Science congress should focus on practical steps in future 

By Dr Ummer Rashid Zargar 
The 11th Jammu and Kashmir science congress, which concluded recently, put forward some important recommendations and said that the state is facing environmental, economic and health issues which need immediate scientific solution.
Climate change is indeed a great challenge for governments as it is linked to the socio-economic development. The inclusive growth, which has been stressed in the past three decades, is not possible if we are not able to halt the effects of climate change. Even regional and global stability is linked to the prevailing global effects of environment. The devastating floods of 2010 in Pakistan, 2013 natural disaster in the Indian state of Uttarakhand and the September 2014 floods in J&K is an eye opener for every one that Himalayan region especially north west Himalayan region is highly prone to nature’s fury and calls for immediate action from all the concerned stakeholders. Apart from climate change, other burning issues were also touched in the congress and healthy discussions kept panellists and participants busy during different sessions.
The purpose of the state science congress is to ‘inculcate scientific temper among common people’ or more precisely overarching aim is to make general public aware about the advances of science and technology and its utility in day-to-day life. Our state is lagging behind in many key areas and there is urgent need to make use of the scientific innovations to boost its all round development. Science can find solutions to the problems, while as technology has immediate effect as it can be transferred from industry to market. The main concern in our state is that there is large gap between science, technology and industry. Keeping in view the various problems faced by J&K, it is important that science congress in future should holistically focus on various environmental and economic problems which need scientific solutions. We need to reach to a stage where we are able to transfer technology or innovation from laboratory to field and for accomplishment of this aim, these annual conferences provide great platform.
 In future science congress needs to be more practical in the sense that people from every walk of life, especially those who either need help from scientific community or those who want to show their raw innovation at the congress, should be invited. The organisers can make it more vibrant and people friendly if technical sessions are meant for paddy farmers, orchard growers, livestock managers, fishermen. By inviting the local and international experts having experience in dealing with agriculture problems and using their expertise for solving the local agricultural problems will make such a premier event more relevant. I have an experience of participating in all India and international conferences and know one enthusiastic researcher Prof Sandeep Malhotra, head of the department of Zoology at Allahabad Central University, who used to conduct practical sessions for farmers so that their problems are solved on spot during the conference. I was amazed to know when some of the farmers told me that they were not aware what these events are all about but one thing they were unanimous was that it benefits them.
Basically science and technology is a universal endeavour to benefit common man in various capacities. Such events are great platform for introducing new innovative techniques such as farming technique, innovative fish culture methods and easy waste disposal methods. The final goal of such events should be to equip local researchers with latest state of the art technology so that they are able to help the local people who are faced with various environmental, economic and health issues. The inclusion of schools in the science congress is a positive step which is well mentioned in the recommendations of 11th science congress. There should be separate session for schools in order to make them aware about the importance of various burning issues and their possible scientific solutions. It is a matter of concern that our educational institutions especially school education gives less important to science related activities. It is also important to send official invitation to teachers and heads of institutions of schools so that schools are also part of this elite conference. It will be more appropriate if a day of the congress is kept for schools in which talented students are invited to meet the best science achievers and are allowed to express their innovative science creativity before them. The concept should be that schools are made a base for the scientific innovation and talented youngsters are prepared for the future science endeavours.  It was also the aim of former Indian president Dr APJ Kalam to include young buds, especially school going kids, in premier scientific events so that they take science as a life mission.
  The congress should be made on the similar lines as that of Indian Science Congress, though it is difficult due to funding and other issues. However, organisers can mimic some of the important features which make ISC so popular and successful even after 100 years of its inception. Main feature of ISC is that it keeps updated with the new feature that has relevance for the common Indians. For example, ‘Make in India’ and ‘Swachh Bharat’ schemes were part of 103rd ISC held in Mumbai, 2015. Although, some participants were skeptical about the inclusion of these schemes thinking there was no innovation in them, but maximum participants appreciated and advocated that introducing such all India schemes at the premier scientific event has a long lasting effect on society. Basically we don’t need to showcase science in isolation, but we need to link it with societal issues, that is what should be the objective of these conferences.
—The author is a fellow of fast track young scientist at the Science and engineering research board, DST. Feedback: