doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.129 Published online 10 October 2017
India is upping the science communication game with a slew of new projects lined up in the next couple of months, including a 24-hour dedicated science news channel, an internet TV channel and a science and technology portal highlighting the country’s scientific output.
Secretary to India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) Ashutosh Sharma announced at a book release function here last evening (9 October 2017) that the efforts were geared at creating a robust space for the public communication of many initiatives that otherwise remain buried within the research landscape, which is primarily funded by the government.
Science journalism and public communication of science was “way too important to be left alone to scientists or journalists”, Sharma said, adding that just like Corporate Social Responsibility for corporates, scientists need to be encouraged towards fulfilling a ‘Scientific Social Responsibility’, through which scientists would be involved in socially-relevant voluntary activities.
To make scientists come out more in the open about their work and to hone their communication skills, DST will recognise the best communicators among PhD students, who would now be mandated to write one popular science article during their doctoral research.
Launching the book1 – a compelling compilation of India’s hits and misses with science communication – the country’s science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan said powerful new age tools were now available to communicate science and the government feels the need to use them in creating the value story for India’s science. “We do a lot of things as ministers but people do not get to know about them,” he said.
Sharma said as India embarks upon large international projects, such as LIGO and the Square Kilometre Array, it was imperative that the applications of such multi-million dollar initiatives –technology-spin offs, socially-relevant uses – be also made more obvious to the public. “It is important that we make a clear distinction between the excitement of science and the propaganda of science.” He said the mainstream media had very little hunger for science stories and that needed to change significantly.
Girish Sahni, Director General of India’s Council for Industrial and Scientific Research (CSIR), said scientists were very good at communicating their science to editors of scientific journals but when it came to breaking down the technicalities of their research for public consumption, they faced a challenge. “Communication is a two-way street and scientists are mostly introverts. We need to link science to society and that will open scientists up more to people,” he said.
Science historian Deepak Kumar pointed out that India could make a mark globally by taking a firm decision on contentious issues such as genetically modified crops and by scotching any attempt to promote pseudoscience.
1. Bridging the communication gap in science and technology – Lessons from India. Eds. Bagla, P. & Binoy, V. V. Springer (2017)