negative aspects of the practice of science and is
often called upon both by agencies and individuals to provide advice. Paintal's idealistic
standards were sometimes misunderstood by his peers. He believed that science meetings
should not be held in five-star hotels, but in the simple academic environs of the university.
He refused to attend inaugurations or meetings in hotels. When malpractice was proved
and the relevant institute did not take appropriate action, he never visited the institution
again when invited for having an honour bestowed on him. This did not make him popular and
in an era of changing value systems, he was considered an eccentric.
It is difficult to describe what made Paintal an inspirational teacher. Though I was
not formally taught by him as I had completed the physiology course by the time he
joined AIIMS, I consider him to be one among those who helped shape my thoughts. My
first glimpse of him was in his shorts, repairing the electrical circuit of his equipment. This
was not the usual behaviour of an Indian professor. Later on, when I became associated
with him at various stages of my life, I became aware of even more peculiarities! Absorption in his work to the exclusion of all else was itself inspirational. His high standard of
integrity was difficult to emulate. His advice to students was that work undertaken should
contribute to the `body of knowledge' and not be imitative or superficial. As one of his students P.
S. Rao quotes, Paintal believed that `dependence on other people's labours is doing
research by piracy'. He also believed in defending one's research findings (not to be confused
with advertising) and used to say,`dang ladna seekho' (learn to fight battles). His lectures
were not didactic, but more in a narrative form replete with his own experiences in the
field, including anecdotes and descriptions of scientific debates. This was exasperating to
the more conventional student who required information that was well classified and orderly.
It was, however, informative to those who saw it as real time emergence of knowledge,
as and when it happened. The excitement of discovery was never far away when he was
in his narrative mode. He was a difficult person to work with, as he was uncompromising
in his standards and unwavering on what constituted right and wrong. He was not an
opportunist and saw no reason to change his views in the interests of pragmatism or societal approval.
It is customary to list the various honours that a man like him would have acquired
over his extraordinary career. There are not many that he missed acquiring and listing
them would be monotonous and not worthy of a man like him. They can be found on the
websites of academies and the V. P. Chest Institute. He was elected to the Fellowship of the
Royal Society of London (1981) and Edinburgh (1996). He was President of the Indian
National Science Academy and General President of the Indian Science Congress. He was a
Founder Member of the Third World Academy, whose cause he espoused rigorously. The
country honoured him with Padma Vibhushan in 1986. He is survived by his wife and partner
in science Anand, two daughters, one son, many students and admirers. It has been
my privilege to know him.
* Reproduced from Current Science Vol. 88 No. 3, 10 February, 2005
** School of Medicine, Asian Institute of Medicine, Science and Technology, 2 Persiaran
Cempaka, Amanjaya, 08000 Sungai Petani, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia. e-mail: email@example.com
and former Secretary, Society for Scientific Values
An Approach to Ethical Morality
Dr. Narendra Nath*
What is ethical morality? Variable answers are being provided. Everyone feels it
needs to be practiced by individuals constituting the society. The objective test lies in the
choice between the overall good of the society versus that of an individual in particular. It
should not be something we speak or write about. The dire need is to put it in practice in all
our actions, professional and personal.
Our current predicaments arise on account of being overburdened with
"ritualistic" practices, rather than the "realistic" ones. The former need to be offloaded
substantially, so that one feels free and fresh to innovate scientific methodologies after in depth
and long term planning. National goals and objectives can be realized as we can define
Leading persons need to realize that the ones among them will prove to be truly
great who have the courage to renounce their "acquisitions" without regret or hesitation, in
order to preserve ethical standards. SSV can build strong authority in propagating ethical
practices if it considers a suitable scheme of voluntary confessions by its members/office
bearers. The latter may also undertake to respond openly to any unethical act as and when
the same is pointed out.
Positions of leadership in the administration of science/technology, including
concerned ethical institutions should be occupied through invitation based on objective procedure
of pre selection (free of lobbying/personal seeking). Such persons need to commit to
inspire their juniors, rather than aspire for self glory and fame. The letter should follow in a
The three elements of transparency, objectivity and accountability should be built
in administrative structure and procedures. The letter is open to scrutiny as and when
a complaint/accusation is made. Simultaneously, punishment should be in built for
false accusation made.
To ensure democratic functioning of an institution/lab, open brain
storming/creative thinking discussion groups, among specific/relevant team members should be
organized from time to time. There should be a built in commitment to back the eventual
consensus decision so arrived at. Any attempts to sabotage the implementation process should
be take as an act of serious indiscipline with prescribed punishments duly laid down.
*Ex Prof & Head, Physics Dept, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra
Research Integrity and Scientific Values: A comparison
of American and Indian models
Dr. N. Raghuram*
The 2004 ORI Research conference on Research Integrity (November 12-14,
2004, San Diego, California, USA) provided a unique opportunity to understand the
American government model of promoting scientific values and compare it with the Indian
system. This was the first time that the organisers decided to invite a few international
participants to an otherwise primarily US activity. Being the only Indian delegate at the conference,
I was able to present some Indian case studies and the pioneering role of the Society
for Scientific Values to deter misconduct and promote integrity in Indian science. The
following report is intended to share some crucial insights into the working of the American
system and its relevance to India, if any.
The main organiser of the conference was the Office of Research Integrity (ORI)
under the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees adherence
to scientific values in the U.S. biomedical research. It spends about $ 2 million per
annum (2004 data) to support research about ways to foster integrity and deter misconduct
in research. One of the major activities of ORI is to develop a knowledgebase for
making responsible decisions about the best ways to promote and ensure high integrity in
the nearly $30 billion annual federal funding (2004 data) for biomedical and behaviour
research supported by HHS (See box for a history of the ORI and its limited scope). The
ORI Research Conferences on Research Integrity bring together ORI-funded researchers
and other scholars interested in integrity in research to discuss crucial research
problems, explore different research methods, and share research results. The latest conference
was held at the Paradise Point Resort and Spa, San Diego, California during November
12-14, 2004. It was Co-Sponsored by the University of California - San Diego, Association
of American Medical Colleges, American Association for the Advancement of Science
and Merck Research Laboratories.
One of the most striking revelations about the US system is that unlike the Society
for Scientific Values, which was started by Indian Scientists who believed that
self-regulation is the best regulation, ORI was instituted by the US government, concerned over fraud
in US science. This could either be a credit to the concern of Indian scientists, or the
Indian government's lack of it. There is no evidence of any US society comparable to the
Indian SSV, nor such a prominent involvement of other US professional academies and
societies with issues of scientific values.
Advantages of the ORI model: The advantage of a strong government involvement
in the US is obvious: it attracted a lot of social scientists, psychologists and concerned biomedical scientists to get into the whole issue of research integrity with rigorous
scientific analysis in project mode, with funding upto $1,75,000 per year per project. Other
advantages of government involvement include uniform procedures, guidelines,
incentives/disincentives, administrative teeth and some sort of public accountability through the US congress.
A cursory glance at the titles of papers presented at the conference reveals the range
and scope of the issues being investigated, the methodologies being used, and even
attempts to put together common standards, terminology and definitions.
Some of the research questions that are being investigated include: How
much misconduct is happening and what is the level of variations among institutions? What
types of misconduct are being reported? Are they increasing or decreasing with time,
training, funding or career security? What is the cost of sloppy or fraudulent research to the
American exchequer? When and how do researchers learn about good research practices?
What are the factors that encourage or discourage researchers from following these
practices? How serious is the role of source of funding or conflict of interest in determining the
outcome of research? Which levels of the research hierarchy indulge most in misconduct?
Which sections of the research community blow the whistle most often, and which sections
make the most successful allegations (as proven by subsequent enquiries)? How critical is
the need to protect the whistle blowers? To what extent do ethnic or past cultural
backgrounds influence the researcher's conduct? What is the role of education/training in
promoting responsible conduct of research? How critical is the role of the mentor? What policies
do research journals need to prevent/ reject publication of manipulated data or just
questionable research results?
While these questions may be just as relevant for us here in India, over a decade
of research in the US has not yielded definitive answers to most of these questions.
However, some trends are revealing: The most funded and the best-ranked institutions also
have some of the most frequent reports of misconduct cases. Higher educational
institutions such as universities rank highest in terms of misconduct, as compared to other
research institutions. Falsification, fabrication and plagiarism (FFP) constitute the most reported
types of misconduct. At least half of the misconduct cases are due to bad record keeping.
The rate of misconduct decreases with increasing career mobility. Larger panels or
durations of enquiry don't necessarily lead to more convictions. The most frequent whistle
blowers are from the faculty, but the most successful whistle blowers are students/post-docs.
Whistle blowers are not often encouraged by reward or discouraged by victimisation.
Mentoring does much more to research integrity than rules, regulations and education/training,
but absentee mentoring is a major problem; many good mentors were not mentored themselves.
Most of the above generalisations have been arrived at using survey
methodologies, with their attendant limitations. Very few studies provided deeper insight through
detailed case studies. Interestingly, while scientists make most of the noises about
authorships and plagiarism, the final outcome of research (and therefore the common man) is
most adversely affected by falsification and fabrication. Similarly, there are other
questionable research practices (QRP) that are probably more frequent than FFP but not very well
defined or understood. Similarly there are wider issues of responsible conduct of research
(RCR), which are not addressed adequately. There are also issues of terminology and standard vocabulary that need attention. Most importantly, there is not clarity yet on the causes
for misconduct, or the most effective means for prevention. The SSV could benefit
greatly from these experiences.
Disadvantages of the ORI model: ORI is concerned with integrity only in
biomedical research, that too only those programs/institutions funded by federal PHS grants.
This means that adherence to scientific values in other areas of science, or even in
biomedical research supported by private agencies or other non-PHS sources, are not
necessarily the responsibility of ORI. Every institution that seeks/receives PHS grants is required
to have its own institutional ORI, to provide training in research integrity, as well as
to investigate complaints and report to the federal ORI. Again, these institutional ORIs,
may or may not cover other areas of science, or even biomedical research supported by
private agencies or other non-PHS sources. It is expected that depending on the level of
concerns on research integrity that emerge in other areas of science or for that matter even
social science, ORI-like bodies or other suitable mechanisms will be instituted by the
concerned federal and/or state agencies. This will lead to unnecessary bureaucracy with
either tremendous redundancies or multiplicities in regulatory mechanisms to deal with what
seems to be an essentially common problem of research integrity and scientific values.
One of the main pillars of the ORI model for fostering integrity is to make the
employers have institutional ORIs, policies and training programs in place. This works on
the assumption that the government, employers or heads of institutions are keen to
promote integrity, anxious to enquire into allegations of misconduct and prompt to take action
to deter misconduct. For us in India, the experience of SSV as well as that of this
author shows that none of the above assumptions are true. Therefore, institutional ORI
model does not work in India, even if we avoid redundancies and have a single ORI in
each institution to deal with all areas of science and technology under its ambit. What we
need is a mechanism to provide more teeth to SSV or other such scientific
Academies/societies that are completely independent from government or individual research institutions.
How do Indians fare in the US in terms of their record of research integrity? It is
difficult to get a very satisfactory answer to this straight but sensitive question. Some say
Indians in the US are just as bad or perhaps worse in terms of their research integrity
record. Others say that there is no clear basis for such generalisation, as collecting ethnic data
on issues of research integrity is considered politically incorrect. But it is
generally acknowledged that in an increasingly globalising world depending on overseas
scholarships and collaborations, mentoring and research practices in one country tend to influence
the research outcomes in other countries, and therefore every country needs to be
cautious about the reputation of its students and scientists on issues of integrity. To that
extent, ORI seems to be open to having joint conferences/exchanges with similar bodies in
other countries. What is most heartening to note is that there are many Indian names
conducting studies and co-authoring publications on research integrity in the US, some of them
even working with ORI funds! Perhaps SSV should approach them for membership and
improve our international outreach.
Box: The History of ORI (USA)
The Office of Research Integrity under the US Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS), which oversees adherence to scientific values in the U.S.
biomedical research, has its origins in the US Congressional hearings on fraud in science. The
process began in 1981 when then Representative Albert Gore, Jr., chairman of the
Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee, held
the first hearing on the emerging problem. The hearing was prompted by the public
disclosure of scientific misconduct cases at four major research centers in 1980. There were at
least 12 cases of scientific misconduct disclosed between 1974-1981, and additional
allegations involving researchers from National Institutes of Health (NIH), universities, and
other research institutions in the US throughout the 1980s continued to attract
In order to address the emerging problems, a series of regulatory measures
were initiated by the US government, especially the Rule concerning "Responsibilities of
Awardee and Applicant Institutions for Dealing With and Reporting Possible Misconduct in
Science", for NIH and others funded by the US Public Health Service (PHS), such as The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The Health Resources
and Services Administration, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, The
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and The (Red) Indian Health Service.
The regulatory activities of the FDA have been exempted from the responsibilities of
Before 1986, reports of scientific misconduct were received by funding institutes
within Public Health Service (PHS) agencies. In 1986, the NIH assigned responsibility for
receiving and responding to reports of scientific misconduct to its Institutional Liaison Office.
This was the first step taken to create a central locus of responsibility for scientific
misconduct within the US Department of Health and Human Services. In March 1989, the PHS
created the Office of Scientific Integrity (OSI) in the Office of the Director, NIH, and the Office
of Scientific Integrity Review (OSIR) in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health
(OASH). The sole purpose of these offices was to deal with scientific misconduct and relieve
the funding agencies from carrying out this responsibility. In May 1992, OSI and OSIR
were consolidated into the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in the OASH. Later that year,
HHS established a hearing opportunity for all scientists formally charged with
research misconduct. Next year, President Clinton signed the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993,
which established the ORI as an independent entity within the Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS). The Act also mandated that a Commission on Research Integrity
be created to review the system for protecting against scientific misconduct. The
Commission delivered its report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in November 1995.
The Commission made 33 recommendations including the development of a regulation
on the protection of whistleblowers in research misconduct cases and the extension of
the misconduct in science assurance that required institutions to establish educational
programs on the responsible conduct of research (RCR). Based on the subsequent review of these
recommendations, HHS announced several changes in 1999 to promote research
integrity, which include:
1. The HHS adopted the proposed governmentwide definition of research
misconduct developed by the National Science and Technology Council that was published in
the Federal Register on October 13, 1999. The final definition was published in the
Federal Register on December 6, 2000.
2. The primary responsibility of extramural institutions and intramural research
programs for responding to allegations of scientific misconduct was reaffirmed. The Office
of Inspector General, HHS, rather than ORI was given the authority to conduct any
fact-finding for the federal government. ORI continued to conduct oversight reviews of
3. The Assistant Secretary for Health, upon recommendations from ORI, was
delegated the authority to make final decisions regarding scientific misconduct and
administrative actions, subject to appeal.
4. The role, mission and structure of the ORI was focused on preventing misconduct
and promoting research integrity principally through oversight, education, and review
of institutional findings and recommendations.
5. The HHS Departmental Appeals Board continued to hear appeals, but the
hearing panels were to include two scientists rather than one or none.
6. All extramural research institutions were required to provide training in the
responsible conduct of research to all research staff who have direct and substantive
involvement in proposing, performing, reviewing, or reporting research, or who receive
research training, support by PHS funds or who otherwise work on PHS-supported
research projects even if the individual did not receive PHS support. The
PHS Policy on Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of
Research was published in the Federal
Register on December 1, 2000, and suspended on February 20, 2001, pending
review of the substance of the policy and whether the document should have been issued
as a regulation rather than a policy. The policy remains suspended.
7. The HHS published a notice of proposed rulemaking on the protection of
whistleblowers in research misconduct cases in the
Federal Register on November 28, 2000; the comment period ended on January 29, 2001. A final rule on the protection
of whistleblowers is pending.
ORI carries out its responsibility by: developing policies, procedures and
regulations related to the detection, investigation, and prevention of research misconduct and
the responsible conduct of research; reviewing and monitoring research
misconduct investigations conducted by applicant and awardee institutions, intramural
research programs, and the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS); recommending research misconduct findings and administrative
actions to the Assistant Secretary for Health for decision, subject to appeal; implementing activities
and programs to teach the responsible conduct of research, promote research
integrity, prevent research misconduct, and improve the handling of allegations of
research misconduct; providing technical assistance to institutions that respond to allegations
of research misconduct; conducting policy analyses, evaluations and research to build
the knowledge base in research misconduct, research integrity, and prevention and to
improve HHS research integrity policies and procedures; assisting the Office of the General
Counsel (OGC) to present cases before the HHS Departmental Appeals Board; administering programs for: maintaining institutional assurances, responding to allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers, approving intramural and extramural policies and procedures, and responding to Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act requests.
*School of Biotechnology, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Kashmiri Gate, Delhi
- 110006. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The three phases of the (Indian) scientist
Prof. V. Sitaramam*
When it comes to evaluating values, the question is not so much as to how deep
we dig, but whether we dig deep enough. It would be futile to consider scientific values
outside the realm of social values in which the scientists and their activities are embedded.
Here I examine the antecedents to scientific values considering the pack behavior of
scientists. Every working scientist has contributed to this as well as experienced it. Surprisingly
most are usually unclear about why the state of affairs is far less than satisfactory.
The problem in looking at scientific values in isolation is in missing the motive
forces. The tendency is to identify only the patently negative aspects like plagiarism and
false data. These `evil' things surface ever so once in while and draw more attention, side
tracking more pernicious problems affecting the day to day lives of scientists, teachers
and administrators. The problems start right there; the remedy also has to be right there.
Things often go wrong. When left unheeded, they get worse. The perception of
a scientist of these happenstances is not constant but varies with age, attitudes and
goals. It occurs in three stages, depending on the stage of his career: Stage 1. I don't
know; Stage 2. I don't want to know. Stage 3. Why has everything going/gone
wrong? Psychologists have names for these stages, e.g., the stage of denial, the stage of
apathy and the stage of self-pity. Are these abnormal states, as psychological analysis may
tend to conclude? Or, are these normal states of every one?
Events, good or bad, are the tip of the iceberg. Though the events are few and
far between, the causal factors are deterministic and stay with us. This distinction is often
lost on those who are all gung-ho on doing something about the events.
Starting the career
You are thirty or thirty-five when you join an institute or a department. You have
spent 3-4 years abroad as some one's workhorse and would like to have some freedom
and settle down and what do you walk into? The same story of postdoctoral life, except that
it could continue for life.
A major deviation comes in at the time of appointment itself. Specializations are
often make-believe. In some major institutes in the country, the Head screens the
application and `places' the `selected and relevant' applications before the selection committee.
In another major institute, when asked why new appointments are from their own old
students, the glib reply was "our clone is the best'! Thus the stage for a new entrant is set long before the person joins the establishment. The mantra is: don't rock the boat!
When one gains entry to a permanent job, the pressure is to stabilize. Social
forces require that one remains aloof from the internal squabbles that define any new place
of work (some more some less, but all, nevertheless). Most of these arise from wrongs
done in promotions, recognition, work allocation, groupism (caste, colour, creed, gender
anything can be and is brought in) etc.. To weave one's way through,
the normal and correct thing is to follow the middle path. Except that, often there is no
The middle path of non-committal approach isolates you from pre-existing groups
and therefore, soon one realizes that one is a loner. That is not comfortable since one
needs some one to interact with. The alternative is more problematic. There would be clear
power groups that control topics, money, instruments, students, access to the boss or what
have you. There is a price to be paid to be part of the establishment, the most common
being the authorship or project investigatorship. The pressure comes in two forms: one is
subtle where the workers make a peace offering sensing the mood and the other more direct:
the publication/grant proposals must be approved by the director!
Social responsibility: where it begins
Now what is important is not your reaction to what happens to you. What is
important is what is happening to the new entrant who joined
after you. In the event of a mishap, everybody looks in the other direction. If I had to slog for some one else for so
many years, why should not the new entrant? Once the trend emerges, regardless what
goes wrong, no one will open their mouth not because they do not recognize what is wrong,
but because that is the rule than the exception.
What starts as a young person's individual journey slowly consolidates into
looking after ones own skin. This brings to fruition the apt remark in Doctor Zhivago
about Komorovsky: the most beloved in the community is its greatest villain.
Success in the establishment
When it became difficult to evaluate every collaborating industry, the ISO series
have come into being. Evaluate yourself and get certified. A standard, accepted route for
self promotion. The scientist on the make also has to go through peer review, to which
he should attend if he wants recognition. So there are specific features that spell the
success of a scientific yuppie: it requires the fine art of ignoring ones ambience and pursue
with mindless devotion the furthering of ones own career. The next mantra is: I don't want
to know! It is the case three monkeys, not to see, not to hear, not to talk. The deaf, dumb
and blind will not perceive that the critical monkey is missing, not to
Politeness is the best garb for social hypocrisy. Scientific establishments are no
less. The basic features that defend the quality are often the source of undoing scientific
identity. One is institutional loyalty; the second is subject loyalty and the third is personal
loyalty. Everything else, we don't want to know. It takes guts to challenge these.
Imagine there is two grant proposals, one from a major institute with routine
data acquisition and the other with an idea, new and bold from a lesser place. Once
the committee sits, the scientists from major institutes will either argue for their own
institute or make a pack and put down the new idea. That is something very peculiar to new
ideas, they are hard to defend and are extremely vulnerable. It is easy to make mince meat
of any one with a new idea. Here comes the role of the apathetic yuppie. He/she would
keep quiet as the drama unfolds. Even if the new idea is appreciated, one is not clear how
the pack would move and therefore one keeps quiet
as a safe bet! The idea is killed.
And the lesson is learnt. When Polonius advised his son "neither a borrower nor a lender
be', he could have meant new ideas, if he were a scientist!
Plagiarism of thought
In fact, since much of Indian science is controlled by the
western ideology and practices
we need their citation indices, their journals, their impact factors,
collaborations with the west, visits and meetings. The simplest solution is to work on their problems.
You belong to the crowd! Few if any develop their own problems in this country. Bigger
the `stature of the institute' more are the borrowed problems. Bigger places borrow big
problems and current problems and smaller places borrow smaller and older problems. In this
morass of duplicate research unencumbered by ideas and insights, could plagiarism and
false data be even lesser sins?! After all, plagiarism is copying
some one else's physical data, while entire careers were made by supplying samples to and duplicating others'
results. Usually false publications do not wish to draw attention to themselves since the
purpose would be some token improvement of biodata, a degree to a student etc..
Double standards and looking the other side are quite common. When an Indian
was accused of plagiarism at Yale, the journals made noise about whether the pure American research values are getting diluted by lower strata of intellectual life, whose social
and moral antecedent are not known. In case any body missed, we Indians are of that
lower category. A little latter, when a prospective MD in Racker's lab used a fluorescent
marker to generate gels to mimic (32-P)phosphate incorporation, same journals waxed
eloquent about the pressures on the students whose obsession with doing well leads them
astray, a social problem of forward societies like the USA and not the moral fault of the
student! No one protested! In fact success also is tainted by ones background. The obituaries
for Yellapragada Subbarow in the American newspapers sadly reflected on the naked
ambition that led this foreigner to their shores driving him to do better than his betters! He did
not know his place and had the hubris to do better. People did not want to know.
So there has been talk about lower ethical standards in developing countries. If
some Arab published some 20 plagiarized papers, it has to do with their feudal structures
that do not permit percolation of clear Anglo Saxon/Western value systems. The west is
very silent about citation. In fact, they do not cite work outside their own clubs. The credit
for the only systematic attempt to unravel the psyche and the modus operandi behind
this `idea stealing', to my knowledge, belongs Raja Amphora of the Infinity Foundation.
All this goes to show that there is a highly tilted system that we borrowed from
the West and the operational structure of science itself is embedded in it and is not free
On things going wrong
There were several articles in Current Science about how bad was the
Pokhran explosion and how India should steer clear of the Nuclear weapon policy. Of course
it reads good to have a view about how nuclear war is bad for us. There was not a
single remark about how some one next door could get away with selling blue prints to
other countries. There was not a single remark about how justified as the USA and Great
Britain occupy Iraq in search of WMD for which no evidence existed. As many people died
there as they have in the recent tsunami. Yes, there is not much we could have done for
a natural disaster. If we are so socially conscious about nuclear warfare, why are we
not about international vigilantism or genocides in African and Asian countries? If these
are not our business, how is it that nuclear disarmament is?
It is very clear that much of our psyche is dominated by the Western ideology and
the value system designed and defined by them. The reason why we cannot remedy our
wrongs is that these values have been systematically embraced by us. Much of our
problems arises from a single faulty definition
rather a hypothesis
I am jealous about Haldane. When asked how would they select a candidate for
their major Universities, in terms of degrees, affiliations, publications, he replied that they
are sure that they can make the right decision whether these are spelt out or not. An
arrogance that only an idea-moved person can have.
Are mediocrity and merit synonymous?
There is no surprise element in this argument. What do we mean by merit? We
take it that it is intelligence. Intelligence reflects usually ones academic performance
and occasionally in some virtuosity such as in music. Having intelligence and using it are
two different things. One speaks of emotional intelligence in day-to-day life rather
than intelligence alone.
There are three aspects to ones performance and intelligence is only one of
them. The other two are efficiency and commitment. Any operative has to be evaluated in
terms of all the three. A bright student does doctoral research in a major institute, spends
abroad a number of years and comes back and becomes non-productive. The very first block
is in the transition between intelligence and insight. Those who trained abroad try to
transplant the problems/technologies here. I heard that C.V.Raman thanked his stars that he did
not train abroad. Year after year, institute after institute (read department where required),
we have installed these totems with the `latest techniques' only to find them obsolete
even before their confirmation. It is amazing how we get fantastic recommendations from
the west for these technicians. I had an occasion to ask why and the reply was, though
these are not highly rated, at least they would be value addition for smaller places like India
and other developing countries. We must rehabilitate their residues.
A senior scientist, (himself foreign-trained and returned) in this country remarked
in an open meeting that the only worthwhile scientists remain abroad and those who are
not worth it alone return. He should know.
Most `better'scientists that I know swear by `good'journals. I remember a long
argument with Lehninger in the early eighties. He was persuading me to look at the mechanism
of mitochondrial swelling from the osmotic techniques that we developed in India (to
show that mitochondrial stoichiometry (ATP made per oxygen consumed) varies with the
physical state (osmotic stretch) of the mitochondrial membrane). I asked: why should I spend
my time on a problem on which he published some twenty papers in J.Biol.Chem. alone
not to mention major reviews? His reply was succinct: if he knew the mechanism, where
was the need to publish 20 papers? Duly chastened, we finished the work in the next 6
months and published a paper in Biophys. Biochem. Acta that the swelling was no simple
swelling at all, it was actually a serial disruption of first, the outer membrane, followed by
unfolding and then the rupture, of the inner membrane. The problem was solved and Lehninger
and a few insiders were happy and the smaller (impact-wise) BBA paper was never cited.
Over years, I have not seen attention to detail of what was actually said in
assessing the publications, but only to peripheral details. A senior scientist approached me the
other day to ask about x's work. I told him that I had a fair idea. Fortunately, before I could
utter another word, he told me that he was sure that it is fabulous work because he spoke
very nicely and very vehemently (in that order of importance). I hastily agreed and
terminated the conversation, since, after all, grants are evaluated no better.
So when we speak of merit, we really mean short goals such as exams and
degrees and we have no way to assess ones performance in the country. Thus, efficiency
would tend to rock the boat and ideas would tend to embarrass the establishment.
Commitment would soon evaporate as it would mean fighting the establishment.
Are there solutions?
A bad thing cannot necessarily have `good' solutions. Cancer requires ablation. If
we dispense with merit, there is nothing new. We have many criteria for selection and
awards all of which seek conformity with regionality, gender, caste etc., so much so that any
notion of merit or commitment has taken the backseat. What is bad is that the residual notion
of merit also has limited use if any. So we have to simplify the procedures without
throwing the baby with the bath water.
Academic affairs today is run like the days of permit raj. We were afraid of a
country without controls such that it did not go the way of fascists, communists,
list of these deadly guys was large. Given some liberalization, the
economy actually shot up. We are learning but that is still better than staying static. Similarly,
we cannot undo all the evils of dependence on the West. We can at least remove
biases. Should we simply fund research based on publications? Task force approach as the
so-called thrust areas has become extremely suspect since a given set of people
give themselves the projects. I sat through earlier meetings on biotechnology curriculum
and industry/academia interactions. Typically, the chairperson for the group introduced the topic to us in 20 min, outlined the topic in 50 min, summarized in another 15 min. Time was
up and this followed a group discussion. The show was repeated for another hour except
that three such group leaders spoke. At the end, they all congratulated DBT for a very
advanced brain storming session and left the meeting with thoroughly stormed brains. On the
other hand, DST had special PACs like Interface between Chemistry and Biology and
invited projects nationwide. These were, though very successful, wound up very soon.
Sooner or later, we have to take a firm view of national laboratories and
goal-directed research. Despite several slogans periodically raised, we remained successful in
numbers and not quality. Economic criteria for successful research will be very tough to achieve
in any country. Patents, though raised as a mantra, in developing countries it has become
a defensive game rather than a force. It is still not clear whether research makes
countries rich or rich countries do research. Probably, latter is true. However since much
productivity rests in smaller and cheaper goods in larger volumes (the reason why drug discovery
is going bust, due to unaffordable pricing), higher assimilation capacity requires
higher education and that forms the basis of larger home markets
not front line research.
Actually we have very interesting challenges and problems in gathering
momentum for our own growth and development. The list is endless. To support good work, we
need some pride of association and a respect for self will. Till then much that we talk
about scientific values will remain just talk. It also harms generations of students who live
an ambience of non-authentic academic atmospheres where originality becomes a sin.
*Professor, Dept of Biotechnology, University of Pune, Pune - 411 007
Science Content in Engineering Education
Prof. A.W. Joshi*
How much basic science such as physics and chemistry should be taught in the
four years of the first degree course in engineering? How much applied science should
be taught? Which teachers should teach these courses, science teachers or
engineering teachers? These issues are bothering most engineering and technology institutions in
the country, particularly institutions at the lower rung of the ladder, and different bodies
and committees are coming out with different proposals.
A survey shows that all the prestigious engineering institutions of the country,
among which the Indian Institutes of Technology are the pioneering ones, do have a very
large content of science in their engineering curricula. However, in a vast majority of
engineering institutions spread across the country, the science content is found to be abysmally
low, only about 5%, and confined to the first year of the course.
Thus you start with colleges affiliated to the State Universities, where you find
only one course each in physics and chemistry, those too with the prefix `applied', and none
in biology - except nowadays in biotechnology departments. The physics and chemistry
faculty is put together in what is known as the applied science department. It seems now
the engineering faculty in these colleges is questioning the necessity of the science
faculty teachers, and the thinking is that all these courses could very well be taught by
Upward on the ladder, we see better engineering institutions, such as BIT, BITS,
Delhi Engg College, Bengal Engg College, Thapar Inst in Patiala, National Institutes of
Technology (NITs), and some others, more and more of which are becoming autonomous and
even turning into deemed universities. The science content in the four-year engineering
and technology course increases in this case. Among Indian institutions, it is fairly high in IITs.
When one compares the better institutions with the not-so-good ones, what
strikes one is that there are some clear similarities and differences among them. For
one, institutions of the former category, which teach a fair amount of science in the
curriculum, are autonomous, while the latter group consists mostly of affiliated colleges. The
former group has separate departments of physics, chemistry, mathematics, materials
science, etc, and even humanities, which itself is an indicator of the importance they attach to
basic sciences. The teaching load in terms of number of contact hours per week for the
teachers of the two categories also differs significantly, with the former category requiring
less teaching than the latter. Finally, the former institutions have a better research
atmosphere with various projects, programmes, consultancy, etc, in all their departments,
engineering as well as science. On the contrary, the latter category has no research atmosphere
in their engineering departments, although there could be some R & D activity in their applied science departments. This also becomes clear from the fact that in the latter
institutions, most engineering faculty would be only BE/BTech while science faculty would have
MPhils and PhDs.
These correlations are very revealing - revealing about the state of
engineering education as a whole and science content in it, about the way universities and
institutes frame their courses and syllabi, and about the prestige they attach to science
vis-à-vis engineering. Another aspect that needs to be emphasized is that when a student
enters our institutions, our job is not only to teach him for four years of BE or three years of
BSc or two years of MSc, as the case may be, but it is also to motivate him, enthuse him,
to show him the frontiers and the emerging horizons, whether with a view of a research
career or any other career out in the world, including banking or management. A student in
an institution devoid of any R & D activity is unlikely to develop any interest in his courses.
He would be unable to understand the why and how of the emerging trends in his area,
the new processes and methods, the new technologies and materials, and the latest
discoveries and inventions.
For some reason or the other - blame the British if you like - most Indian
universities have only arts and science faculties and departments, and then probably
commerce, education and others. There are very few universities where we find engineering
and medical faculties as part of the university. But simply blaming the British would also
not do, because even the new universities were started only with the `conventional'
departments or, at the other extreme, were started as technical university or medical
university! Engineering and medicine is taught in colleges, and a university generously gives
them affiliation. In a sense, we are responsible for never trying to integrate areas like
science, engineering, and even arts.
By establishing private engineering colleges, and now even universities of
technology, we have suddenly increased the number of seats available to engineering aspirants.
But I have a feeling that unless these colleges and universities have a dash of R & D
activity, which they do not seem to have presently, they will simply be degree-giving
institutions. And there is the catch. Establishing a research department requires financial inputs
and long-term investments which the private bodies here are not willing to do. These
institutions are meant only for short-term gains. While it is generally felt that they are dragging
science students to engineering, I feel that they are doing a disservice not only to science,
they are also doing a disservice to engineering and technology.
What has been said above about engineering education also applies to
science education, or in fact, to education in any area. In this context, the situation in
medical colleges and medical institutions seems to be better. For as far back as I remember, it
has always been mandatory for a medical college to have a hospital attached to it. This
provides actual work experience to the student-trainee and brings them in contact with the real
world right from the beginning. While the institutions of the first category mentioned above
have their own R & D activity, those of the second category have none of it. It would be
like comparing a student coming out of these institutions with one coming out of a
medical institution who has not been exposed to any patient care during his medical education.
When one goes beyond the country to the developed world, one finds that the
dividing line between science and engineering becomes very fuzzy. The engineering
curriculum contains a tremendous lot of basic science courses. There is also a whole lot of
flexibility in the choice of courses, which a student can choose for his degree. It is much easier
to switch between science and engineering. A student could take his first degree
in engineering, then take up some science-oriented courses for his MS, and become a
scientist or a mathematician. On the other hand, a person could begin as a physicist, chemist
or biologist, and turn to engineering at some point of time. A project such as
mathematical modeling of electrical control systems could equally well be carried out in a
developed country in the electrical engineering department, physics department or
There are a few engineer-turned-scientists in India but all of them have made
the transition via USA. Recently some institutions have opened up such possibilities.
University of Pune is one such State university which admits students who have done their
BE/BTech to its MSc (Physics) programme. This transition is also possible in some IITs and
national institutes like Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and some others, who admit
BE students for MSc or PhD in science subjects. Going from science to engineering is
now almost impossible in India, though one could do that a few decades ago.
Going out into the real world, one sees that an employable person must have a
broad understanding and must have developed skills in more areas than one. Even talking of
our own country, one can think of recent milestones in the past decade such as
Pokhran explosions, ISRO's ever-ambitious satellite launching programmes, remote sensing,
oil exploration and extraction, and the sudden spurge in biotech activities and
the corresponding industry. A worker in any of these areas requires a combination of
physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, geography, geology, and all this aided by
electronics, instrumentation, mathematics, statistics, software and hardware. The nuclear tests
have to be carried out underground, so apart from science,one needs to know the type of
rock and soil there, decide how deep one should go, how the waves would travel through
the rocks to the surface, how far the radiation would spread, the farms and the villages on
the ground above, etc. The area of oil exploration is a highly complex combination of
physics, chemistry, coupled with a lot of electronics, sensors of all kinds, instrumentation, and
all that. The same thing is obviously true for satellite launching, rockets, fuels, etc. And
all this of course has to backed by high degree of mathematics, software and hardware.
We coined the word `biotechnology' or biotech for short. Is what I have described
in the above paragraph not scitechnology? I don't see the need to separate out biology
from other branches of science. Technology requires biology as much as it requires
physics and chemistry. But we never made conscious efforts to bring science and
technology together. On the other hand, we always kept them apart.
*D-2 Ayodhyanagari, Bhau Patil Road, Bopodi, Pune 411 020, Email: email@example.com
Proposal for a "National Science & Technology
(Presented before the `Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet
by Dr. K.L. Chopra, President, SSV in February, 2005)
Ethics are fundamental to a civilized society. Quoting Swami Bodhinanda: "History
of world civilizations shows that societies have risen to higher levels not through
mechanical and technological efficiencies but by practicing sound moral and ethical values". In
the emerging era of internationalized science & technology and tech-nomic-globalization,
related ethical issues are coming to the center stage of development processes. In recognition
of the important role of ethical conduct, most academic and R & D institutions in the
developed world have introduced formal and informal studies on ethical values in their curricula
and training programmes. Some premier institutions in India have also evolved such
courses. Most science & technology based professional societies in developed countries have
also adopted appropriate codes of conduct and, in some cases, also Boards of Ethical
Review. An Office of Research Integrity has also been set up in the US during Clinton
presidency. In India, ICMR and CEHAT have evolved ethical guidelines for Biomedical Research
and Social Science research on humans, respectively. The CSIR has adopted a code of
conduct evolved by the Max Planck Society, FRG. The Union of All European Academies
has circulated a Code of Conduct and has also advised its 48 members to set up
Science Integrity Committees in their respective Academies. Spurred by these developments,
ICSU has advised its member academies globally to prepare country specific documents
on science & technology ethics. An inter academy committee chaired by Prof M G K
Menon has been set up by the INSA for the purpose.
Concern created by the cases of unethical practices in the country led several
Fellows of INSA and other scientist to register a Society for Scientific Values (SSV) during 1986
to promote integrity, objectivity, and ethical values in the pursuit of science &
technology. Led initially by the Founder President, Dr A S Paintal, the SSV has organized a number
of local and national seminars and discussions on the subject for the purpose of
sensitization of knowledge workers and for developing a code of conduct. As a normal watchdog,
the SSV has also investigated a number of cases of unethical practices in the country
and has applied moral pressure, with limited success, to make the unethical accountable.
The activities of SSV have been carried without any infrastructure and on voluntary basis
by the members of the Society.
Now that Ethical Issues are a global concern for knowledge economies, the
SSV proposes that a National Science & Technology Ethics Committee, consisting of
scientists and engineers of high credibility, be set up be MHRD, DST, or INSA to function as
a national think tank as also a watchdog on evolving and emerging ethical issues. Such
a committee should be non governmental and autonomous, with some quasi legal
powers, so that it can be effective in its objectives.
SSV Seminar on Bioethics: A Report
The Annual General Meeting of the Society for Scientific Values was preceded by
a Seminar on Bioethics on 29th April 2005, held in collaboration with the Indian
Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, which is celebrating its centennial year. The
half-day seminar in the seminar hall of the Nuclear Research Laboratory of IARI was attended
by scores of SSV members as well as students and faculty from Delhi and elsewhere.
The President of SSV, Prof. K.L. Chopra, welcomed the distinguished speakers and
the gathering, and underscored the importance of bioethics for India today and its
relevance to the activities of SSV. In his introductory remarks, Prof. Nagarajan, Director of IARI,
drew the attention of the gathering to the importance of ethics in the transfer/exchange
of biological materials, especially between countries. He also lamented on the
unethical violation of geographical indications in the case of products such as Darjeeling tea,
Mysore silk etc. The inaugural address was delivered by Dr. V.L. Chopra, distinguished
agricultural scientist and former DG, ICAR & Secretary to GOI and currently Member,
Planning Commission. He eloquently diffrerentiated the concepts of morality and ethics on the
basis of faith vs. reason, private vs. public, and local vs. universal. He argued that ethics
is based on rational principles and therefore enjoys far more uniform and universal
appeal than morality.
The next speaker, Dr. S. Natesh, Advisor, Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of
India, gave an excellent overview of the growing prospects of biotechnology in India and
elsewhere and the ethical concerns that they generate. He underscored the importance of
public perception in the acceptance of any technology and the need for criticism and debate
as its safety valve in any democracy. He presented ethics as a dillemma, citing gene
therapy, stem cells, cloning, designer babies, organ transplatation and molecular pharming
as examples. He also dwelt briefly on the linkages between ethics and equity,
access, intellectual property rights, plant variety protection, biodiversity and indigenous
knowledge. He cited the example of Arogyapacha as an ethical case of biosprospecting
using indigenous knowledge of the Kani tribe in Kerala, who received a share of the
commercial benefit through their tribal cooperative.
This was followed by a PowerPoint presentation on the topic "Bioethics, Biosafety
and Scientific Values" by Dr. N. Raghuram, Reader, School of Biotechnology, Guru
Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi. He listed the basic principles of bioethics
and characterized the bioethics debates into three levels: philosophical, professional
and regulatory levels. He argued that in India, the professional and regulatory ethics need
more urgent attention as they affect public interest in a more direct and immediate sense.
He listed some contentious issues of biosafety in the context of regulatory ethics and
quoted examples of clinical trials of unapproved drugs, stem cell therapies,
questionable environmental impact assessments etc. He also dwelt on issues of biopiracy and
traditional knowledge, and the link between globalisation, biotechnology and private monopoly.
He urged the Society for Scientific Values to take up issues of professional and
regulatory ethics in biotechnology in public interest.
The seminar provoked some lively discussions and ended with vote of thanks by
Dr. P.S. Datta, Secretary, SSV.