The prime minister’s Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) Saturday stressed the need for more functional autonomy and funds for Indian scientific research institutes.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the advisory council, headed by C.N.R. Rao, made a presentation on how India over the few decades has slipped from a high standing in the world of research, Minister of Science and Technology Kapil Sibal told reporters.

"In a presentation, Rao pointed out that over the last 30 years India’s contribution has slipped from 10 percent of scientific knowledge in the global community to only 2.7 percent now. Something drastic needs to be done," Sibal maintained.

"There is a lack of support to the scientific community by the state, undue interference in institutes of excellence, and research and development institutes besides the political and bureaucratic control that impedes scholarship and excellence.

"Rao has sought that the prime minister should look into the matter to reverse the trend," he added.

The SAC, along with the Knowledge Commission set up by the prime minister to review the functioning of the centres of higher education, has sought that scientists be allowed to continue working till the age of 65 based on the criteria of excellence.

Sibal said that director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) R.A. Mashelkar in a presentation had highlighted that due to lack of adequate focus on research, China has overtaken India.

The study was on the basis of research papers published by China and India in top scientific journals.

While admitting that the government has taken on board several of the suggestions mooted by SAC in the last one year, including plans to set up more scientific institutions on the lines of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, Sibal said more focus has to be given to creating better job opportunities in science to attract the best talent.

At present, India has only 157 scientific researchers per million population, while in the US the ratio is 4,000 per million population and in Scandinavian countries, it is nearly 7,000.

Besides lack of autonomy in appointments, Sibal said unlike China’s allocation of 1.5 percent of GDP as funding for scientific pursuits, India spends only 0.8 percent of GDP on research.

"China is planning to raise the allocation for scientific research to three percent of GDP. We must match it with a system of our own. Science and technology is the heart of development in western world. If you want economic development, you have to promote innovation," he said.

Seeking more synergy with the ministry of human resources development to provide inputs for scientific education, Sibal hoped that the Knowledge Commission would come up with some suggestions in this regard.

The minister said the prime minister has assured the SAC that the government would take all steps to improve India’s competitive position in science research.

The prime minister has asked the SAC to convene a conference of chief ministers to discuss issues pertaining to science teaching and improvement in facilities for higher education, while providing funding for research.