India celebrates National Science Day every year on 28 February.
The day has been observed annually since 1987 in honour of the great Indian scientific discovery of “Raman Effect”, which is a particular phenomenon of light scattering by matter uncovered by the Indian physicist Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman.
The discovery had earned Raman and India a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930.
With the National Science Day 2022 approaching, the Union Minister for Science and Technology Dr Jitendra Singh, in the company of government representatives for science and technology, launched the theme of this year’s Science Day on 5 January 2022.
The theme is: “Integrated approach in science and technology for a sustainable future”.
“Every year, the theme is very thoughtfully conceived, keeping in consideration the immediate priorities of the nation, of the society, and the world as a whole,” Dr Singh said at the launch.
“This is one of the best of the times to give a push to this theme because we are going through a pandemic,” he said.
The planet faced a daunting challenge with the unleashing of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020. But it also presented an opportunity for local, national, and international institutions of various kinds to work together to combat a deadly problem.
“You must have seen over the last two years how the various departments, various ministries, even various institutions across the country have come together to collaborate with each other in order to ensure the survival of mankind,” Dr Singh said.
The spirit of this integrated approach to problem solving in science and technology makes up one part of the theme selected for National Science Day 2022.
Dr Shekhar C Mande, the Secretary to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), explained the two components contained within the theme and why the theme is apt for this year.
On “integrated approach”, Dr Mande said, “The integration of approaches not only means that different kinds of people work together… but also that different academia work [sic] together with industry.”
As for the “second keyword” of “sustainable future”, Dr Mande, who is also the director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), said: “There are 17 sustainable goals defined by the United Nations, and we are firmly committed to meeting these sustainable future [sic]. And we do believe that if we replicate what we have done against Covid, we can also do the same thing for ensuring our sustainable future.”
The 17 goals include the eradication of poverty and hunger, ensuring good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, building sustainable cities and communities, and climate action.
These are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by all United Nations member states — including India — in 2015, three months before the landmark Paris agreement on climate change.
India is committed to these goals. It has been tracking the progress made by the states and Union territories towards achieving the sustainable development goals (SDG) in the form of the "SDG India Index and Dashboard", developed in collaboration with the United Nations in India.
The third and of the SDG India Index and Dashboard was released by NITI Aayog on 3 June 2021.
But what does it mean to have an “integrated approach in science and technology”?
Dr Singh explained that it encompasses four stages — a) integrated science approach, wherein all the science ministries and departments work together on theme-based projects; b) extended science integration, which includes other science and technology institutions, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, into the ecosystem; c) extra-science integration, principally for other (not strictly science) ministries to benefit from the technological solutions available within the ecosystem; and d) extended science-driven all-inclusive integration, whereby the industry, including startups, are roped into the collaborative effort.
“Because, ultimately, to make it sustainable and to finally achieve the ultimate goal of bringing ease of living in the life of a common man, you have to have the market sources also integrated with you. And therein comes the industry, which would enable us to carry from lab to land, or lab to the households,” Dr Singh said, adding that this takes care of the sustainability factor as well.
Cultivating an “integrated approach” in science and technology has been a focus of the Narendra Modi government.
In September 2021, Dr Singh had that “the era of working in silos is over”. He made that same point again at the 5 January press meet when announcing the theme of the National Science Day.
“To come out of silos is no longer only an option or by [sic] choice. It’s a necessity,” he said. “Because if India has to live up to the global benchmarks and to play a leading role in the global arena, it has to live up to the global parameters. And that’s not possible if we work in isolation.”
In a novel initiative last year, the science ministries brainstormed with each other as well as with other (not strictly science) ministries of the Government of India to see how science and technology solutions could be translated across areas. It led to the generation of from 33 line ministries and/or departments.
This has inspired such collaborative efforts to continue. On 10 January, Dr Singh presided over a high-level joint meeting of all the science ministries and departments at Prithvi Bhawan, New Delhi. He said discussions were being held with every state and Union territory to identify areas where scientific and technological interventions could solve problems and ultimately benefit the common person.
A series of meetings are planned in this direction starting next week, after the culmination of which a National Science Conclave will be held.
Such an integrated approach, Dr Singh reckoned, will be the way forward. And it is being represented symbolically through the theme of the National Science Day 2022.
“When we observe a day, it’s only a declaration of commitment that we are re-dedicating ourselves to this theme, to this task, but this will be our future line of course, particularly over the next 10-25 years, before India turns 100,” he said.
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