The alarm bells were set off by chief scientific advisor to the Prime Minister, CNR Rao's letter to the PM.
Warning of a 'crisis' in the field of science, he urged an immediate 'structural transformation', if India did not want to become a mediocre performer.
Most Indian scientists echo Rao's views and voice their worries on a further slide, if urgent measures are not taken to cease the decline.
Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal says Rao has raised pertinent issues. "We want excellence at a global level and innovation at the local level," he told HT.
But, he added, there was need to 'restructure' the ministry in view of the requirements of the 21st century and the new world economic framework.
Ironically, funds aren't a problem. "During the last five years research funding has increased by 10 to 15 per cent every year," says Director General CSIR RA Mashelkar.
"From about 11,000 research papers annually in the 1980-2000 period, we have moved to 19,000 research papers annually. But others have moved much faster and their research spending is much larger."
India's R&D spend at 0.9 per cent of GDP is lower than countries like China where it is 1.3 per cent. But that's not the only problem.
Research must be made into an attractive career option and promoting research in the university system is our biggest challenge. "An assistant professor in IIT with a fresh PhD draws a salary of Rs 25,000 while his market value is Rs 10 lakh plus. Who will come to IIT?" asks Mashelkar.