Don't judge science by Nobel: Venkatraman

At a public lecture here on Monday, the 2009 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry asked young students to apply the so called Crick formula—floated by Francis Crick, Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of DNA structure—which suggests if the subject of research is not worth gossiping then it also not worth pursuing.

“It is a classic test that you can use. If you do not gossip about your problem that means you are not really interested in it,” said Ramakrishnan addressing young research students.

One of the leading scholars on ribosome—components of cell that make proteins from amino acids—Ramakrishnan had earlier turned down an offer from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to open a centre of excellence in India.

But he accepted the government’s offer of visiting India and give lectures. He gave a talk at the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune on Sunday, which was followed by the lecture in the capital. He would also speak at the upcoming 98th session of Indian Science Congress in Chennai on January 4.

Israeli scientist and pioneer of ribosome studies Ada Yonath who shared the 2009 Nobel in chemistry with Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz will also speak at the Science Congress.

Fifty-eight-year-old Ramakrishnan, however, advised students to be patient. “Everyday science is tedious and you have to have the patience to see a problem through. This requires on how much you care about the problem,” he said.

Moreover, the glamour of the Nobel Prize should not be considered as the only benchmark in judging science. “A single Nobel Prize does not mean suddenly Indian science is okay. Judging science in a country by the number of Nobel Prizes won is not a good way,” Ramakrishnan said.

But when asked to elaborate on alternate benchmarks in judging scientific progress, the professor said he would write a detailed response for a magazine (Biotech News) published by the department of biotechnology and one has to wait to read that response.

Choice of institutes

Ramakrishnan also urged students to think at least five years ahead on advances made in an area of research and to pick up institutes carefully.

“It has to be one with a very good intellectual environment for your work. If you go to a second rate place and you are first rate, it is very difficult to do first rate work because you do not have that critical feedback you need for a first rate on a daily basis,” he said.

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