Scientific data, research & progress: Why India should compromise on the multiplier effect?

Lalit Shastri

While Secretary Department of Science and Technology, Government of India Prof. Ashutosh Sharma has drawn attention to India’s National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (INDSAP) and the open government data portal to underline the increasing attention given by India to sharing of scientific data, there is nothing to explain officially why very few research papers have been published on reams and reams of data received on a daily basis from Mars Orbiter Mission or the space probe orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014.

The Mars Mission was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

The situation nearer home vis-a-vis the volume of research linked with the Mars or the Mangalyaan mission is in sharp contrast with all the research accomplished or is being done continuously on the basis of Mars exploration by NASA, according to those in knowledgeable circles. It is also being pointed out that maximum research related benefit from the data available from the Mangalyaan Mission has been taken by the foreign suppliers of equipment for this mission.

At another level, it is also learnt that there is a huge budget cut in major public sector organisations – like HAL, DRDO and ISRO. In some cases, the total payments due to some PSUs from Defence organisations is almost twice or thrice their annual turnover. In the process, the ancillaries linked with these organisations are facing unprecedented financial crisis and layoffs now is the norm. As a result, skilled and trained manpower is on the receiving end. This is going to push the clock of progress backward by several years and India can forget the prospects of a fully indigenous engine for the Light Combat Aircraft programme for many years to come.

The Union Secretary Department of Science and Technology was addressing the Science & Technology Ministerial Roundtable, organized in the 17th annual Science Technology and Society (STS) Forum.

PIB Adds: “Scientific data sharing is being considered for inclusion in the New S T I P 2020 being framed. Data is the new water, and we do want to share it as global partners,” Prof. Sharma emphasised.

The online Science & Technology Ministerial Roundtable organised on 3rd October 2020 and hosted by Japan, deliberated on the role of international R&D collaboration, social sciences & humanities, and open science. It saw the participation of S&T heads from about 50 countries around the world and explored the opportunities arising from international collaborations in science and technology to address the challenges posed by COVID 19.

Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary Department of Science & Technology who represented India at the Ministers’ Roundtable, highlighted India’s major initiatives in S&T collaboration, social sciences & open science. He said that India gives extraordinary importance to international cooperation in S&T for development and for addressing challenges of health, water, energy, environment, climate change, communication, and natural disasters.”

He spoke about India’s active S&T collaboration with over 40 countries in the world. “We are also part of all the major multilateral and regional S&T platforms and groupings such as the EU, BRICS, ASEAN, G20, Africa Initiatives, UN and OECD S&T platform as well as international mega-science projects such as ITER, TMT, LIGO and so on. Coalitions for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, International Solar Alliance and Mission Innovation are India’s global initiatives in the management of disasters and clean energy,” he added.

Prof. Ashutosh Sharma highlighted that vaccines for coronavirus are in advanced phases of trial, and India has the capacity to supply the vaccine to a major part of humanity.

The high-level ministerial meeting witnessed participation from countries like Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Iraq, Russia, South Africa, and others.

The forum community highlighted critical role of S&T in fighting the current pandemic situation and agreed that strong international collaboration in the field of science & technology, cutting edge science, and open science were the most important tools to solve the current crisis and prepare for the upcoming crisis of the future.

Science and Technology Ministers’ Roundtable is held along with the STS forum every year. The STS forum aims to provide a new mechanism for open discussions on an informal basis and to build a human network that would, in time, resolve the new types of problems stemming from the application of science and technology.

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