Monday, August 8, 2011

............Once I struggled for computer resources.................................

      Samir K. Brahmachari- OSDD Mentor(DG CSIR) 

@CDAC GARUDA  opening boot camp at   Malabar Christian College 

"Once I struggled for computer resources   and internet access; now I have access to super computing facility from my home.  OSDD project made it possible."   Swathi Gandhi  Osdd researcher from Gujarat

      Revolutionary initiative happened in the 
Indian Science  Policy


In my career journey as a teacher, the passion for  learning and knowledge, had diverted and dissipated in  different directions. Working in a college, located in a rural area, besides teaching, there were a lot of things to be involved and I did enjoy them too.  But the quest for higher learning I could not pursue much and I lost the focus in the course of time. Blame is on me, not on circumstances
 In an attempt  to be back to the stream , I joined University Department in early 90s as a researcher on  part  time basis. Commuting about 70 km. single way between  my institution, Marthoma College, Chungathara and Calicut University on vacation days and holidays, itself was not easy. Then there was also the tiring synthetic and analytical work in the Inorganic Chemistry lab.
It was mainly for literature survey and thermal decomposition studies I had to struggle for internet access and computer programs. Eventhough computers came to My Department at that time there were many constraints regarding working hours.  Fortunately one of my fellow researchers was having  inertnet connection at his home at that time, even though it was slow and also the power and connection failed intermittantly. Somehow we together did much of the work at his home. Meanwhile I also installed a system and a slow dial up connection at my home. Being employed, I could afford it. In the light of my experiene narrated here, one can easily imagine the plight of students and researchers hailing from rural backgrounds and are economically or socially backward. Their destiny has not changed much through these years.
Today, informatics and computational methods are part and parcel of all areas of knowledge. Computers have prolifirated much in our country. But  it is largely in commercial and administrative applications and to some extent for educational purposes. The initiative in the ares of  higher learning and research is very meagre. Only very few of the  institutions have enough hardware and software requirements for advanced learning and research. Young talented students from rural backgrounds and middle and lower  ranks of social strata can never hope to use it. They depend largely on public sector and Government Institutions for their education.   Reasons are easy to be identified. Lack of awareness, non availability of fecilities or non affordability of intensive training and coaching required to cross the entry barriers etc.  But this does not mean they lack talent, innovative mind and creativity. It is a fact that  vast pool of these resources remain undertrained and underutilised.
Under such circumstances, for the first time in our Nation’s scientific history super computing power reaches genuinely interested researchers throughout the length and breadth of the country.  By all means it is one of the most revolutionary initiative happened in the Indian scientific field  in this decade Until now only those belonging to the elite institutions could even dream of having access to computational fecility of this level. OSDD and Garuda has done a great service to the nation in throwing open this fecility to the OSDD researchers.

 It has already built up a community where scientists, researchers, students and others with genuine interest come together, exchange ideas and knowledge, share expertise and fecilities. It aims at involving the un-utilised or underutilised intellect of all those who can contribute.  Now students  even from rural institutions and even educated lady home makers can make their own contributions to scientific research, provided they have a genuine interest and commitment. Already such contributions are giving steam to the Open Source Drug Discovery movement. With the advent of supercomputing fecility OSDD community is looking ahead for greater strides. Sameer Brahmachari, Director General of CSIR  announced the opening of Garuda supercomputing facility on 28th of December 2010 Christian College. What a researcher requires is a broadband internet connection and a rational thinking and a genuine dedicated approach to doing science. They will now be able to design molecules with desired properties or analyze genomes or complex protein structures by accessing the super computers, the Government of India provides. This is expected to fire up hitherto untapped, unnoticed talent of Indian Rural Youth.

OSDD itself is a mission with a difference. Developing affordable drugs for neglected diseases affecting the common people of India and other third world countries is the proclaimed aim of the project. The killer disease, Tuberculosis is the first target OSDD is working on. With the appearance of drug resistant varieties the killer epidemic is looming large over the country. The common medicines used to treat this disease were developed some fifty years back or more. Hence developing a more effective affordable drug becomes an issue of great national priority. This is the rationale for OSDD. It intends to develop non -patented drugs in open source.