The 97the Indian Science Congress, which concluded in Thiruvananthapuram last week, underlined both the opportunities and the challenges for science and technology in India. The theme of the congress was “science and technology challenges for the 21 century” from a national perspective. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and eminent scientists and science administrators drew attention to the obstacles and problems in the pursuit of science and the need to get over them. Red tape, corruption and political intervention, which are the bane of other areas of life, are rampant in the world of science too and they should be eliminated if science and technology have to advance. India is at a critical stage of development and the state of its science and technology will be a major factor in its growth. There is a new awareness about this which the science congress indicated.
It was observed that the participation of scientists, technologists, research scholars, students and others in the congress was much more than in previous years. About 2,000 papers were presented and over 40 plenary sessions in various areas were held. Topics as diverse as nutrition, global warming, nanotechnology, energy needs, water and biodiversity were discussed. The suggestions made at the sessions included the formation of a national council to co-ordinate actions to protect bio-diversity and the need to improve the quality of teachers. The idea of concentrating efforts and attention of scientists and technologists on critical areas also received much attention. There is no need to fritter away resources and talent, though ultimately there is no knowledge that is useless.
The congress was also noted for the public participation and the success of the children’s science congress. About three lakh students saw the Pride of India exhibition, a showcase of achievements. While these are hopeful signs, there is much to be done to translate them into achievements in future. An annual event like the science congress can be only representative and indicative of the state of science in the country. The responsibility to improve that rests on the government, individual scientists, institutions and the society at large.