India's research output and patent numbers have increased in the recent years as the government opens up to collaborations with the private sector. But more spending on research and development has not translated to improvement in scientific communications, a report suggests.
The report by a private group Impact Science points out that while in many countries the public communication of science has changed from a “virtue to a duty”, the public knowledge about what research institutions do and what factors drive their ‘going public’ is very limited in India.
Scientific communication has not kept pace with scientific developments, according to Krishnaswamy VijayRaghavan, the former principal scientific adviser to the government. “There is no point in doing science unless and until it is written up and communicated to your peers. Communication is at the heart of all our science,” he says.
Krishnendu Sengupta of the Indian Association for Cultivation of Science in Kolkata says funds for research in India are scanty. Overall, funding for research follows western trends. “For example if quantum computation is the current subject of interest in the west, then funding in India skews heavily towards allied subjects,” he says. Also, scientific communication in the West is made interesting for all audiences unlike in India, he says.
Researchers should take time out to hold outreach activities for the public, says Meenakshi Iyer, from the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore. “Since the pandemic, there has been a good presence of academic researchers, medical practitioners and researchers on social media dispelling myths, presenting scientific facts and answering questions about the virus. Similar platforms can be used to convey other research findings to the people,” says Iyer.
The Impact Science report says, “Leading academic institutions, governments, and funders of research across the world have spent the last few decades fretting publicly about the need for scientists and research organizations to engage more widely and be open about their research." The former Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Shekhar Mande feels that training bureaucrats to listen to scientists and exposing policy makers to lectures by scientists will lead to better communication between these groups.
Bangalore has a tradition of science communication through institutions such as the Bangalore Science Forum, and newer initiatives such as Kaapi with Kuriosity by International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, which organise public talks on a variety of scientific issues. These fora help disseminate knowledge about areas such as climate change; and explore areas that need public education.