Success in science and scientific work came not through the provision of unlimited or big resources, but in the wise and careful selection of problems and objectives
February 28 is celebrated as National Science Day with a different theme every year. The theme of the year-2022 is “Integrated Approach in Science and Technology for a Sustainable Future”. The crux of this theme is in the two key phrases: “integrated approach” and “sustainable future”.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of linkages between scientific institutions, government departments, and pharma industries. It was an integrated approach followed by governments and private industry that ensured the survival of humanity.
A statement issued by India’s Ministry of Science and Technology has clearly mentioned that the celebration of National Science Day or any other important scientific day should not be confined to a single day but should signify the synergy of all science ministries and departments to work collaboratively on a theme-based approach, with integration of technical, engineering and medical institutions, and finally integration with industries for sustainable development. Moreover, the United Nations has declared that the year 2022 will be dedicated to the basic sciences, with a focus on how scientific research can propel sustainable development and improve the quality of life across the world.
An integrated approach will require a multi learning environment (MLE) – the combo of virtual learning environment (VLE) and physical learning environment (PLE). The learning environment can affect learning outcomes. A multi learning environment demands strong bonding between institutions of learning and industries.
Teaching science needs motivation, innovation and commitment, rather than a routine job. The world has entered the era of biotechnology and nano-technology, so we need to introduce such courses at earlier levels. There are various flaws in the teaching methodology of science subjects and the urgent need is to rectify these. The younger generation should be well aware that the quality of our life, the strength of our economy, and the very future of our society depends upon the innovations and discoveries made by scientists.
One of the best ways to improve our performance in scientific research is to develop research-oriented curricula in science and link it with industry. We also have to focus on cultivating the habit of independent and critical thinking among students. A focus on analytical thinking and problem solving is extremely important in a country like India which is riddled with socio-economic and development challenges. A nation with few PhD scientists, ill-equipped laboratories, and limited ICT will struggle to address its challenges.
We must also consider the importance of science literacy in the wider society. If people don’t understand the basic science of germs, they will be less likely to wash their hands. If the community doesn’t understand the cause and impact of climate change, it will be less likely to take remedial action. Because of the social nature of science, the dissemination of scientific information is crucial to its progress. Some scientists present their findings and theories in papers that are delivered at meetings or published in scientific journals. These papers enable scientists to inform others about their work, to expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists, and, of course, to stay abreast of scientific developments around the world. The advancement of information science and the development of information technologies shorten the time between discovery and application. It is pertinent to mention here that the dissemination of scientific information and the visibility and easy access of publications at the right time is not only for the purpose of citations but is also a prerequisite for the creation of novel approaches. The global publishing giants should work towards increasing their visibility and access to help open new vistas in science and technology at a general level.
Success in science and scientific work came not through the provision of unlimited or big resources, but in the wise and careful selection of problems and objectives. A scientific mind is not afraid to speak the truth even if it may not be consonant with established thoughts. Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minster of India, was of the view that a strong scientific base and a scientific temper are the most powerful catalysts for both economic performance and social progress. If India wants to transform itself into a developed nation, it requires a major boost to science and technology.
About fifty years ago, both houses of Parliament passed a far-sighted resolution underscoring the importance of Science and Technology. The resolution said, “The key to national prosperity, apart from the spirit of the people, lies in the effective combination of three factors: technology, raw material and capital investment.” A lot of things have been achieved since the adoption of this resolution. However, they are not enough. The annual budget of top ten universities in the US is more than $1 billion per year for research and development, of which 50 percent comes from federal funding. The UK government has also boosted its research funding to 2.5 billion pounds per year. The Indian government will have to boost its spending on research to similar levels. Bureaucrats, academicians and policy planners have to work collectively to achieve the target of sustainable future.
—The writer is Assistant Professor of Zoology at Islamia College of Science & Commerce, Srinagar. [email protected]