BENGALURU: If the organisers of the recently concluded edition of the Indian Science Congress in Mysuru are patting themselves on the back, then it would be for successfully accommodating more than 20,000 people, and not for the quality of science.
The victim of this large scale preparation was unfortunately science itself and many people felt it took a backseat to the pomp that accompanied some of the programmes.
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For instance many of the papers presented were material that had been published two to three years earlier and were being presented again with minor progress. Papers presented at the plenary sessions were the same with many of the ‘breakthrough’ being claimed as at least two years old. These were materials that could be found on the internet!
Thus what the Indian Science Congress managed to do was repackage readily available information on the internet and present it as a new powerpoint presentation. Despite being subjected to extensive ridicule at the last year’s Indian Science Congress about presentation of papers that were ‘unscientific’, sectional teams responsible for selection of papers seem to have ignored the consequences.
An absurd presentation on the benefits of blowing the conch had the author, an IAS officer from Kanpur, Rajeev Sharma planked himself on the desk assuming a ‘Padmasana’ and blowing the conch. Another paper in environmental sciences provocatively titled ‘Lord Shiva: as the greatest environmentalist’ was cancelled as thankfully the author himself was a no show.
Section president Gangadhar Mishra later complained to reporters that he could not be held responsible for letting the paper pass scrutiny as they had to sift through more than 300 abstracts.
An agitated general president elect Prof D Narayan Rao who will play host at SRM University said the Science Congress was not the place to do present papers based on ancient values.
The nearly 20 to 25 parallel sessions spread across the vast campus did little to induce enthusiasm among youngsters and other audiences who spent a good part of the time trying to find the venues for the talks. The bid to cram as many paper presentations as possible resulted in a noticeable lack of of quality. One of the participants alleged that many people were sending in papers merely to download a certificate stating that they had participated in the Science congress and presented a paper and that the certificate could be downloaded from the internet. Another scientist from Mysuru who did not wish to be named questioned the need to repeatedly call the same scientists every year.
Another fiasco was the edition of the Women’s Science Congress. HRD Minister Smriti Irani who inaugurated it, herself questioned the necessity of having a separate section of women’s congress.
This edition was held with the dual intention of showcasing women’s contribution in the field of science and creating awareness about the potential that lay for women in this field. It failed in both respects.
The organisers of this edition had to face the ignominy of not only having their sessions excluded from being printed in the main book on plenary sessions, but the venue was so distant from the main hub that most people did not make it to the sessions, simply because they had no idea such an event was even happening.
Prof D Narayan Rao said a series of meetings would soon be held among the sectional members of the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) to streamline the quality of the papers being presented. “We do not want to allow the presentation of papers that have been published already. We are aware of limitations and we want to improve the quality. We also intend to announce the publication of special issue journals and this will improve the quality automatically,” Rao said. A forum for youngsters to present their papers is also expected to feature in the next Science Congress.