Quantum Leap

2018 has opened on the wrong foot for science in India

It’s rare for Indian Science Congress Association to have missed its scheduled annual meeting in the first week of January.

 |  Quantum Leap  |  2-minute read |   02-01-2018
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The new year has begun with a crucial date missing from the Indian science calendar — the annual Indian Science Congress (ISC) session. It’s rare for the century-old Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) to have missed its scheduled annual meeting in the first week of January.

Barring its 2014 session in Jammu which was held in February instead due to the cold wave, the science congress has maintained the tradition of meeting at the beginning of the year. The reasons for the last-minute change — and eventual rescheduling — are unclear, though student unrest has been cited as the reason for the host, Osmania University, dragging its feet.

If student protest was feared during the congress, organisers could have negotiated with students. If there was a security threat to political dignitaries slated to attend the inaugural session, they could have addressed the session via video conferencing. Such options don’t seem to have been explored.

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The change in venue at such a late stage has reflected poorly on ISCA and OU. Both are autonomous bodies and should have asserted themselves to hold the meeting as scheduled. While it’s the duty of governments to fund such events, under no circumstances, should financial support be leveraged to undermine the autonomy of institutions like ISC, etc.

Despite its shortcomings and the tag of a mela, ISC remains the only platform for science popularisation and an exercise in public engagement of science. It brings together leaders in science, including Nobel laureates, policy makers, scientists, science students and school kids. Though groundbreaking science is not presented during the congress, it’s a great opportunity for young people to learn about science and the latest developments in India.

Science congress is less about paper presentation and more about the intermingling of young and old and exchange of ideas. We also need to make efforts to improve the quality and content of the congress to make it more meaningful. Scientific departments and national laboratories could use the occasion to display their achievements in a way people can understand and also crowdsource new ideas. Science congress would also be the perfect platform to attract the youth to careers in science.

At least a few of them would pursue careers in science, if provided some counselling on the spot during the congress.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

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Writer

Dinesh C Sharma Dinesh C Sharma @dineshcsharma

Journalist, columnist and author based in New Delhi.

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