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Scientists Call for a Pan India March for Science on 9 August 2017

8 August

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Breakthrough Science Society

INDIA MARCH FOR SCIENCE

9th August 2017, in all major cities

An appeal by scientists

Friends,

We are delighted to note that, on 22nd April this year, more than a million people undertook a March for Science in 600 cities across the globe, demanding robust funding for science and demanding that governmental policies be guided by scientific evidence.

We are planning to complement and supplement this global effort in India as we feel it is very relevant in the current juncture. On the one hand, scientists from India have played a commendable role in the discovery of gravitational waves and of Higgs Boson, in the interplanetary mission through Mangalyaan and in reducing foreign dependence through the development of indigenous satellite launching capability. But, on the other, science in India is facing the danger of being eclipsed by a rising wave of unscientific beliefs and religious bigotry, and scientific research is suffering serious setback due to dwindling governmental support.

We note with deep concern that financial support to even premier institutions like IITs, NITs, and IISERs has been slashed. Universities are facing shortage of funds to adequately support scientific research. Research funding agencies like DST, DBT and CSIR are reportedly impacted by reduced governmental support. Scientists in government laboratories are being asked to generate a part of their salary by selling their inventions and from other sources.

While we can justly be inspired by the great achievements in science and technology in ancient India, we see that non-scientific ideas lacking in evidence are being propagated as science by persons in high positions, fueling a confrontational chauvinism in lieu of true patriotism that we cherish. Promoting scientific bent of mind can certainly help improve the social health of our country where incidents of witch hunting, honour killing and mob lynching are reported regularly.

We feel that the situation demands the members of scientific community to stand in defence of science and scientific attitude in an open and visible manner as done by scientists and science enthusiasts worldwide. We appeal to scientists, researchers, teachers, students, as well as all concerned citizens to organize ’India March for Science’ events throughout the country, particularly in the state capitals, on 9th August 2017, with the following demands:

1. Allocate at least 3% of GDP to scientific and technological research and 10% towards education

2. Stop propagation of unscientific, obscurantist ideas and religious intolerance, and develop scientific temper, human values and spirit of inquiry in conformance with Article 51A of the Constitution.

3. Ensure that the education system imparts only ideas that are supported by scientific evidence.

4. Enact policies based on evidence-based science.

Appeal by

  • S. Mahadevan, Professor of Molecular Reproduction, Development & Genetics, IISc Bangalore
  • S G Dani, Former Chairman, National Board of Higher Mathematics, Retired from TIFR, Mumbai
  • Nitya Anand, Padmashree, Ex-Director, Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow
  • Babu Joseph, former VC, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Kerala
  • Pushpa M Bhargava, former Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad
  • Debashis Mukherjee, Ex-Director, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Kolkata
  • M R N Murthy, Professor of Molecular Biophysics, IISC Bangalore
  • Arvind Gupta, Science popularizer and educator
  • Deb Shankar Ray, Former Director, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Kolkata
  • K M Seethi, School of International Relations, M G University, Kottayam, Kerala
  • A P Thomas, Director, Advanced Centre of Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development, Kerala
  • Ajit Srivastav, Professor, Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar
  • D. R. Naik, Former Vice-Chancellor, Sambalpur University, Odisha
  • Partha P Majumder, Distinguished Professor and Founder, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani, West Bengal
  • Ayesha Kidwai, Professor, JNU, President JNUTA, New Delhi
  • Dhruba Mukhopadhyay, President, Breakthrough Science Society

[see other names here ]

[See Related News Reports Below: ]

The Hindu

Scientists mustering numbers for ‘March for Science’ in India

Mohit M Rao

July 12, 2017 19:29 IST

For perhaps the first time, the scientific community is poised to take the protest route to get their voices heard

Four months ago, when thousands of people ‘marched for science’ in hundreds of cities, barely a whimper was heard in India. Now, a large group of scientists and organisations are preparing for a similar event in India to press for higher allocation for basic science research, curbing ‘propagation of unscientific, obscurantist ideas’ and focus on ‘evidence-based’ science education.

For perhaps the first time, the scientific community is poised to take the protest route to get their voices heard. An appeal for ‘India March for Science’, scheduled on August 9, has already drawn more than 40 researchers, journalists and activists.

“The global march was on April 22. India had then missed the bus, even though our problems are the same: inadequate government support and need for policies guided by science. We needed to get organised to ensure that our demands are heard by authorities,” said Soumitro Banerjee from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata.

Need to increase funding

Among the prime demands, and one that is long-pending, is to increase government spending on science and technology to at least 3% of the GDP. Currently, it is less than 0.8%, with the majority going towards atomic energy and space technology.

“There is emphasis on product-based science rather than basic science research. Sources of government funding for our research are reducing while asking government laboratories to raise revenue leads to greater insecurity in pursuing science,” says S. Mahadevan from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.), Bengaluru.

The appeal notes with ‘deep concern’ that financial support to even premier institutions has been slashed while universities are facing a shortage of funds to adequately support scientific research.

Pseudo-science

For the scientists, it is not just funding that has been a concern. Over the past few years, Indian science, says the appeal, is ‘facing the danger’ of being eclipsed by religious bigotry and propagation of non-scientific ideas as science by persons in high positions.

The previous two editions of the Indian Science Congress ran into controversy over Vedic science and use of cow urine, apart from frequent claims of ancient India having been the source for modern inventions — all of which have fuelled ‘confrontational chauvinism’, say scientists.

“We are seeing a rise in institutions and State-sponsored policies using scientific jargon to justify unscientific ideas such as, say, finding out the therapeutic value of cow urine,” says Ranjani K.S., Karnataka coordinator for the non-profit science organisation Breakthrough Science Society (BSS) which is spear-heading the protests.

Pan-nation march

Date: August 9

Key issues

  • Increase government spending on science and technology to at least 3% of GDP
  • Need for policies guided by science
  • Concern over non-scientific ideas being propagated as science

o o

science

Indian scientists taking to streets en masse

By Sanjay Kumar Aug. 4, 2017 , 3:55 PM

NEW DELHI—Inspired by this past April’s global march for science, Indian scientists are gearing up for their own march in more than 30 cities on 9 August, organizers announced today. Their main beefs are anemic science funding and growing religious intolerance.

India’s science investments are minuscule compared with those of China and South Korea, says Prabir Purkayastha of the nonprofit Delhi Science Forum. One pillar of Indian R&D that’s suffering, he says, is the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), a nationwide network of 23 research and teaching institutions. “IITs today have second rate infrastructure compared to what they need and barring a few, there are no institutes in India which have the kind of money required for the next generation of science,” Purkayastha says. He and other march organizers are demanding that the Indian government boost R&D spending as a percentage of gross domestic product from roughly 0.85% in 2016 to 3% of GDP.

Government officials say that the march organizers’ complaints are overblown. “Their position is factually incorrect,” says Ashutosh Sharma, secretary of the central government’s Department of Science & Technology here. Science spending is booming, he says. “In the past 3 years, our budget has nearly doubled compared to earlier periods for both basic and applied research,” he says. Purkayastha counters that government departments are diverting funds marked for R&D to nonresearch programs.

Organizers are also calling on Indian officials to steer clear of pseudoscience and instead promote a scientific temper: a spirit of inquiry enshrined in India’s constitution. “Unscientific and superstitious beliefs are being propagated around in a big way, and we see government’s hand in promotion of these ideas which has made scientists extremely unhappy,” says Soumitra Banerjee, an engineering professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research in Kolkata. Banerjee, who is also general secretary of Breakthrough Science Society in Kolkata, a nonprofit that is spearheading the march, hopes next week’s marches are not a one-off event. “This movement is likely to gain more momentum,” he says.

P.S.

The above reports are reproduced here in public interest and for educational and non profit use

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