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

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Trust and the Responsibility of Scientists to the Public

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Ramakrishna Ramaswamy’s (2020) recent article “Science in the Public Sphere: Obligation and Responsibility” raises an important question about the obligation and responsibi­lity of scientists towards the public. He isolates some of the obstacles in constructing a meaningful relationship between scientists and the public, such as problems relating to trust, concerns about certain politicians’ statements linking science to the ancient past, as well as the lack of scientific temper. He identifies open access to scientific work as well as a more effective science communication actively led by scientists as ways to deal with this problem. While these are impor­tant points to consider, it is necessary—at least for the sake of a vibrant public discussion with the scientists—to consider ways of strengthening these suggestions.

The tendency to blame politicians or the public for the shortcomings of Indian science has now become a matter of habit. To strengthen the sense of responsibility between scientists and the public, it is necessary to begin with an internal critique of Indian science. Ramaswamy correctly points at the lack of quality of Indian research due to a “lack of critical mass” and “inadequate funding,” but these are ever-present problems in any academic discipline (Ramaswamy 2020: 33). In fact, an important contri­butor to the low quality of research is the way science and scientific/academic institutions are administered in India. Even today, there is very little public accountability or social audit of the major government funders of science. We have among the largest number of scientists in the world, and yet countries with a smaller critical mass produce higher quality research.

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Updated On : 8th Mar, 2021

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