Why science congress needs to look beyond sessions

We need better research papers and practical products. More students should take up basic science

GN Bureau | January 3, 2015




Prime minister Narendra Modi expressed his happiness to be at the 102nd session of Indian Science Congress (ISC), which he inaugurated in Mumbai on Saturday. However, he if takes a closer look at the science in India, he may feel depressed.

 “Human development has been larger purpose and driving force of India's scientific pursuits with science helping shape modern India. Our scientists have placed us at the forefront of the world in many areas,” Modi said at the ISC.

Apart from the success of ISRO missions and information technology industry, India has little to show in terms of excellence in research and development.

Periodic studies have shown that very few students pursue basic science. Even Bharat Ratna awardee CNR Rao has rued often about this lack of interest in pure science. Many institutions admit that the ratio of graduates who seek to enroll in science research is very low. Even those who join research projects fail to produce world class and original projects and products.

"Science may be the product of human brain. But, it is also driven by the compassion of human heart -the desire to make human life better," the prime minister said.

Unfortunately, Indian scientists are still not tuned to make human life better. They produce reams of research papers, which have no relevance to common people.

A country with a scientific legacy of over 2500 years has a very short list of world class patents. In medicine we have failed to produce appropriate Indian standards for heart disease or say diabetes. In defence sector, the LCA (light combat aircraft) project has reached testing phase after decades. One is not even mentioning amount of time and money lost as it would be branded unpatriotic.

To be fair, one needs to hear the scholars and their woes. The scientists speak of many impediments in their work. They mention complete absence of free and fair organizational system. There is no accountability and no performance review takes place. The politicians should also stop interfering in these institutions. To produce highest standards of academic excellence all these basic requirements should be in place.

The theme for 102nd ISC is "Science and Technology for Human Development." The sessions will cover a wide variety of topics like agriculture and forestry, veterinary science, earth science, environment, engineering, information & communication, computer sciences, mathematics, medicine, biology, physics and plant sciences.

Modi said that science and technology can remove national barriers, unify the world and advance peace. One hopes that the scientists will inwards first to remove cobwebs in their institutions and then makes us proud.

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