Media Covers A Visionary Scientist

It was interesting to go through the coverage in ‘Indian Express’ on RA Mashelkar on December 30,2006 done by Sonu Jain.

CSIR Mashelkar retires, and heads for Pune to work as chemical scientist, ‘full-time, not just a weekend one’

He goes on to become the President of Global Research Alliance formed by nine CSIR-like institutions from Asia-Pacific, Europe and USA of 60,000 scientists and engineers with a budget of 6 billion dollars. “It’s a challenge to do what I did with CSIR on a global scale,”

“I have committed to only four weeks in a year. Rest of the time, I want to become a full-time scientist from being a weekend one,”

A decade ago, Mashelkar was the first to show attributes of synthetic hydrogels that mimic life. “This area of science fascinates me and I want to dedicate more than my weekends on it,”

How would he like to be remembered? “As somebody who brought pride to India as a scientist but as someone who is worried about the affairs of science,” he said wording his words carefully.

In his unfinished agenda is “autonomy for CSIR. To be able to set up enterprise and spin-off companies, the headquarter should only act as facilitator”. For the government to give more autonomy to the CSIR and CSIR, in turn, gives more autonomy to the labs. This will bring in more funds for science. He cited the example of how a Harvard research body has access to funds to the tune of $23 billion. “Year 2006 is the best ever both in terms of science and business. CSIR had the highest number of scientific research papers. In terms of earnings, we touched the highest figure with private sector earnings touching the highest ever,” he says with pride. From ‘SARAS’ aircraft and TB drug to a 100-dollar computer, CSIR has had several breakthroughs that are actually reaching the market. And it all happened when Mashelkar was the head.

After reading this, some questions cropped up in my mind:

Why didn’t the other national newspapers cover some similar story on Mashelkar’s retirement?

Who will be holding the chair vacated by Mashelkar and what are his credentials as scientist or administrator?

Why don’t the media come out with stories on our renowned scientists in the country and their achievements? (Surprisingly, the NRI scientists working abroad get more media coverage.) I wish media published some special issues about the works of 5-, 10-, 0r 15- best scientists, engineers, and managers in the country
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Why can’t DRDO, the other great research facility of India repeat the performance of Mashelkar at CSIR? Why should DRDO remain under protection of security related clause? The country has the right to know what the great organization and its scientists are doing.

Media, particularly all national and metro newspapers, must give due coverage to the scientific works being undertaken at different institutions of national importance and the people who are making significant contributions to the image building of the country. Let them not live with myth that the readers don’t like to read those stories.

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