Media and 99th India Science Congress

Media is considered one of the important pillars of democracy. It must assist in covering and propagating the news of national importance. The 99 th India Science Congress, the greatest show for the science and scientists of the country got held at Bhubaneswar between Jan 3-7, 2012 with a theme ‘Science and Technology for Inclusive Innovation – Role of Women’. Interestingly, for the same reason, perhaps, Geetha Bali, vice chancellor of the Karnataka State Women’s University, Bijapur headed the Congress.

On January 3, 2012, I saw one full-page advertisement in national newspapers with photographs of prime minister, governor and chief minister of Odisha, and two central ministers but neither any scientists nor the head of the Science Congress. How can the country expect the people to know about the science unless the country’s rulers don’t give right amount of space to scientists or the work getting carried out in scientific and technological sector?

I was expecting the print as well as digital media to cover the Science Congress sufficiently so that its importance and message could have gone across to the millions of the country men for all the days from the Science Congress. However, the media thought it prudent to keep the function a local issue. It covered the opening speech of the prime minister, may be borrowing from the website of the prime minister, but just that much. For the next few days the national printed media did hardly carry any news of the Congress and its various conferences and expositions and exhibitions.

Interestingly while Union ministers Kapil Sibal, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashwani Kumar skipped their schedule participation at the Children’s Science Congress, running parallel to the ISC, former president APJ Abdul Kalam did what he is best at doing: Igniting young minds towards science, asking “Do you want to fly?”, and evoking a “loud yes” from thousands of participants. The former president asked students to repeat his poem with him: “I am born with potential…I am not meant for crawling; because I have wings, I will fly.” I got haunted by the question, ‘Why did the ministers skip the function?’

I don’t know why the media didn’t report anything from the lectures of the distinguished scientists or the Nobel laureates present in the Congress.

Nirupama Rao, India’s ambassador in US addressed the Congress as the main speaker. However, some columnists tried to answer the question raised by prime minister. Interestingly according to prime minister, ‘nearly 60% of the 2000 Indian women PhDs in science were unemployed and the main reason cited by them was lack of job opportunities.’ Many employed ones might be busy in doing nonscientific assignment too.

However, here is some interesting information from the Congress from blogs:

Dr. Michiel Kolman, Senior Vice President , Elsevier, raised this thought-provoking question, “India – A Scientific Super Power to be?, in his presentation on India’s research performance over the last five years. “India retains its position in the top 10 nations worldwide and also shows an impressive growth of 14.3% which is exceeded only by China with 22.8% among the top 10 nations. Interestingly, the quality of the publications is determined by the citations per article, based on data in Elsevier’s SciVerse Scopus database, has been rising over the past 5 years (2.0 to 2.7 citations per article) outperforming China (2.2) but still below the larger science nations such as the UK and the US which are at 6 while Japan is at 4 citations per article.”

Dr Vijay Bhatkar, Chairman, ETH Research Lab, Pune delivered a special lecture on India’s initiatives in Exascale Supercomputing, and that India’s mission is to build petascale supercomputer by 2012 and exascale by 2018/2020. “At present, however, only four systems from India are in the top 500 list against 41 systems from China. India’s best system ranked 47th in the list of top 500. At present the top first ranked supercomputer (K Computer) is with RIKEN, Japan and the 2nd ranked is with China.”

The Indian media is wasting its money and resources in many unnecessary contents. I wish it meets aspirations of the thinking class too.

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