Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Emperor of All Maladies - some thought about US versus rest of the world

I am currently reading the latest Booker Award Winner book "The Emperor of All Maladies" by Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee.
While it is a wonderful read, and I plan to write about it, the present post is about something slightly different.
The history of cancer research is replete with research that is predominantly US centric. Much of this has been done by people who have migrated in from other countries. Even Dr Mukherjee, is an example of a brilliant writer and researcher who has taken the same approach.
This set me wondering, why is it that most people who are doing basic research do their best work in the USA?
Even in the times of economic turmoil and recession, I still believe that at least in research work in basic sciences the USA is far ahead of India and other developing countries.
Many factors are likely to decrease the US dominance in world affairs. But till the time the BRIC nations are able to provide good research facilities and a culture of excellence, scientific discoveries and innovations are still likely to be a predominantly US domain. T
his is likely to influence how the world shapes up in the future.
As to the reason why this situation exists, superficially speaking, there is less of a hierarchy in the USA, and generally speaking your work is more likely to speak for itself. Also the lack of a culture of doing great basic research, and bureaucratic nature of government organizations in India stifle creativity. The pay and lack of growth opportunities, i am sure, play a role to.
Just somethings to think about while we wait for an end to the Unipolar US centric world.