14 September 2011


From an item on 'India Is Geek Nation' in the fan magazine known as Fast Company -
The subtitle of my book [ie Geek Nation: How Indian Science is Taking Over the World by Angela Saini] is a bit bombastic, but the contents are more balanced. I look at scientific research and technologies that are having a big effect on ordinary people's lives - the good as well as the bad - and the ambitious projects that the government hopes will help secure India's future superpower status. At the end of the day, I'm just a journalist. I'm not trying to argue a point, but rather to take an honest picture of a country through my geeky lens.

What was the most surprising thing you uncovered while researching your book?

There wasn't a day in my research that I wasn't surprised by something. I traveled the length of India, north to south, and met such fascinating characters. What impressed me most is that so many Indian researchers have such a social aspect to their work. They want to help India's poor and vulnerable, as well as to do good science.

One interviewee, Sujatha Narayanan, was a tuberculosis researcher I met in Chennai. A few years ago, when she didn't have enough healthy volunteers for her work, she started running tests on herself. One day she found some TB bacteria in a tube that had been in her throat, which meant she may have accidentally infected herself. She had to undertake a grueling drug treatment for months, which she believes triggered her diabetes. She put her life on the line for her work, but it has not diminished her passion or her commitment to science.
An ethos in which researchers use themselves as lab rats in the absence of "enough healthy volunteers" and "accidentally" infect themselves with tuberculosis is at best problematical. Too much time spent watching B-grade movies, not enough attention to protocols?