Science, India and Science communication
Science has always been fascinating to Indians. In an incident which happened to me personally was when I was waiting for a bus one day at a travel stand, there was a common TV. When I randomly started surfing channels, and my fingers stopped on Discovery channel, the public insisted I not change the channel for a while, as they wanted to see the Man Vs Wild episode.
And they were not specific science students, just common people who were fascinated by the world of science. When I asked one of them, 'why do you like watching science stuff?' he replied that "the way science is shown on this channel makes every one of us understand even if we don't have a basic knowledge of it".
Science has a very old culture in India. Though at ancient times there was no awareness about heavy words like health, space and environment, the interest reflects from ancient scientific literature which shows that yoga, ayurveda and structures like Jantar Mantar engaged many people directly or indirectly in scientific activities.
Today, passionate about science, the public unfortunately don't get much scientific information from Indian laboratories. Even if they get to get some, they don't get it in the way they want. My point of view says there are three major reasons behind it.
One of them is lack of scientific communication from departments in India. While universities in America and Europe have a dedicated staff for science communication, India lags behind. The fact everywhere is that the media tends to pay attention to press releases by Universities and Research Institutes and they print it online or in newspapers. Sometimes media needs to contact specific science communication departments and do further research before printing the news. The GAP between Scientists and Media can only be filled by Expert Science communicators in various departments of Indian labs. Lack of communicators not only makes things difficult for the media to take information, but also for the scientists convey the proper information to Media.
Secondly, Indian research hardly includes any subject like science communication. There is no such thing like a Ph.D. in science communication, though we have many PhD's in general mass communication and other interdisciplinary subjects. Except some two to three masters courses in science communication, there is non dedicated research labs or research work can fulfill the communication requirements of the country.
Thirdly, the ‘common man hardly understands the language of books’. Science should be taught to them like a story and not a subject. Animations and film production have to be engaged in making science more fascinating. Communicators should film more and more research work and put it on public domains like Youtube and other social networking sites.
Additionally, I would like to say that students get confused when it comes to subjects like mass communication, science communication and library science. More core level science communication courses should be introduced in India and students should be urged to take up masters and further studies in science communication as it has important role to play in scientific policy making of the country.
I hope research at PhD level in science communication will start soon in India and a thought will be given to how public policy making is largely driven by science communication in a democracy.
‘Science comes from a common man and goes to a common man’.