Synopsis: Ministry of education’s circular for regulating online conferences is not well thought out. It will discourage innovation.
What was the circular about an online conference?
- Recently, education ministry released a circular to the state-funded universities and educational institutions. A per this circular, these institutions and universities need prior official approval from external Affairs ministry for hosting online “international conferences and seminars online”.
- It also prohibits the conference topics relate to security of the state, border, the northeast, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, and broadly, any “internal matters”. Not only topics, but a background check of participants will be required.
- Event organisers were required to give preference to technological tools and channels not owned or controlled by hostile countries or agencies.
- The circular was issued in consultation with the External Affairs Ministry. Indian Academy of Sciences protested this circular and triggered a rethink on it.
Importance of virtual or online conference
- Firstly, in a pandemic-hit phase virtual conferences are the only viable channel for researchers to collaborate and discuss various issues with their global peers. The circular created a new bureaucratic hurdle for scientists in public universities, colleges and organisations.
- Secondly, Online conferences were instrumental in increased participation of thousands of Scientists. It increased attendance at events by 80% in 2020 over 2019 for the Plant Biology Worldwide Summit and over 300% for the American Physical Society meeting.
- Third, Virtual conferences clear out many hurdles like visas, expensive travel, and physical disability and so on, for the scientists who don’t have resources for that. Even researchers and students in the smallest towns can attend these conferences.
- Fourth, India has also made progresses in peer-reviewed publications due to these collaborations. It reduces the concerns of bio piracy by documenting natural assets.
Thus, online conferences proved to be very beneficial for the research and technology in India. Government should adopt more liberal approach towards it.