Right now, Colin Macilwain cannot be more on top of the problem: the role of a Chief Scientific Adviser has shifted toward leveraging science and technology to reap rewards through economic and industrial policy, away from bridging the gap between the ruling elite and the academically engaged.
A contrast with India, unfortunately, is meaningless in this regard. While New York and Berlin may face off over what it means to have one person at the top versus what it means to have several people engaged throughout, scientific policy in India is in a shambles more because the Chief Scientific Adviser, C.N.R. Rao, has professed no inclination toward either agenda.
Instead, given that the country is oriented primarily toward tackling the energy crisis, Rao’s role in influencing the government to institute decentralization policies, cross-generation power tariffs, and subsidization of alternative energy sources pales in comparison to the industrial lobby that subsumes his voice with just a lot of money.
While we leave universities to tackle their loss of autonomy – chiefly because the boards indulge public interference in order to maximise public-funding – and our engineers to bridge the infrastructural gap between low consumption, lower private-sector investment, and invitations to greater foreign direct-investment, who is really running science in India?