Science Congress: an appraisal

Source: The post is based on an article “Science Congress: an appraisalpublished in The Indian Express on 4th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Science and Technology

Relevance: issues associated with the ISC and measured needed to bring reforms.

News: The Indian Science Congress is conducting its 108th edition in Nagpur after a two-year gap due to the pandemic. The event was inaugurated by PM Modi.

What are the excerpts of the PM’s speech?

He highlighted harnessing scientific knowledge for societal needs and making India self-reliant.

He said that scientific works should be such which will fulfill the needs of India and have effects on the entire humanity. Therefore, we should work on such issues which are important for the entire humanity. 

He also mentioned other priority areas like disease control, management of natural disasters, space applications, waste management, new materials, and semiconductor research.

What is the Indian Science Congress?

The Indian Science Congress was started in 1914. It brings together scientists and researchers from the premier institutions, laboratories, science teachers and professors from colleges and universities.

It offers a platform for their interaction with students and the general public on matters related to science.

It is organized by the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA), an independent body functioning with the support of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in the central government.

However, the purpose of organizing the Indian Science Congress is not being served these days and there have been lots of criticism of it.

What are the reasons behind the criticism and the decline of ISC?

There has been a lack of serious discussion, promotion of pseudoscience, weird claims by random speakers, and the absence of useful outcomes.

Scientists, leading scientific institutions and laboratories and others have started to avoid the event.

The attendees from colleges and universities have limited scientific knowledge and papers presented by them hardly reflect the latest advancements in science.

Some scientists have asked for the discontinuation of the event or at least withdrawal of government support. There have been talks of reforms but nothing has happened.

Why has the government not been successful in bringing reforms in ISC?

The government provides an annual grant for organizing the ISC. Government agencies, like the Science and Education Research Board, also make financial contributions because the event is seen as an effort to promote science.

Further, the government has no role to play in the selection of the panelists or speakers, the papers to be presented, or the subjects to be discussed.

But due to the grants provided by the government and presence of the PM, the event gets attached with the government and lands in a controversy.

The government is then blamed for it and also have fear of being blamed as anti-science if reforms are brought.

What can be done to bring reforms in the ISC?

Scientists say that a better way to reform the Science Congress could be to develop an alternative forum.

Top Indian and global scientists could be invited in the forum to talk about the latest developments in the science. These kinds of forums are already being organised in many countries and are extremely popular.

The forum can also serve as platforms to spread scientific knowledge among youngsters, general public and help in developing scientific temper.

It could also help in making Indian science more competitive, and lead to an increase in collaborative research with leading scientific groups and institutions.

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