New policy on scientific social responsibility soon

New policy on scientific social responsibility soon

Vistors look at a science model at the expo held as part of 107th Indian Science Congress on the GKVK premises in Bengaluru on Sunday. DH PHOTO

The government of India is on the verge of bringing out a new national policy which would strongly encourage scientists funded by the government to share their work with the public.

This policy on scientific social responsibility could mirror corporate social responsibility, Union Minister for Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

Speaking at the 107th Indian Science Congress on Sunday, Dr Akhilesh Gupta, head of the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) in Delhi, offered further clarity on the matter. The NCSTC is part of the larger Department of Science and Technology.

The new policy will make it near mandatory for scientists and faculty members who have received projects from the Department of Science and Technology or other supporting government agencies to take, what Dr Gupta, described as “some social responsibility.”

Officials described the policy as a matter of necessity. India is facing a grave shortage of researchers to the point that the country has the lowest number of researchers per million of the population in the country: 215, in comparison to 1,000 in China, explained Dr Gupta.

“If we need to increase the pool of our researchers in 5-8 years, the public has to be told about the work being carried out in various research institutes and we have to expose children to science, to get them motivated to adopt science as a career,” he said.

“This could involve scientists visiting schools in their locality to give talks on their work or writing an article for a popular magazine or doing something beyond their curriculum,” he said, adding, however, that scientists should not see this a mandatory exercise but instead as an opportunity.  

Officials complained that scientists are often busy with their work and do not find the time to take their work to the public.

Another aspect of science communication being examined by the government is inculcating students with science writing or communication skills. The Department of Science and Technology has launched a programme, Augmenting writing skills for articulating research (Awsar), which would see students writing articles on scientific research with the best articles getting awards.

“We have had an unprecedented number of students showing interest,” Dr Gupta said. “If students can be motivated to write such stories. We are planning to bring these stories to the mainstream media to get them national coverage,” he added.

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