Scientific enterprises run by India’s small Urdu-speaking population could serve as models to help India improve science communication across the country (see Nature 571, 289–290; 2019).
Although only 4% of India’s population speaks Urdu, this amounts to more than 50 million people. Most cannot read English and are far behind the mainstream in science. There are just two long-running scientific publications in Urdu: Urdu Science Mahnamah (Urdu Science Monthly; http://urduscience.org) and Science-ki-Duniya (World of Science; go.nature.com/2u8cnqa).
Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz, a botanist, has spearheaded progress in communicating science in Urdu. In 2015, he set up the National Urdu Science Congress at Zakir Husain Delhi College, where he was then principal. The congress is now held every year in different cities, on or around India’s National Science Day on 28 February. Social aspects of the venture prompted the founding of the annual National Urdu Social Science Congress, now in its third year.
Parvaiz is currently vice-chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad. This institution was established in 1998 by an act of parliament to impart vocational and technical education in Urdu. Use of English scientific vocabulary prepares students for the international stage.
Similar initiatives could be set up by other speakers of minority languages in India to improve science communication.
Nature 573, 34 (2019)