ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Obligation and Responsibility

Science in the Public Sphere

Investment in research or in scientific activity is ultimately a community decision, supported by public funds. Scientists, therefore, have the responsibility and the moral obligation of accurately communicating their ideas and results to the public. Of necessity, some of this can be restricted to an audience of peers, but it is essential to communicate the results of publicly funded research to a wider audience. Scientists and communicators of science share the additional responsibility of responding to fallacious and misleading statements on issues pertaining to science that are made by persons holding public office and those who play a prominent role in society.

India’s share in the world’s scientific enterprise has been steadily increasing over the years. It is well known that the scientific output of a country correlates strongly with the nominal gross domestic product,1 but recent data also suggests that India’s contribution to the scientific literature (ranked sixth today) has been increasing at an even sharper rate, in contrast to the United States (US), Japan or the European Union (EU). At the same time, India’s share of citations—a proxy for the quality of the ­research in terms of how useful it is considered by peers—is only ranked twelfth.2 Our role as consumers overtakes our role as contributors to the global knowledge pool.

There are numerous reasons for this, ranging from inadequate and subcritical funding of scientific research to a lack of a sufficiently large or competent body of scientists, namely the lack of a critical mass in most disciplines. Although India ranks fourth in the total number of PhD holders—about 24,000, according to 2017 statistics3—the number of these that continue to do original high-quality research is far fewer. It has even been suggested that Indians, either innately or due to our educational system, lack a truly innovative spirit, and thus our res­earch tends to be derivative and incremental rather than being innovative and path-breaking.

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Updated On : 4th Dec, 2020

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